Elecampane Inula helenium Asteraceae Botanical description

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Inula helenium Asteraceae
Botanical description: A tall, erect, stately plant up to 2.5 metres. The leaves are pale green, with grey hairs (rough on top and wooly on the underside)and are simple. The leaves are held alternately and can be 30-70 cm long. The many flowers are reminiscent of small sunflowers with yellow rays (it isometimes called perennial sunflower).

Part used: Root

Habitat, cultivation and harvesting: Native to south Eastern Europe and naturalized in some regions here, normally as an escape near orchards, meadows, walls, banks and roadsides. It will tolerate shade but prefers sun and deep soil. Easily grown from seed or propagated from root division. Barker says that the root is better used fresh, if dried it must retain its aromatic quality so must be dried carefully.
History/folklore/taste/energetics: Also has a tradition for being used as a root vegetable. The Greek and Romans used this herb as a panacea for many conditions including dropsy, digestive upsets, menstrual problems, sciatica (Ody). It has mainly been used as a respiratory herb in recent times but deserves wider recognition for its action on the digestion, spleen and adrenals and as a valuable nutritive tonic or adaptogen. Bitter, sweet, warming and drying.

Constituents: Inulin, Volatile oil with azulenes, Triterpene saponins, Sterols, Polyacetylenes, mucilage

Actions: Expectorant, Soothing coughs, Increases sweating, Bitter, Hepatic, Eliminates worms, Antiseptic, stimulating nervine, adrenal tonic

Traditional and current uses

  • Chest infections

  • Chronic chest conditions

  • Shifts stubborn catarrh

  • Asthma and hayfever

  • Digestive complaints

  • Excess mucus in the stomach with nausea, distension, flatulence and vomiting

  • May help improve calcium absorption and deposition in osteoporisis/osteopenia due to its inulin content

  • Traditionally used in the treatment of tuberculosis, recent research has shown that it is effective against MRSA in vitro

  • Skin conditions including eczema and varicose ulcers

  • Spleen meridian tonic, nutritive tonic for earth element

  • Nutritive tonic for debility (probably an adaptogen)

  • Adrenal tonic

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