Joe Pye Weed , Gravel Root
Other Names: Queen of the Meadow,
Gravel root, Kidney root,
Photo by Karen Bergeron
Description by Deb Jackson
Joe Pye Weed is a North American native perennial herb found in moist
woods and meadows from southern Canada to Florida and west to Texas.
Cultivate from seed or root separation, with partial shade to full sun in
rich alkaline soil. Growing to a height of about 12 ft. it makes a handsome
addition to any garden or as a privacy border. The sturdy, hollow, purple stems
are covered with whorls of 4 to 8 dark green, lance shaped, and serrated
leaves, up to 1 foot long. Atop each stem is a rose pink to whitish domed cluster
of flowers, about 1 foot in diameter, blooming in August and September. The root
is woody, thick and purplish brown with cream colored flesh. Gather leaves anytime
and entire plant in full bloom. Dig roots after frost.
The entire plant is used as an alternative medicine with the roots
being the strongest part. Crushed leaves have an apple scent and are dried then
burned to repel flies. Infuse dried root and flowers for a diuretic tea
to relieve kidney and urinary problems. Tea is used to induce sweating and break a
high fever. Also useful for rheumatism, gravel (gallstones), and dropsy (fluid
The plant is named after an American Indian named Joe Pye, who was said to
have cured typhus with it. Some Native American tribes still consider Joe Pye Weed
to be an aphrodisiac.
Root tea: To 1 pint boiling water add 1 oz. dried rootstock steep for 30
min. take in ½ cup doses 4 or 5 times a day.
Flower tea: To 1 cup boiling water add 1 tsp. dried flowers steep for 10
min. drink 1 to 3 cups a day.
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