AskDefine | Define boneset

Dictionary Definition



1 European herb having small white, pink or purple flowers; naturalized as a weed in North America [syn: common comfrey, Symphytum officinale]
2 perennial herb of southeastern United States having white-rayed flower heads; formerly used as in folk medicine [syn: agueweed, thoroughwort, Eupatorium perfoliatum]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of several plants of the genus Eupatorium.
  2. The herb common boneset.

Extensive Definition

For the Crimean town, see Eupatoria.
Eupatorium is a genus of flowering plants, containing from 36 to 60 species depending on the classification system. Most are herbaceous perennial plants growing to 0.5-3 m tall. A few are shrubs. The genus is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Most are commonly called bonesets, thoroughworts or "snakeroots".

Systematics and taxonomy

Eupatorium has at times been held to contain as many as 800 species, but many of these have been moved (at least by some authors) to other genera, including Ageratina, Chromolaena, Condylidium, Conoclinium, Critonia, Cronquistianthus, Eutrochium, Fleischmannia, Flyriella, Hebeclinium, Koanophyllon, Mikania, and Tamaulipa.
The classification of the tribe Eupatorieae, including species placed in Eupatorium in the present or past, is an area of ongoing research, so further changes are likely. What seems fairly certain by now is that the subtribe Eupatoriinae seems a good monophyletic group containing Eupatorium and the Joe-pye weeds (Eutrochium), and possibly others.


Eupatorium species are used as food plants by the caterpillars of some Lepidoptera:
A few species or cultivars, such as E. sordidum and E. coelestinum cv. 'Album', are sometimes used as ornamental plants. In particular, they are good for structural or background plantings or to attract butterflies; especially E. itatiayense, E. maximiliani and E. squalidum are known as good honey plants.
Tobacco leaf curl virus is a pathogen occasionally affecting plants of this genus.

Medical use

Boneset, although poisonous to humans and grazing livestock, has been used in folk medicine, for instance to excrete excess uric acid which causes gout. Eupatorium has many more presumed beneficial uses, including treatment of dengue fever, arthritis, certain infectious diseases, migraine, intestinal worms, malaria, and diarrhea. Boneset infusions are also considered an excellent remedy for influenza. Scientific research of these applications is rudimentary at present, however.
Caution is advised when using boneset, since it contains toxic compounds that can cause liver damage. Side effects include muscular tremors, weakness, and constipation; overdoses may be deadly.
Compounds that occur in this genus include Herniarin (7-O-methylumbelliferone, 7-methoxycoumarin; in aya-pana, E. ayapana).



  • (2004): Encyclopedia of Folk Medicine: Old World and New World Traditions. ABC-CLIO, Inc., Santa Barbara. ISBN 1576078744
  • (2000): Phylogeny and Phytogeography of Eupatorium (Eupatorieae, Asteraceae): Insights from Sequence Data of the nrDNA ITS Regions and cpDNA RFLP. Journal of Plant Research 113(1): 79-89. (HTML abstract)
  • (1995): Taxonomy of Eupatorium Section Verticillata (Asteraceae). New York Botanical Garden Press. ISBN 0-89327-391-0
  • (2005): The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine (2nd ed., vol. 1). Gale Group, New York. ISBN 0787674249
  • (2000): Phylogeny and biogeography of Eupatorium (Asteraceae: Eupatorieae) based on nuclear ITS sequence data. Am. J. Bot. 87(5): 716-726. PMID 10811796 PDF fulltext
  • (1999): A review of the toxicosis and biological properties of the genus Eupatorium. Natural Toxins 6(1): 1–14. (HTML abstract)
  • (1987): The Sectional Nomenclature of Eupatorium (Asteraceae). Taxon 36(3): 618-620.
boneset in Danish: Hjortetrøst
boneset in German: Wasserdost
boneset in Spanish: Eupatorium
boneset in French: Eupatorium
boneset in Georgian: ვარდკანაფა
boneset in Lithuanian: Pūkūnė
boneset in Dutch: Eupatorium
boneset in Polish: Sadziec
boneset in Portuguese: Eupatorium
boneset in Romanian: Ayapana
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