Eupatorium perfoliatum – common boneset

The (common) boneset or thoroughwort (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is a perennial composite plant native to eastern North America, from Canada in the north to Florida in the south of the USA.


The delicately scented, bitter tasting plant prefers moist soil and so is found on the banks of brooks, rivers and lakes, in wetlands and marshy meadows, or forest glades. In its natural habitat, Eupatorium perfoliatum mostly grows wild. In Europe, however, the thoroughwort is cultivated. The plant reaches a height of up to 1.5 metres. The hairy stems bear longitudinal, lanceolate leaves of up to 15 cm in length that grow around the stems. Hence, the leaves are long, but widest in the middle and tapered towards the ends. The upper sides of the leaves are wrinkled and slightly hairy; the undersides are almost woolly with hairs. Dense clusters of white or purple flower heads form small fruits with a bristly pappus which are distributed by the wind. The plant produces pale pink flowers in July, which is also the best time for harvesting.

The leaves are reminiscent of hemp, though the two plants have nothing in common. Common names are boneset, common boneset, thoroughwort. It contains various bitter compounds, flavonoids such as eupatorin, and essential oils.

In its native North American habitat, the Eupatorium perfoliatum is regarded as a traditional remedy. Native Americans used the thoroughwort as an infusion. European settlers adopted this practice and in the 18th/19th century began to regard Eupatorium perfoliatum as a universal remedy. The plant stimulates the powers of resistance to viral and bacterial infections, for example.

A compendium from 1936 includes an astonishing entry on the successful treatment of 200 patients with Eupatorium perfoliatum during an epidemic.

Thoroughwort has mucolytic and expectorant properties, as well as acting as a tonic and laxative.

In homeopathy, potentised Eupatorium perfoliatum is indicated if symptoms worsen periodically or as a result of movement. Symptoms typically improve, on the other hand, from conversing with the patient, or by getting down on the hands and knees.