Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Roots: Elecampane

My local herb farm, Ancestree Herbals, harvested some spring roots that I had signed up for. I've been watching the slowly emerging new plant growth thinking it was going to be a long time before actually getting my hands on plant materials and then surprise! They emailed to let me know I had a pound of elecampane waiting for me.

Common Name: Elecampane
Botanical Name: Inula helenium
Plant Family: Asteraceae
Major Plant Constituents: Inulin, alantolactone, helenin
Parts used: Roots

Historical Uses: Alleviate suppressed menses, strengthening tonic. Very important herb to Greeks and Romans who even used it as a seasoning (Wild Hearts, Edwards). Cherokee used the roots as a remedy for all lung ailments and women used it to strengthen their womb during pregnancy

Uses: For chronic respiratory illness especially bronchitits and asthma. Indicated for cold, wet coughs. Promotes expectoration, is warming and soothing for mucous membranes. Effective against TB and whooping cough. Expels intestinal parasites like pinworm and giardia. Bitter-tonic to promote digestion. Bacteriacidal, fungicidal, sedative, anti-spasmodic, diaphoretic, antiseptic, and anti-bacterial.

Contraindications/Cautions: Because it has been used to promote menstruation, care is needed for use in pregnancy. Diabetics should use smaller amounts and approach with caution.

Personal Experience: I have very little experience with elecampane so I had a great time getting to know this plant. I tasted some of the root - a great bitter that produced a lot of saliva. (I gave some to my husband who looked at me like I played a practical joke on him.) I made some infused honey, tinctured some in Scotch Whiskey, and then dried some for later use. I also had a whole root ball with trailing roots, so I put that in the garden - we'll just have to wait and see.

I am looking forward to trying a cordial recipe that I found on Herbalpedia. It's basically infusing a syrup of elecampane root in port wine.