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As suggested by the Latin species name, the stem appears to be growing through the leaf. To early herb doctors, this indicated the plant would be useful in setting bones, so its leaves were wrapped with bandages around splints. The dried leaves have also been used to make a tonic, boneset tea, thought effective in treating colds, coughs, and constipation. Upland Boneset (E. sessilifolium) is somewhat similar, but its leaves are not fused at the base.
Boneset is a coarse, rough, hairy perennial about 0.6 to 1.8 metres (2 to 6 feet) high that is common in wet places. Its lance-shaped, toothed, and wrinkled leaves are joined together at their bases around the stem. The plants bear small white disk flowers in numerous heads that form a flat and branched cluster. Seeds are borne in wind-dispersed achenes. Eupatorium perfoliatum, or Boneset, is a large herbaceous, clump-forming perennial shrub with small white flowers that appear in late summer and fall. The plant grows well in average, medium to wet soils with a consistent water source. It prefers full sun or part shade and tolerates both sandy and clay soils. The soil should contain considerable organic material so that it can retain moisture. This plant can withstand flooded conditions for short periods of time, but it is not really aquatic.
Historically, Boneset was commonly included in medical herb gardens and used as a folk medicine for treatment of cases of flu, fevers, colds, and a variety of other maladies All parts of the plant are quite toxic and bitter. Sensitization may occur. Increase sweating and diarrhoea have been reported. May cause dermatitis. Some herbalists suggest it should not be used with a high fever in excess of 102F. Also suggest to not use boneset for more than 6 months. As potentially toxic should not be used during breast feeding. E. perfoliatum and several of its related species are listed on the Poisonous Plants Database of the US Food and Drug Administration, with E. perfoliatum described as an "unapproved homeopathic medicine" with unknown safety by the US National Library of Medicine. (Source: plants.ces.ncsu.edu)