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Learn about Elecampane

Botanical name: Inula helenium
Other names:

Elecampane is a plant that has a long history of use as a medicinal herb. A gently warming and tonic herb, it is especially effective in treating coughs, bronchitis and many other complaints of the chest as well as disorders of the digestive system. It also restores the lungs by healing damaged lung linings.

‘The world’s first cough lozenge’, Elecampane root was traded around Europe by French monks.  It was also used against tuberculosis. Helen of Troy was believed to be gathering Elecampane when she was abducted by Paris, hence its botanical name ‘Inula helenium’.

Sucking on a piece of elecampane may give some people a mild herbal high of its own; aptly described as a ‘sideways stone’. Elecampane certainly gives your mouth and taste buds a high!  

Essentially it is a very safe plant to use, it is suitable for the old and the young and especially useful when the patient is debilitated by their chest issues. It cleanses toxins from the body, stimulating the immune and digestive systems and treating bacterial and fungal infections, and is also good for the pancreas as a rich source of insulin.

The root contains alantolactone, which is strongly anthelmintic (compounds that expel parasitic worms from the body). Alantolactone has an anti-inflammatory action, it also reduces mucous secretions and stimulates the immune system. The plant is sometimes recommended as an external wash for skin inflammations and varicose ulcers, but has been known to cause allergic reactions.

Preparation: 4.5g-12g / day of dried root as a decoction. Boil root in water for a few minutes, then steep for 15 to 30 minutes. 

Reference: Shipard, I. (2003). How can I use herbs in my daily life? Nambour: Stewart, Thorpe, R. (2001). Happy High Herbs 6th Ed. Loch: Possibility.com, Plants for a Future (1996-2010). Inula helenium – L. http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Inula+helenium, Image: By H. Zell (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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