How to boost your immune system with herbs – Boneset
Eight Herbs for the Immune System
Properties of Boneset
Cytotoxic (strongly anticancer)
Immunostimulant (increases phagocytosis four times better than echinacea)
Mucous membrane tonic
Peripheral circulatory stimulant
Smooth muscle relaxant
Fields and streams in the eastern United States, the Internet, herb stores here and there. Horizon Herbs (see Resources) sells the seeds.
Common Names: Boneset, common boneset, throughwort, agueweed, feverwort, sweating plant—but no one has used those last three names since 1885. (And it’s pronounced A-gyew-weed, not aaagh-weed, big fella.)
Species Used: There are 36, or 60, or pi? numbers of species in the Eupatorium genus; taxonomists being troublesome again. Nearly all are native to the Americas, Eupatorium cannabinum being an exception. Many of the species in the genus are medicinal; however, for our purposes here, Eupatorium perfoliatum is the plant to use. The others do other things. For immune action, we want this one.
Aerial parts, in flower or just before flowering, depending.
Preparation and Dosage
May be taken as tea or tincture.
Cold tea: 1 ounce herb in 1 quart boiling water, let steep overnight, strain, and drink throughout the day. The cold infusion is better for the mucous membrane system and as a liver tonic.
Hot tea: 1 tsp herb in 8 ounces hot water, steep 15 minutes. Drink 4–6 ounces up to 4x per day. Boneset is only diaphoretic when hot and should be consumed hot for active infections or for recurring chills and fevers.
Fresh herb in flower: 1:2, 95 percent alcohol, 20–40 drops in hot water up to 3x daily.
Dry herb: 1:5, 60 percent alcohol, 30–50 drops in hot water up to 3x daily.
In acute viral or bacterial upper respiratory infections, take 10 drops of tincture in hot water every half hour up to 6x daily. In conditions where the acute stage has passed but there is continued chronic fatigue and relapse, take 10 drops of tincture in hot water 4x daily.
Side Effects and Contraindications
The hot infusion in quantity can cause vomiting, and in moderate doses mild nausea sometimes occurs. The cooler the tea the less nausea. Otherwise, no side effects or contraindications. However, boneset may be contraindicated in pregnancy.
Habitat and Appearance
The plant is pervasive in the eastern half of the United States and Canada, from Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, et cetera on eastward. However, every place I’ve seen it grow has been wettish, humid, with good soil.
Boneset grows up to 3 feet tall, they say, but I’ve never seen it get that big; however, most of my experience of the plant has been in the tiny state of Vermont. Two feet seemed about average, just like with hominids. The plant grows in a straight stalk, the leaves going north/south, then east/west, then north/south again. The leaves continue on through the stalk, hence throughwort; it basically looks like the leaves were glued together at the wide end and the stalk just punched through them. Once seen, never forgotten.
Cultivation and Collection
The plant is a perennial and likes full or partial sun in moist to wet conditions, on the edges of swamps, along streams, in wet meadows, in marshlands, basically any place mosquitos like to breed except maybe old tires. It spreads by seed; there are a lot of sources on the Internet.
If collected at flowering and allowed to dry, the plant will usually go to seed as it dries. It should be collected only in flower (August or September) if being tinctured fresh and right now. If you are going to use it as a tea, it should be picked just prior to flowering, hung upside down in a shaded place, and allowed to thoroughly air-dry.
Methylglucuronoxylan, astragalin, eufoliatin, eufoliatorin, eupatorin, euperfolin, euperfolitin, euperfolide, euccannabinolide, eupatoriopicrin, hyperoside, rutin, polysaccharides, and a bunch of other stuff. Many of those are sesquiterpene lactones, common in the eupatoriums.
Traditional Uses of Boneset
TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE
WESTERN BOTANIC PRACTICE
Oh, yes, used. The plant, indigenous to North America, has been used by Native American peoples for millennia, specifically for intermittent fevers and chills, with pain in the bones, weakness, and debility. The American Eclectics used it for intermittent (e.g., malarial), typhoid, and remittent fevers, and for general debility, pneumonia, cough, epidemic influenza, colds, catarrh, and pains accompanying those conditions. It was one of their primary remedies.
The sesquiterpene lactones in boneset have a large range of actions. They are highly immunostimulatory and very active against cancers. They also possess antiplasmodial actions. The action is mild, but if the plant is added to a traditional antimalarial that is strong, such as cryptolepis, the effects are mutually supportive. A homeopathic formulation of boneset was found to significantly inhibit plasmodial replication (60 percent inhibition).
Clinical trials have shown that boneset stimulates phagocytosis better than echinacea, is analgesic (at least as effective as aspirin), and reduces cold and flu symptoms. In mice it has shown strong immunostimulant activity and cytotoxic action against cancer cells.
Despite boneset’s long use and potent reputation, little research has occurred with the plant. In clinical practice, however, it is one of the most potent herbs for enhancing immune function, especially in periodic diseases like bartonellosis. It will reliably counter bacterial or viral immune suppression in diseases that present as periodics.