Eupatorium Perfoliatum. Boneset, Thoroughwort.

Botanical name: 

Description: Natural Order, Compositae. This common plant is so well known in all sections of America, as scarcely to need any word of description here. It grows in damp grounds; sends up one to several erect, rough, and stout stems, which branch in divisions of three near the top–the branches also being erect, and giving the head of the plant a close and corymbose appearance. The leaves are oppositely arranged in alternating pairs, four to eight inches long, tapering evenly to the point, dark green, an inch or more in breadth at the bases, and with the bases of each pair along the stem so perfectly united as to give the appearance of a stem growing directly through the center of one long leaf. The upper leaves, and those on the branches, are sometimes not united. The flowers are grayish-white, numerous, and formed into flat corymbs at the extremities of the erect branches. In bloom from August to October.

Properties and Uses: The leaves and flowers of this plant are among the truly valuable remedies of our native Materia Medica. They have long been employed in family practice, and deserve to be esteemed as one of the most useful medicines of the people; and though their intense bitterness has caused them to fall largely into disuse, they merit much more attention than is now given them by the profession. The two portions of the plant appear in market together.

Boneset is almost a pure relaxant, with stimulating properties scarcely noticeable. It acts rather slowly and persistently. Its greatest power is expended upon the more inward muscular structures, as those of the stomach, gall-ducts, bowels, and uterus; but it impresses the nervous peripheries, and also influences the skin decidedly. It is one of the agents that is peculiarly applicable to one or other class of purposes, according to the form in which it is exhibited. Given by cold infusion, or other cold preparation, it is a soothing and relaxing tonic, suitable to all irritable forms of dyspepsia; is gently relaxant to the hepatic apparatus, promoting both the secretion of bile and its ejection from the gall-ducts; and finally securing a mild laxative action on the bowels. It is serviceable in bilious difficulties, when there are sensitiveness and tension of the tissues; in habitual costiveness, with thirst and dryness of the faeces; in skin diseases of hepatic origin; and in recovery from febrile conditions, especially intermittent and bilious fever. But it is not applicable to cold and sluggish states of the stomach, to torpor of the liver and bowels when accompanied with flaccidity of the tissues, to low intermittents, nor as a tonic in any case where the bowels are inclined to free action. For strengthening purposes, it is most generally combined with tonics of a more stimulating grade, such as gentiana, sabbatia, hydrastis, artemisia, and a small portion of capsicum; and is particularly serviceable in bilious cases when it is necessary to maintain steady laxity of the bowels without actual catharsis. Though the effect of boneset on the hepatic and alvine secretions is slow and mild, it is nevertheless persistent and very reliable. It exerts a decided influence upon the lungs, and may be used in weakness of the chest, dull achings through the lungs, and chronic coughs, especially in slightly irritable conditions; or in languid conditions, if some more stimulating agent be combined with it. Indeed its soothing and toning influence upon the respiratory organs, (and that whether given in cold or warm preparations,) is of the most valuable character, and is generally too much overlooked.

Given as a warm infusion, it will secure slow and gentle, yet rather persistent, diaphoresis. For this purpose it is very useful in bilious, bilious remitting, and yellow fevers–its action on the liver and bowels being well-marked in this form, and hence the infusion is doubly advantageous in such cases. Its free use will many times cut short a bilious remitting attack; and it is a popular belief that it is reliable in terminating agues, though there is nothing sufficiently stimulating about the agent to warrant such an expectation, though it is still a valuable article in such cases. In very large quantities, especially if used quite warm and at short intervals, it will induce rather sudden emesis. It is rarely resorted to for this purpose; but a full portion of it may be used to decided advantage in the drinks, when an emetic is to be given in cases of bilious fever and acute inflammation of the liver, and also in what is known as dengue or break-bone fever. It makes a good depurating sudorific for non-malignant cases of scarlatina, and in small-pox, but relaxes the bowels too much to be useful in measles. It affords much relief to the aching of the limbs in recent colds and rheumatisms, whence (probably) its popular name of "boneset." It also exerts a moderate influence upon the nervous system; and if combined with such a diffusive stimulant as xanthoxylum, a good antispasmodic influence will be obtained. It makes an excellent relaxant injection for moving the lower bowels; and may be used in the same way for its nervine influence, which is then shown to better advantage than when given by the stomach; and when combined with a little zingiber and given as an injection with demulcents, it contributes greatly to a permanent and an equable diffusion of blood toward the surface.

The dose of the powder would be from ten to twenty grains, but it is not given in that form. An ounce of the powder to a quart of boiling water makes a strong infusion, of which from one to three fluid ounces may be given for a dose, and repeated according to the objects sought.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Extract. The solid extract is prepared from decoction, in the usual way. It is an excellent basis for a pill mass, when tonics, strong stimulants, or nervine relaxants are to be used. It may be used by itself as a mild relaxing tonic, in doses of from five to ten grains three times a day; but is most generally associated with powders of such articles as gentiana, quassia, and similar intense articles. Combined with quinine and capsicum, it forms a good antiperiodic pill; and is an admirable basis for pills of lobelia, cypripedium, scutellaria, and others of their class.

II. Fluid Extract. Macerate a pound of coarsely ground boneset in a quart of fifty percent alcohol; transfer to a percolator, and treat till half a pint has passed; set this aside, and add warm water to the percolator till the strength of the drug has all been extracted. Evaporate the latter product to eight ounces, and add to the first tincture. Filter, and dissolve the residuum with a little diluted alcohol. Prepared in this way, this fluid extract is a strong and very useful agent, fully representing the qualities of the plant. It is generally used as an addition to other preparations, as tonic sirups, sirups for old coughs with hepatic torpor, alterative sirups designed for sundry diseases of the skin, etc. Dose, from twenty drops to half a fluid drachm three or more times a day.

III. Eupatorin. This is prepared from a saturated tincture on absolute alcohol, after the manner of the other resinoids. When, however, the reduced tincture is added to water, not more than two parts of the latter should be used, as otherwise a considerable portion of the eupatorin will remain suspended. It represents the herb moderately well, but has to be used in large doses, as from five to ten grains.

The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at