Queen of the Meadow (Joe-Pye Weed)
Compositae (daisy family)
Queen of the Meadow, also known as Joe-Pye weed, was supposedly named for an Indian medicine man named Joe Pye who used this species successfully to treat typhus throughout New England in the late 1700s. Some say he was a Wampanoag Indian herbalist. Eupatorium, the genus name, also has a fascinating origin: Mithridates Eupator (134-63 B.C.), the Greek king of Pontus, was the first to use a plant from this genus to treat liver problems. The Latin species name, maculatum, means “spotted”: this species is often called spotted Joe-Pye weed, for its purple-spotted stems. E. purpureum, a closely related herb, is known as sweet joe-pye weed, or gravel root.
Also called trumpet weed, kidney root, and quill-wort in various regions, spotted Queen of the Meadow weed ranges from Newfoundland to British Columbia south to Maryland, Ohio, Illinois, and New Mexico, favoring wet meadows and mountainous areas. This lanky sturdy herb can grow from two to six feet tall. Long lance-shaped leaves emerge from its purple or purple-spotted stem in whorls of four to five, like collars. Large purple flower clusters appear atop the tall stems in July and bloom through September. Sweet Queen of the Meadow weed, E. purpureum, also called king-of-the-meadow, can grow up to twelve feet tall. Its sturdy stems, pithy and green with purple at the leaf nodes, are topped with pale pink to light purple flowers densely packed into a rounded blossom head.
As with its “spotted” cousin, blooming continues from July through September. The whorls of long lance-shaped leaves surrounding the stem give off a fragrance like vanilla when stroked or lightly brushed.
All parts of this perennial plant were used in various herbal preparations. American Indians made root and leaf teas and decoctions to treat gout and kidney infections as well as rheumatism. These teas also were used as a diuretic and to relieve bladder complaints. In addition, they served to treat fevers, colds, diarrhea, and liver ailments. The Ojibwa washed their children with a strong decoction of this plant to strengthen them and prevent illness. The Potawatomi used the leaves as a poultice on burns and the root medicine to clear and tone the uterus after childbirth. The flowers were considered a good-luck talisman.
The Meskwaki used this plant as one of their love medicines.
Herbalists today use these herbs (both species) to treat colds, fevers, and support the immune system. The whole plant is considered a tonic, and the roots provide a laxative.
Do not use while pregnant; at any time, use these plants only with a specialist’s supervision.
Growth needs and propagation:
Queen of the Meadow weeds prefer moist, rich earth and full sun to partial shade. Both species adapt well to the garden, where they provide a tall, sturdy backdrop for shorter herbs. They are best propagated from root divisions in late summer and fall. Cut generous sections with enough bud and root to sustain new growth. Dig them into the medicine wheel garden, six to eight inches deep, water well, and tamp the earth over them, top-dressing them with leaf mulch.
Both species grow well with sweet flag, black cohosh, boneset, Indian turnip, and cardinal flower. They will also happily accompany angelica, jewelweed, sweetgrass, and hellebore.
Queen of the Meadow heals soreness of womb and abdomen after childbirth. Also good for kidneys. Steep well three roots in four quarts of water. Drink a lot anytime until soreness goes away.
– Elijah David, Seneca herbalist, Tonawanda Reserve, 1912