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Indian Sage Plant

Indian sage (Eupatorium perfoliatum), commonly called "boneset," was a popular herbal remedy utilized by Native Americans. Today the plant is widely used in herbal medicines sold in health food stores for a variety of ailments of the uterus, bowels and stomach. The plant grows as a perennial throughout most of the southeastern United States, according to Missouri Botanical Garden. Despite its use in the herbal medicine trade, all parts of the plant are toxic if consumed in large enough quantities.


Indian sage belongs to the aster (asteraceae) family. The plant grows approximately 4 to 6 feet in height with a 3- to 4-foot spread. From July to September, large, flat clusters of white or pale purple flowers appear that contain up to 20 florets per bunch. Each cluster measures approximately 1/4 inch across. The stems have a slightly hairy appearance. The plant grows in a large clump form.

History and Foliage

The leaves have a crinkled green appearance. The perfoliate leaves are jointed at the base. It was the leaves' appearance that led people to believe that making poultices of the leaves would help to heal broken bones, according to the Connecticut Botanical Society. It is also believed that the plant received the name "boneset" due to the outbreak of the influenza virus in the 1800s known as "break bone fever." The leaves were used at the time of the outbreak as a diaphoretic--a medicine to produce perspiration to break a fever.


Indian sage is widely used in borders, wildflower gardens, around cottages and near decorative ponds. It grows with ease and spreads rapidly. The flowers are a favored cut flower for wildflower bouquets. They can also be dried with ease for lasting enjoyment.

Planting Location

The Indian sage plant grows well in full sunlight or partial shade. It will tolerate a wide range of soils. It will grow in both clay and sandy soil with ease. Once established it requires no fertilizing. The plant is resistant to pests and diseases.

Water Needs

Constantly moist soil is required for the Indian sage plant to grow well. It does not tolerate drought well and will easily die. In its wild habitat the plant is found along ponds, streams, lowlands and meadows where it can receive adequate moisture. The plant can withstand mild flooding for a short time with no adverse effects.

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