Botanical Name: Inula helenium.
Other Common Names:
Scabwort, marchalan, elf dock, wild sunflower, horseheal, velvet dock.
Elecampane is a strikingly beautiful plant. It stands up to 4 to 5 feet tall. Will grow in sun or partial shade and all soils. When it first shows itself in the garden it produces a huge rosette of pointed leaves that can grow up to 1 1/2 feet long and at least 4 inches wide. It has toothed margins and reminds me of mullein when it first shows itself. It produces large yellow flowers that are in bloom from June to August. It resembles a sunflower. The flowers go to seed in September and it does self sow.
The root can be eaten as a potherb. It contains a starch known as Inula, which is indigestible by humans. Some people experience flatulence if it doesn’t pass through the digestive tract, but instead begins to ferment.
The actions of this plant are classified as an expectorant, anti-tussive, diaphoretic, hepatic and anti-microbial. It is a specific for irritating bronchial coughs, especially in children and the elderly. It is helpful for bronchitis, emphysema and asthma, including bronchial asthma. The mucilage has a relaxing effect, while the plant oils bring about the stimulation that both soothes irritation and promotes expectoration. It has also been used in the treatment of tuberculosis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). It can be combined with other herbs and used for infections such as flu and tonsillitis.
Elecampane can also be an aid in stimulating the digestion and appetite.
Elecampane can be found throughout Great Britain, central and southern Europe, the temperate zones of Asia west of the Himalayas, and the eastern and central regions of North America. It is found growing wild in damp meadows, wet-mesic pastures, old fields and roadsides. Elecampane prefers a moist, well-drained clay loam in a damp, partly shaded environment. It is easily grown from seed and from cuttings.
Elecampane is a large beautiful herb with leaves that are similar to the downy leaves of the mullein plant, and flowers that look like small sunflowers. The bright yellow flowers are about 4 inches in diameter, blooming mid to late summer. The sturdy, deeply furrowed stem rises from a basal rosette of large, ovate, pointed leaves. Elecampane reaches a height of 3-6 feet; often found growing in hedgerows. The lower stem is hairy, becoming sparsely branched and downy at the top. The root of the elecampane, the part that is used medicinally, is a thick cylindrical branched rhizome that is yellow on the outside but white inside. The root has a warm bitter taste and a scent which is said to resemble violets in bloom.
Plant Part Used:
Root or rhizome.