Joe Pye Weed Effects

One of the most colorfully named of the traditional medicinal herbs, Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum, E. maculatum) gained its common name from the legend of Joe Pye, a Native American herbal doctor who reputedly used it to save many people from typhoid fever. The plant holds pride of place at the University of North Carolina's Sam W. Hitt Medicinal Plant Gardens, which describes it as a traditional remedy for "urinary tract [illness], gout, rheumatism, impotence [and] asthma." Although no specific health warnings are currently attached to Joe Pye Weed, always consult a physician before using and avoid excessive consumption or application of the plant.


Botanical diuretics---herbals used to promote urination---are helpful in keeping the kidney and urinary systems healthy. Herbalists consider Joe Pye Weed particularly useful in this respect. In fact, one of the plant's alternative names, gravel root, refers to its reputation for flushing gall stones from the body. Its roots apparently hold the greatest medicinal value. Gather them in the fall by digging up the plant and setting the roots on newspapers in a dark, draft-free room. Once the roots dry, make a tea by following herbalist Deb Jackson's recipe (see Resources section). Pour 1 pint boiling water over 1 oz. dried root. Steep the root tea for 30 minutes before straining. Put the tea in a thermos and drink ½ cup at a time, 4 or 5 times a day.


Healers use Joe Pye Weed both internally and topically to ease joint pain. Take root tea as described above, or consider an infusion of the flowers. Add a tsp. of the dried flowers to a cup of boiling water. Turn off the heat and steep for 10 minutes before straining. Drink up to three times a day. Alternatively, make a soothing compress by infusing either the a generous handful of the dried flowers or 1 oz. root in hot water and cooling to a comfortable temperature. Dip clean cloth or gauze in the warm liquid and apply to the aching joints. For all-over body aches, make a large stockpot of the mixture by adding several handfuls of dried flowers or 6 oz. dried root. Cool slightly, strain and add the infusion to a tub. Soak for a least 20 minutes in the herbal bath.


The plant's diaphoretic (perspiration-inducing) properties which brought it to the attention of Joe Pye. According to legend, the Native American known as "Joe Pye" traveled extensively in the late 1700s, apparently effecting miraculous cures with his "ague (fever) weed" to sufferers of typhoid fever. A tea similar to the one described above may prove useful in inducing sweating in order to help patients break a fever.

Horticulural Benefits

Joe Pye Weed's large light purple flowers act as pollinators by attracting butterflies and bees. The plant's autumn bloom schedule extends a garden's flowering season. Depending on the variety, Joe Pye Weed grows from 8 to 12 feet tall, making it an effective privacy screen.

Keywords: Joe Pye, Eupatorium purpureum, botanical diuretics, medicinal herbs, diaphoretic properties, attracting butterflies

About this Author

Melissa Jordan-Reilly has been a writer for 20 years, both as a newspaper reporter and as an editor of nonprofit newsletters. Among the publications in which she has published are, "The Winsted Journal," "Taconic" and "Compass Magazine." A graduate of the University of Connecticut, Jordan-Reilly also pursues sustainable agriculture techniques and tends a market garden at her Northwestern Connecticut home.