Elecampane is mostly used as an expectorant for the potential to help support symptoms of coughs (including pertussis) and bronchial catarrh. It is a traditional bitter tonic, stomachic, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic and diuretic. The root (or isolated alantolactone) can be used as a disinfectant against bloating and for infections of the urinary tract. Externally, extracts can be applied as an antiseptic to help support skin complaints.
Elecampane Root Inula helenium L.
Other Names: Elfdock; aunée (French); Echter Alant (German); enula campana (Italian); enula campana (Spanish).
Description: A large, leafy perennial herb of up to 2.5 m in height, with erect stems bearing broad, irregularly toothed leaves and large, yellow flower heads. The large heads (up to 80 mm in diameter) and slender ligulate florets are quite distinct.
Origin: Asia Minor and southeastern Europe; naturalised in Europe, North America and eastern Asia; cultivated in China and eastern Europe.
Parts Used: Dried rhizomes and roots of two to three-year-old cultivated plants (elecampane - Helenii rhizoma; synon. Radix inulae).
Therapeutic Category: Expectorant.
Active Ingredients: The rhizomes and roots contain a mixture of sesquiterpene lactones often referred to as "helenin" or "elecampane camphor". These compounds also occur in the volatile oil (1-3%) (with alantolactone and some degradation products; mainly alantol and alantic acid). Also present are inulin (up to 44%), polyacetylenes, phytosterols and triterpenoids.
Health Effects: Experiments have shown diuretic, choleretic and secretolytic activities (probably due to the lactones - mainly alantolactone and isoalantolactone).
Notes:Helianthus tuberosus (also Asteraceae) is an important source of inulin.
Status: Traditional health; Pharm.
Preparation and Dosage: As an expectorant, 1 - 4 g of chopped material is taken as tea three or four times per day. Alantolactone is taken in doses of 300 mg for adults and 50 - 200 mg for children, daily for two five-day courses (with an interval of 10 days between courses). Also in use is the essential oil.
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Hot tea brewing method: Bring freshly drawn cold water to a rolling boil. Place 1 tea bag for each cup into the teapot. Pour the boiling water into the teapot. Cover and let steep for 3-7 minutes according to taste (the longer the steeping time the stronger the tea).
Iced tea brewing method (to make 1 liter/quart): Place 6 tea bags into a teapot or heat resistant pitcher. Pour 1 1/4 cups of freshly boiled water over the tea. Steep for 5 minutes. Quarter fill a serving pitcher with cold water. Pour the tea into your serving pitcher straining the bags. Add ice and top-up the pitcher with cold water. Garnish and sweeten to taste. [A rule of thumb when preparing fresh brewed iced tea is to double the strength of hot tea since it will be poured over ice and diluted with cold water].
General Herb Caution: The free methylene group of alantolactone is highly reactive and can form covalent bonds with proteins and nucleic acids. The lactones in the herb may cause allergic reactions when applied to the skin.
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