According to Greek mythology, the elecampane plant grew from the tears of Helen, wife to Menelaus King of Sparta, and the cause of the Trojan war. Elecampane is one of the plants whose reputation has always been high. The most famous physicians and naturalists have praised its medicinal virtues: Theophrastus, Dioscorides, and Aristotle in Greece; Pliny the Elder in Rome; Albertus Magnus and Saint Hildegard in the Middle Ages; and Mattioli and Laguna during the Renaissance.
Andres de Laguna, a Spanish translator and commentator of the works of Dioscorides, wrote in the 16th century: “After eating elecampane, the plant makes a person forget sadness and pain of the heart, preserves the beauty of the whole body, and awakens genital virtues.” What more can one ask of a plant?
Nowadays, elecampane keeps its prestige, not based on myths but ongoing scientific research. Its antibiotic properties have recently been proven: elecampane is effective in vitro against the Koch bacillus, which causes tuberculosis.
Healing Properties and Indications
The whole plant, especially its root, contains an essence formed by a mixture of seschiterpenic lactones and elenine (also known as elecampane camphor). This essence has expectorant, antitussive, antibiotic, choleretic, and cholagogue properties. The plant also contains sucrose and inulin (a sugar), to which it owes its diuretic properties in internal applications and its vulnerary and parasite-killer properties when externally applied on the skin. These are its most important applications.
- Respiratory afflictions: In all forms of bronchitis and bronchial catarrh, elecampane eases the expectoration and calms the cough. Moreover, it has an antimicrobial action on the germs infecting the bronchial mucous membrane. It helps treat bronchitis with a dry cough, which is frequently suffered after influenza. In pulmonary tuberculosis, the plant eases coughing and has a stimulating effect on the whole body, thus a good complement for the anti-tubercular treatment.
- Allergic asthma: The plant also has antispasmodic and antiallergic properties; thus, its use is especially recommended for asthmatic bronchitis and bronchi asthma caused by allergies, as well as in other allergic reactions.
- Digestive disorders: Its choleretic (increase liver bile production) and cholagogue (stimulate the emptying of the gall bladder) properties act to invigorate digestion and favor the liver and gall bladder functions. It has an appetizer effect too. Elecampane is useful for gastritis and dyspepsia (bad digestion).
- Skin afflictions: Because of its vulnerary and parasiticidal properties, it is successfully applied externally applied with success in the treatment of scabies, pediculosis (infestation of lice), eczema, skin pruritus (itching), and various rashes.
Elecampane Plant Scientific Facts
- Other names: Elfdock, elfwort, horse-elder, horseheal, scabwort.
- French: Aunee.
- Spanish: Helenio.
- Environment: Native to central Asia, however, spread all over Europe and America. It grows in humid soils and meadows, most frequently near land which was previously cultivated.
- Description: Vivacious plant of the Compositae family, growing up to two meters high, with thick, straight stem, large and finely toothed leaves, and yellow flower heads surrounded by many bractea.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The root.
How to use Elecampane
- Decoction with 40-50 g of dry sliced root per liter of water. Boil over a low heat for 15 minutes. Drink four or five cups a day, sweetened with honey.
- Powder or dry extract: Take from four to ten grams per day, distributed in three drinks.
- Essence: The usual dose is from two to four drops three times a day.
- Cotton compresses soaked in the decoction employed for internal use. Apply for 15 minutes on the affected skin area three times a day.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. Vols. 1 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 313,314. Print.