The Health Benefits of Elecampane

An Herb Used to Improve Lung and Stomach Function

Elecampane (Inula helenium L.) is an herb originating from Europe and parts of Asia. The scientific name of elecampane was thought to be named after Helen of Troy and is part of the Asteraceae family. Most commonly, elecampane is used to move phlegm which is causing respiratory issues. Similarly, elecampane also works on intestinal bacteria to improve stomach issues.

Elecampane is also used to provide flavor in foods and beverages, along with beauty uses such as serving as a fragrance in cosmetic products. The root and sometimes the rhizomes from two- to three-year-old elecampane plants are used in herbal medicine. These are formed into tea, tinctures, medicinal honey, syrup, capsule, extract, or sweetmeat. The ancient Romans initially used elecampane as a remedy for many ailments, specifically those of the skin, brain, kidneys, stomach, and uterus. Elecampane was later popularly used in lozenge form in the 17th century.

Health Benefits

There have been very few medical research studies of the health benefits of elecampane or the compounds it contains. It is not approved for the prevention or treatment of any illness or condition.

This herb contains a large amount of the prebiotic soluble fiber inulin, which supports a healthy intestinal tract. Dietary inulin is found in many foods (including whole wheat, onions, and garlic) and is said to slow digestive metabolism and reduce blood glucose spikes in people with diabetes. Inulin from chicory root is now being added to many foods to boost their soluble fiber content.

Studies have found sesquiterpene lactone compounds in the herb that have biologic effects. These compounds can be anti-inflammatory, but can also have toxic effects.

Most of the uses and benefits ascribed to elecampane come from herbal supplement manufacturers and other commercial purveyors of the herb and its preparations. They are not backed by published research.

Some herbal medicine practitioners say elecampane could be used to soothe pain and inflammation which is the result of lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, and whooping cough. Since elecampane is said to prevent coughing, this herb may also relieve symptoms of tuberculosis. Elecampane is said to loosen phlegm in these situations so a person will cough and expel it from the body.

Elecampane has also been said to promote sweating in individuals who are attempting to rid their bodies of bacteria or a virus.

According to some herbalists, elecampane falls under several categories. Elecampane has astringent and antimicrobial properties which may act against bacterial infection. Elecampane is said to be an antispasmodic, which relieves muscle spasms and tension. This herb is also classified by some as a hepatic tonic, meaning it soothes and tones the liver.

Elecampane is used to soothe nausea, flatulence, and diarrhea, which may be caused by worms present in the intestines. Elecampane contains phytochemicals alantolactone and isoalantolactone, which are said to address worms such as hookworm, roundworm, threadworm, and whipworm.

Possible Side Effects

It is not recommended to take elecampane if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Elecampane is safe for use with children and the elderly.

If you are allergic to ragweed or other plants in the Asteraceae family (including chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, feverfew, chamomile, echinacea, etc.) do not take elecampane.

Elecampane is not ideal to relieve hot, dry, and irritated coughs and should be avoided by individuals experiencing these symptoms.

Elecampane may interfere with blood sugar control in those with diabetes. If you have diabetes, ask your doctor before adding any medication or herbal medicine to your daily regimen.

As many herbs do, elecampane may interfere with normal levels of blood pressure. If you specifically have fluctuating blood pressure readings, are taking prescription medication for blood pressure, and are taking elecampane, consult your doctor.

Elecampane often causes drowsiness due to its ability to affect the central nervous system. If elecampane is combined with anesthesia, this drowsiness will potentially be fatal. It is recommended to stop taking elecampane at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery involving the use of anesthesia. For this reason, elecampane is also contraindicated for use with other sedative medications (such as Klonopin, Ativan, Donnatal, and Ambien) due to its ability to cause drowsiness.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

There is no recommended dosage of elecampane, as it is an herb not often used and not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

There are sources which note that 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of powdered elecampane root, or liquid elecampane, should be used. However, these claims have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not verified or supported.

Elecampane root tea requires 2 tablespoons of dried root, boiled and simmered for 20 minutes. Sweeteners should be added to the tea for taste. Elecampane root tincture is often taken in 2 to 3 milliliter (mL) doses two to three times per day or as needed.

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.

Elecampane may be used fresh, dried, powdered, or candied, according to personal preference and available resources.

The powdered root form of elecampane is considered to be the most potent. However, individuals have personal preferences as to the medium of elecampane they ingest and herbal practitioners will also have preferred methods they recommend to individuals using elecampane.

Common Questions

Can elecampane be used to treat MRSA?

There are no studies claiming elecampane treats MRSA. Elecampane is traditionally used to eliminate intestinal parasites and worms, but MRSA is a bacteria and not a parasite or worm. As MRSA can be dangerous and even fatal, it should be treated by a medical doctor.

Can I buy elecampane in essential oil form?

Yes, elecampane is available in essential oil form. As with many essential oils, elecampane essential oil may cause sensitivities or allergic reactions to those individuals who have never used it.

Use with caution and always do a skin patch test before applying any new essential oil. Elecampane in this form may have additional benefits and side effects, so research carefully before using.

How do I grow elecampane?
Elecampane is grown from seeds plants in spring or fall. This is a perennial plant often grown ornamentally. Elecampane plants thrive in full to part sun with well-drained soil.

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