Inula helenium is said to have gotten it’s name from Helen of Troy; it’s thought she was picking them when she was abducted, although other stories say that the flowers sprung up from her tears as she was kidnapped from Sparta.
Elecampane is a perennial herb in the Asteraceae family native to Southern Europe and Western Asia, growing in wastelands and disturbance sites east of the Mississippi and North of the Carolinas. It has large, soft, alternating sessile leaves that have white veins, and a wooly stem that grows from a fleshy, fibrous brown rootstock. It grows vigorously and produces large, composite yellow flowers that bloom in the summer. Elecampane can be grown from seeds in the spring, or from root divisions in the fall, and tolerates most soils, but does best in rich, deeply cultivated loamy soils that are moist and full of organic matter.
Both the roots and flowers are used medicinally; the fresh root can either be dried or cooked and eaten. Traditionally, European gypsies used elecampane to control horses and boost the immune system of their animals. It was thought to be a panacea for horses, and is often known by the name horse-heal. It was also traditionally used in Europe to kill tuberculosis causing bacteria, as it has strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It is also a carminative, diaphoretic, anti-tussive, antispasmodic, analgesic, rejuvenate, and an expectorant. As an expectorant, it’s really helpful in quieting and treating mucusy coughs, bronchitis, whooping cough, and respiratory tract infections, and is a great herb to use for children. For respiratory issues, it combines well with white horehound, coltsfoot, pleurisy root, and yarrow in a infusion or tincture. It can also be very soothing and toning for the digestive tract, and can expel intestinal worms. It has traditionally been used to promote menstruation, so it should be avoided by pregnant women. Externally, a wash made of elecampane can soothe itching and rashes, and can be used for treating scabies.
As an infusion, 1 teaspoon of shredded root per cup of cold water. Let stand for 8-10 hours, then heat and take very hot three times daily. Alternatively, 1-2ml of tincture three times daily.
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