Elecampane - Inula helenium

Elecampane

Inula helenium

It is also used as an aromatic tonic and as a stimulant of the secretory organs to treat cough, whooping cough, bronchitis, and asthma.

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Other names: Horse heal, Elfdock, Elfwort, Scabwort, Yellow starwort
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: No
  • Ceremonial: No
  • Parts Used: Root
  • Side Effects: Elecampane may cause allergic reactions for people with allergies to the Asteraceae family
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About Elecampane

Elecampane is a robust hardy perennial plant species that is native to Eurasia but naturalized throughout North America. It is marked by stiff, erect, hairy stems that bear unstalked, ovate leaves while large stalked basal leaves with visible midribs. From June to October, the plant enters its blooming phase giving out large yellow flower heads with outstanding yellow rays that emerge in the form of clusters. 

Traditionally, elecampane is associated with the elves and fairy folks. Helenium, its species name, is derived from the Helen of Troy as it is thought to have popped up from where Helen’s tears fell. Although it is a medicinal plant, different parts of the elecampane plant (especially its root) have found their application in culinary areas due to its massive flavor. 

Throughout the Middle Ages, elecampane was cultivated and consumed as a medicinal plant. It has an undying relationship with the spleen, stomach, lung, and large intestine. As per the Chinese philosophy and medicine, it treats the feeling of food stagnated in the stomach, lack of appetite, focal distention, nausea, vomiting, epigastric pain, diarrhea, and dysentery. It is also used as an aromatic tonic and as a stimulant of the secretory organs to treat cough, whooping cough, bronchitis, and asthma.

 

Growing

Elecampane seeds can be sown in mid-spring directly into the garden beds or you can start them indoors a few weeks before the last frost date. It requires well-drained soil with neutral pH (6.5 to 7.5pH) and full sun to part shade exposure. It is not invasive in nature even though it spreads through the rhizomes. 

Allocate a spacious area for the plantation of elecampane as it requires room to grow, planting it 12 to 30 inches apart. 

Elecampane takes 14 to 42 days to germinate. It typically does not produce flowers during its first year of growth but during its second season, the plant will produce prominent blooms from early summer through early fall. 

These flowers are pollinated and undergo post-fertilization changes to produce seeds that mature from August to September. In ideal conditions, the plant can self-seed and produce new plants on its own for the continuation of its life cycle.

 

 

Harvesting

Harvest elecampane roots and rhizome in the spring or fall season (during the second year of its growth) by digging a broad area with a pitchfork or shovel. 

The roots and rhizome of elecampane take up the form of an octopus shape so a broad area is dug using the pitchfork or shovel for loosening the soil.

Store the fresh roots in a cool pantry or closet at 55° to 60° or you can dry them by chopping them into small chunks and dehydrating or air drying them in a well-ventilated space, away from the sunlight.

Usage

Elecampane serves a vast variety of ailments, including asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, diarrhea, dysentery, and whatnot. It can be transformed into different medicinal preparations alone or in combination with other herbs.

  • Tincture - Dried elecampane roots are chopped and topped with neutral alcohol, such as vodka, for 4 to 6 weeks to formulate elecampane tincture.
  • Tea - Shredded elecampane roots are soaked in water for 8 to 10 hours, heated up, and consumed to treat cough.
  • Decoction - 1oz of dried elecampane root is boiled in 2 cups of water until half of the volume remains to form elecampane decoction.
  • Salve - Elecampane oil in combination with other oils (such as astragalus oil and cascara oil) is stirred with melted beeswax pellets to formulate a salve.
  • Syrup - Dried elecampane root is simmered in a sugar solution to form a syrup.
  • Infused Oil - 100 gm of elecampane root is infused in 1 liter of carrier oil for 14 days on a sunny windowsill to form elecampane-infused oil.

 

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