Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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  Prairie Folklore

by Wayne Pauly from Dane County Parks ACTION Adult Conservation Team Newsletter (All folklore stories)


Boneset
Eupatorium perfoliatum


Every fall I work with hundreds of third and fourth graders collecting prairie seeds, and on cold October days, I ask the shivering kids if they’d like to know a trick for keeping warm. “Zip up your coats!!” They’re usually disappointed by the simplicity of the suggestion.

Seventy-five years ago, the attic or woodshed of almost every country farm had bouquets of dried boneset hanging by twine from the rafters. The herbs were a daily reminder for the kids to button their coats, wear mittens, put on a muffler, and keep their feet dry, because a cold or sniffle meant grandma would dose them with a draught of bitter, astringent boneset tea.

“Boneset” was used in the Old South to ease the symptoms of dengue fever, a mosquito born disease known locally as “breakbone fever” due to the extreme joint and muscle pain. This herb appears to have analgesic and fever reducing effects similar to aspirin.

 

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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