Herb Reference Guide

Elecampane

History

There are some interesting common names for this plant; Elfwort or Elfdock, Horseheal, Yellow Starwort. This plant is thought to be native to Asia and spread to southern and eastern Europe but has been naturalized in North America and many other parts of the world. It is a fairly large and hearty perennial plant, in the same family as sunflowers and grows up to 8 feet tall with gorgeous and multiple blooms of yellow flowers and a downy underside to it's broad green foliage. Much folklore surrounds the plant not limited to it's inclusion in a 9-herb blend consisting of Rue, Nettle, Verbena, Yarrow, Mugwort, Wood Betony, Celandine, and White Clover which is an old European-style tea-bath for Protection Against Witches. The root has been powdered and prepared with simple syrup to create a pastille and lozenge used for respiratory complaints, and the plant has been used in veterinary practice topically thus lending to the common name, Horseheal and Scabwort. The species name (second of the latin binomial) comes from ancient Greek Myth relating to a tale of how this plant sprouted up from the tear's cast by Helen of Troy upon her abduction from Sparta by Paris. We will read about the Genus name below.

Function

One of the primary constituents of the root is a starch known as Inulin, also found in large amounts in Burdock, Dandelion, and Jerusalem artichoke. Inulin is a carbohydrate belonging to a class of compounds known as fructans. Among the many chemical compounds in this plant, inulin supports immune function and comprises up to 45% of the weight of the root. It is also likely that the essential oils in the root contribute to soothing support that it offers the respiratory tract. It also helps support normal mucous secretions related to wet coughs. It is astringent and bitter and thus has been used traditionally to tonify the mucous tissues of the respiratory, G.I. tract, and urinary tract.

Uses of Elecampane

Disclaimer

This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

mucilage, sterols, essential oil (including azulenes), alantolactone, inulin

Parts Used

  • Root

Important precautions

Not for use during pregnancy. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult your doctor prior to use.

Additional Resources

Lim SS, Kim JR, Lim HA, Jang CH, Kim YK, Konishi T, Kim EJ, Park JH, Kim JS.?J Med Food. 2007 Sep;10(3):503-10. Erratum in: J Med Food. 2007 Dec;10(4):739.
Newall C, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals . London, England: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996:106.
Seo JY, Park J, Kim HJ, Lee IA, Lim JS, Lim SS, Choi SJ, Park JH, Kang HJ, Kim JS.?J Med Food. 2009 Oct;12(5):1038-45.