With many respiratory ailments such as bronchitis, the bronchial tubes become red and swollen making it difficult to breathe. Elecampane root is rich in the phytochemicals; helenalin, helenin and most importantly inulin. Inulin coats and soothes the bronchial passages whilst acting as an expectorant helping to reduce bronchial secretions and cleansing the lungs of congestion.
In addition to its expectorant qualities, Elecampane soothes the irritation and inflammation that results from coughing, whilst also acting as a cough suppressant. This antitussive action is thought to be a result of another active compound, alatolactone, found in the root of this herb.
Furthermore, the sesquiterpene lactones present in Elecampane have a natural antibiotic effect that may be useful in treating bacterial respiratory infections.
The phytochemicals alantolactone and isoalantolactone contained in the roots of Elecampane have anthelmintic and anti-parasitic properties. These compounds are effective in destroying and expellling parasites from the intestine such as; roundworms, pinworms, hookworms, whipworms and threadworms.
Elecampane root contains a whopping 44% of the pre biotic compound inulin. Prebiotics support and nourish healthy gut flora and are one of the favourite foods of probiotics, including Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus. Colonies of these beneficial bacteria in the gut help to stave off infections, prevent inflammation and encourage healthy bowels.
In the case of loss of appetite and feelings of lethargy due to poor nutrient absorption, Elecampane enhances nutrient absorption and encourages proper function of the digestive system.
Additionally, a clinical trial conducted in 1977 showed that an extract from Elecampane root demonstrated ulcer healing properties, relieved painful symptoms and improved gastric mucosal circulation. The trial was conducted on 102 patients with peptic ulcer disease.
The high inulin content in Elecampane is also helpful for people with blood sugar issues, such as Type II Diabetes. The inulin slows down sugar metabolism, reducing the harmful blood glucose spikes that contribute to insulin resistance. Consuming inulin rich foods helps to restore normal levels of blood sugar.
Folklore and history
Elecampane is reputed to owe its genus name "Inula Helenium", to the fabled beauty Helen of Troy. One legend says that she was carrying a bunch of Elecampane flowers when she was captured by Paris, the son of the Trojan king Praim, who took her to Troy. Another says that the flowers sprang from her tears. Yet another legend suggests that she was the first to use Elecampane for the bites of “venomous serpents.”
It is mentioned by the distinguished ancient physicians Dioscorides and Pliny, both of whom recommended Elecampane for coughs and orthopnoea (shortness of breath).
John Gerard, writing in his 16th century Herball had this to say about Elecampane; "It is of great vertue both given in a looch, which is a medicine to be licked on, and likewise preserved, as also otherwise given to purge and void out thick, tough, and clammie humors, which stick in the chest and lungs. The root taken with honie or sugar made into an electurary, clenseth the brest, ripeneth tough flegme, and maketh it easie to be spet forth, and prevaileth mightily against the cough and shortness of breath, comforteth the stomacke also, and helpeth digestion.”
As for its magical uses, Elecampane is also known as "Elf wort" in old folklore as it was thought to heal magical wounds from the arrow of an elf. In fact, Anglo Saxons actually used it to treat illnesses caused by elf arrows!
Elecampane has a very long and distinguished history of use. Its many health benefits were recognised by the Ancient Greeks and Romans who used this herb as a general health tonic and a remedy for many ailments. According to Hippocrates it stimulates the brain, kidneys, stomach and uterus. He also used it to treat chronic skin eruptions, itching and pain caused by animal bites (a very real danger back in the day).
Elsewhere in Europe, Elecampane was traditionally used as a respiratory tonic, diuretic, for coughs and colds, digestive problems, menstrual cramps and to treat dropsy (the swelling of soft tissues due to the accumulation of excess water). Traditional Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine use this root for bronchitis and asthma. In the 1800’s, lozenges, candy and cough drops were produced from Elecampane root.
To make Elecampane root tea take 2 tbsp of dried root, boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Add honey or any natural sweetener to taste.
Elecampane Root Tincture: Traditionally Taken: 2-3ml taken 2-3 times per day, or as directed by a Herbal Practitioner.
The root and rhizome of Elecampane contain a high amount of inulin (44 %). Other polysaccharides include mucilage, bitter components, sterols (sitosterol, stigmasterol), saponins, resins, alkaloids and essential oils that are composed of sesquiterpene lactones such as: alantolactone ,isoalantolactone ,dihydroisoalantolactone, dihydroalantolactone and isocostunolide.
Not to be taken in large amounts as it can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and spasms.
Not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.
If you are taking prescription medications, please consult your healthcare practitioner before using this herb.