A member of the aster family, boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is also known as white Joe-Pye Weed, an herb that has long been used by both Native Americans and European settlers for its healing properties. The tiny white flowers which grow in clusters blossom during the late summer and early fall seasons. Boneset is plentiful in fields and meadows but can be easily cultivated in gardens for their herbal properties. The leaves and flowers are frequently used in tea to cure colds and fevers, or used as a poultice to heal skin diseases. A perennial, boneset grows in planting zones 4-8.
Boneset seeds can be grown indoors or outdoors once the last frost has passed. Growing boneset from seeds indoors instead of outdoors offers several advantages: being very tiny in size, the seeds will not be washed away by the rain, they won’t be eaten by birds, and it will be easier for you to check the moisture level of the soil as the seeds enter the germination stage. The soil should always be kept moist once you plant boneset seeds.
To grow boneset from seeds indoors, start off with using dampened soil in your starting container. Gently tap the seeds into the surface of the damp soil. Do not cover the tiny seeds with a heavy layer of soil. You can either leave the seeds exposed, or covered with a very thin layer of damp soil. Place the starting container close to a window that has southern exposure, for the seeds require sunlight to germinate. Check the soil every 24 hours to make sure it remains damp so the seeds can germinate. If the soil gets dry, lightly water the soil. Once the seeds germinate into plants, they can be transplanted outside provided the last frost of the season has passed.
Select an area of your garden where you want to plant boneset. Boneset will grow well in partial shade as well as full sunlight. The plants will grow from 2 – 5′ tall so allow between 18 – 24″ of space for each plant. Boneset stalks are sturdy and will not require support of any kind. Water established plants once a week, and twice a week during dry periods.
Boneset can be used as cut flowers in a vase, or if you decide to use it as an herb, boneset is excellent as a tea for colds and influenza. Use a proportion of one ounce of dried boneset leaves and flowers to a pint of boiled water. Strain the leaves from the tea. Drink 2 to 3 cups of boneset tea a day until the fever has passed.
Modern Encyclopedia of Herbs, Joseph M. Kadans, N.D., Ph.D. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1993.