Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Other common names: Horse heal, yellow starwort, wild sunflower, elf dock, velvet dock, scabwort, marchalan (Welsh), aster helenium, echter alant or alantwurzel (German), horse elder

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Family: Asteraceae

Actions:

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/Radu Privantu

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/Radu Privantu

Expectorant, diaphoretic, antimicrobial, antitussive, aromatic, bitter, appetite stimulant, vermifuge, antiparasitic, cholagogue, emmenagogue, analgesic, decongestant, diuretic, astringent, gentle stimulant, alterative, vulnerary, lowers blood sugar, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, immune stimulant.

Harvest:

Roots are taken in autumn from plants that are at least 2 – 3 years old, after which they become too dense and woody.

Part used: Roots

Constituents: 

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/Biodiversity Heritage Library

Diagram courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/Biodiversity Heritage Library

Inulin, sesquiterpene lactones, fructose, helenin, sterols, mucilage, pectin, resin, volatile oils (alantolactone, isoalantalactone and azulene) and others.

Indications:

Coughs, cold/flu symptoms, excess phlegm, weakened immune system, respiratory infections, staph infection (even that resistant to antibiotics), bacterial and viral infection, liver and gallbladder health, loss of appetite, indigestion, neuralgia, bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, parasites, chest congestion, fever, promoting menstruation. It’s great for loosening up a tight chest and getting rid of phlegm. It soothes tissues after a dry cough.

Medicinal preparations:

Internal

The most popular use of elecampane seems to be in a tea decoction, but it could be used in any internal preparation, including steam inhalations, lozenges and syrups.

External

While it is a bit of a rubefacient, elecampane has been used as a wash or ointment for some skin complaints, including mites and other external parasites. As a poultice I wouldn’t suggest putting it on overly sensitive tissues, as it could be an irritant – patch test first to determine your own skin’s reaction. It is sometimes used in liniments for sciatica and other neuralgia.

Contraindications:

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/Anna

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/Anna

Do not use if pregnant or nursing, or if you suffer from blood pressure issues (it can both raise and lower it – and shouldn’t be taken with blood pressure medications). In appropriate medicinal dosages, elecampane is safe for most – however, in very large doses it can cause toxicity. May cause hay fever-type reactions in those allergic to plants in the daisy/ragweed (asteraceae) family. May lower blood sugar – avoid use if you are diabetic or hypoglycemic, and stop using two weeks prior to any scheduled surgery.

I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns.

Energetic/traditional use:

Elecampane was named after Helen of Troy – the legend has it, that the herb sprang forth from her tears. It was also sometimes called elfwort by the Celtic cultures, who held the plant quite sacred. It has ties to both elf and faerie lore. It was considered valuable for the treatment of tuberculosis due to its beneficial effects on the respiratory system.

It has ceremonial roots as well, being used by pagans and druids as an incense for births, initiations, and purifications (especially in purifying a body of water).

Elecampane has also been used in veterinary medicine, for the treatment of respiratory complaints in dogs and other uses – do not try this without the advice of a vet.

Energetically, it is affiliated with the sun, summer solstice and Mercury energy. It helps people connect their minds with their bodies, and also to honour and trust their intuition. It encourages clear sight, happiness and communication with the faerie realms. It has a hot, dry constitution.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.

 

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