This tall perennial with large, yellow daisy-like heads originates from Asia and Western Europe, but it is now grown throughout Europe, Asia and North America (although it is classified in the US as invasive). It is a member of the daisy and sunflower family.
The herb has been used medicinally since ancient times. The Roman natural historian Pliny describes elecampane as ‘a wholesome digestive’ and a ‘cheering tonic’ that ‘was taken daily by Julia, the daughter of the Emperor Augustus’. It was also used to treat coughs, colds and conditions affecting the lungs.
The dried roots and rhizomes taken from plants two to three years old.
The main active ingredients in elecampane are sesquiterpene lactones (which may help treat cardiovascular disease and cancer). The roots are also a rich source of inulin (a carbohydrate and soluble fibre that is used as a nutritional supplement to fortify foods), phytosterols (plant steroids that contribute to the health of cell membranes and help deter parasites) and triterpenoids, which help fight inflammation and cancer.
Elecampane is mainly used in combination with other soothing herbs as an expectorant and to ease coughs and congestion caused by bronchitis and other lung conditions, including asthma. Preparations containing Inula helenium are prescribed to:
Artichoke is prescribed to:
- Help relieve coughs by acting as an expectorant.
- Ease bronchial catarrh.
- Act as as a diuretic and tonic.
- May help calm indigestion and dyspepsia.
- May help fight intestinal parasites.
- May help treat urinary tract infections.
- In the US, elecampane is recommended, both for external and internal use, as an antiseptic to treat skin conditions.
Flora Force Products containing Inulin helenium
- Herbal Cough Mix
- Sinus Relief
Domestic & culinary uses
Although elecampane is used in medicinal preparations, no references were found to indicate that it is used in modern cuisine.
Elecampane is a perennial grown mainly in the northern hemisphere, where it flourishes in loamy soil in moist, shady positions. Seeds are sown in spring. The yellow flowerheads are borne on 2.5-metre tall stems. The roots are ready to use after two years.
Acknowledgements & credits
Compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer
- Chadwick, M., Trewin, H. et al. Sesquiterpenoids lactones: benefits to plants and people. International Journal of Molecular Science. 2013 Jun 19;14(6):12780-805. doi: 10.3390/ijms140612780. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23783276
- Inula helenium. Botanical.com. https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/e/elecam07.html
- Norton, K. Phytochemicals: 12 health benefits of triterpenoids. http://kylenorton.healthblogs.org/2011/09/19/phytochemicals-12-health-benefits-of-triterpenoids/
- Van Wyk, B-E. and Wink, M. Medicinal Plants of the World. 2004. Briza Books, Pretoria, South Africa.
- Cloves photo courtesy of Kitchen_Shaman / Pixabay.com