What Is Elecampane?

An herb used for respiratory and digestive issues.

Elecampane dried root, powder, tincture, and capsules

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Elecampane (Inula helenium L.) is an herb in the Asteraceae (Compositae) family. It originates from Europe and parts of Asia and is widespread in North America. Most commonly, elecampane is used in traditional medicine for respiratory issues and stomach issues.

This article discusses the most common traditional uses of elecampane. It also covers possible side effects and other considerations.

Dietary supplements are not regulated in the United States, meaning the FDA does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement that has been tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, NSF. However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn't mean that they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and to check in about any potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredient(s): Inulin, lactone, phenolic acid, flavonoids
  • Alternate name(s): Yellowhead
  • Legal status: Herbal supplement
  • Suggested dose: 10-30 drops per day tincture
  • Safety Considerations: Pregnancy, lactation, children, severe kidney or liver disease, inulin allergy

Uses of Elecampane

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare provider, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, nurse practitioner, physician associate, or doctor. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

There are many traditional uses for elecampane. Elecampane has been used to treat ailments since ancient times. Research of these claims is in its early stages, with most studies being done in vivo (lab study in animals, plants, cells) or in vitro (lab study in a cell culture). There've been very few clinical studies in humans on the health benefits of elecampane or the compounds it contains. Without human data, we can't make firm statements about its effectiveness for a condition.

This herb contains a large amount of prebiotic soluble fiber inulin, which supports a healthy intestinal tract. Dietary inulin is found in many foods (including whole wheat, onions, and garlic). Preliminary studies suggest inulin modifies the microbe balance and function in the gut and may lower gut inflammation.

It's been suggested that elecampane may have carminative (gas relief), antispasmodic (prevents or relieves muscle spasms), anti-inflammatory (prevents inflammation in the body), and antibacterial (germ-fighting) properties. Due to these effects, elecampane is also used to soothe digestive disorders. Elecampane also contains the phytochemical alantolactone, which may be the reason behind its anti-inflammatory effects.

Further, unproven uses of elecampane include:

  • Anti-fungal
  • Bronchitis
  • Digestive disorders
  • Osteoporosis
  • Pneumonia
  • Skin disorders
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Whooping cough


One constituent (naturally-occurring chemical) of elecampane that researchers are interested in is sesquiterpene. Some studies have shown that sesquiterpenes had antitumor effects against certain types of cancer cells.

Elecampane has been shown to have high amounts of sesquiterpene lactones. In one study, they studied the effects of eight sesquiterpene lactones, showing that two of them stopped growth in certain types of cancer cells. Though the results are promising, no concrete clinical (human) evidence remains to support this claim.

There's a need for further research, specifically clinical studies in humans. Until clinical data can support these claims, we cannot say for sure that elecampane can stop the growth of cancer.


Elecampane's abundance of sesquiterpenes may have health effects. Specifically, dehydrocostus, a sesquiterpene lactone found in elecampane, helps with inflammation in the body. Preliminary research on how this lactone affects the inflammation pathway has been conducted. The results have shown how dehydrocostus may stop inflammation and how it may benefit lung ailments.

Inflammation can cause several problems in the body. Until there are clinical (human) studies with proven evidence and data, it remains unknown if elecampane can improve inflammation.


Elecampane has been used for tuberculosis, a respiratory condition. Another sesquiterpene lactone, alantolactone, has been shown, in early research, to stop the growth of tuberculosis. This research has only been completed in cells and animals, not in humans.

It turns out that the properties of the sesquiterpenes found in elecampane could benefit the treatment of tuberculosis in more than one way - anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. This early research requires supportive clinical data to verify the findings. To this point, it cannot be confirmed that elecampane can aid in treating tuberculosis.


Elecampane has astringent and antibacterial properties, which may act against bacterial infection. Elecampane has also been said to promote sweating in individuals who are attempting to rid their bodies of bacteria or a virus.

While one study found the antibacterial compounds of elecampane as a potential treatment for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), MRSA can be dangerous and even fatal, so it's best to immediately see a healthcare provider if you're experiencing any symptoms.

What Are the Side Effects of Elecampane?

There can be a risk of side effects when taking elecampane. As with any supplement, allergic reactions are also possible.

Common Side Effects

Elecampane is known to contain significant amounts of inulin and sesquiterpenes. Both of these have been studied for their role in several health conditions. Inulin and sesquiterpenes may have the following side effects:

  • Contact dermatitis
  • Allergy

Severe Side Effects

There can be severe side effects when using elecampane. The noted side effects are the results of taking high amounts of elecampane.

  • Chronic actinic dermatitis (immune-mediated condition affecting sun-exposed skin)
  • Anaphylactic reaction


There is no known toxicity of the elecampane plant. Yet, there are times when the plant should be taken with caution.

Safe use in children or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established. For this reason, it is not recommended for children or people with severe liver or kidney diseases.

If you are allergic to inulin, taking elecampane may not be safe. There is one documented case where high amounts of inulin resulted in a life-threatening allergic reaction.

One study also found that sesquiterpene lactones (specific chemicals) in elecampane could potentially trigger an allergic reaction among individuals with a sensitivity to plants in the Compositae family. Other plants in the Compositae family include artichoke, mugwort, yarrow, dandelion, and feverfew.

As many herbs do, elecampane may interfere with normal blood pressure levels. If you have fluctuating blood pressure readings, are taking prescription medication for blood pressure, and are taking elecampane, consult your healthcare provider. It may also modify blood sugar in those with diabetes. The latter effect may be due to its fiber content. If you have diabetes, ask your practitioner before adding any medication or herbal medicine to your daily regimen.

Elecampane often causes drowsiness due to its ability to affect the central nervous system. If elecampane is combined with anesthesia, it could potentially be fatal. It's recommended to stop taking elecampane at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery involving the use of anesthesia.

Elecampane dried root
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Dosage: How Much Elecampane Should I Take?

There is no recommended dosage of elecampane.

Elecampane can be taken as a tincture. When used in this form, taking 10-30 drops per day is recommended. However, the FDA has not verified these claims.

It is important to remember that using elecampane is not recommended for people who are allergic to inulin.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Elecampane?

Elecampane is considered generally safe. Clinical studies with dosing information are not available.

There is a potential for allergic reaction with elecampane as with most herbal supplements. If you know you have an allergy to inulin, taking large doses of elecampane may result in an allergic reaction.

When using elecampane, speak with your healthcare provider about the proper dose best for you. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions to ensure you safely use elecampane.


Herbal supplements can interact with medications and other supplements. When using elecampane, consider its interactions with the following medications and supplements.

Elecampane can cause drowsiness. For this reason, avoid using elecampane with other sedative medications such as Klonopin, Ativan, and Ambien.

Drugs that are antihypertensives assist in managing high blood pressure. Many medications have this effect. Elecampane can interact with these medications. Because elecampane may have the same effect, it can result in unsafe low blood pressure when taken together. Examples of this type of medication are:

  • Metolazone
  • Furosemide
  • Atenolol
  • Lisinopril

Elecampane can also interact with medications that lower blood sugar levels due to its fiber content. Examples of this type of medication are:

  • Metformin
  • Glyburide
  • Glimepiride

Elecampane may interact with supplements that exhibit the same effects as those listed above. Such supplements may be:

  • Beetroot (Beta vulgaris)
  • Garlic (Zingiber officinale)
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium

It is essential to read a supplement's ingredient list and nutrition facts panel carefully. Knowing which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included in the supplement is vital. Please review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.

How to Store Elecampane

Fresh elecampane roots should be stored as any roots would be. Dried roots should be kept out of direct sunlight after being chopped and cleaned. Otherwise, store elecampane as recommended by the manufacturer.

Similar Supplements

  • Beetroot (Beta vulgaris)
  • Garlic
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it safe to give elecampane to a child?

    There are statements that it is safe to give elecampane to children. However, this has not been studied. Because it has not been studied in children, the effects on children are unknown. It is recommended to not give elecampane to children because of the uncertainty of its effects on children.

  • Can you make elecampane tea?

    Yes, you can make elecampane tea. Pour boiling water over 1 gram of the ground root and steep for 15 minutes. When steeping is complete, strain the root from the liquid.

  • Is elecampane toxic?

    There is no known toxicity of elecampane. However, there is an instance where an allergy to inulin-a naturally occurring carbohydrate present in elecampane-resulted in paralysis. If you have an allergy to inulin, it is recommended not to take elecampane.

Sources of Elecampane & What to Look For

The best source of elecampane is in supplement form. There are many types of elecampane supplement available.

Elecampane Supplements

Elecampane is available in a few different types of supplements. Types of supplements available include essential oils, tincture, and capsules.


Traditional uses of elecampane include antibacterial, respiratory issues, and anti-tumors. There is not enough clinical data to support these claims.

Taking elecampane is not considered safe if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, a child, or have severe kidney or liver disease.

When considering using elecampane, discussing the use, dose, side effects, and interactions with your healthcare provider is best.

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By Dawn Sheldon, RN
Dawn Sheldon, RN, is a registered nurse and health writer. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and empowering others.