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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Aunee, Elfdock, Elfwort, Horseheal, Scabwort, Velvet Dock, Wild Sunflower, Yellow Starwort
(Inula helenium)


• Not taken during pregnancy.
• Carries an allergy risk.
• Sesquiterpene lactones, especially alantolactone, irritate the mucous membranes.
• Can cause contact dermatitis.
• Large doses can produce vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and symptoms of paralysis.

FYIA large perennial native to southeast Europe and west Asia, but naturalized throughout the temperate zone. Found in the eastern United States north from North Carlina. Thick, stiff STEMS arise to a height of up to 6 feet from a fairly large, thick, tuberous, branching ROOTSTALK. Lower LEAVES are elliptical with a sharp terminal point, the lower being up to one-and-a-half feet long with single hairs on the upper side and woolly hairs underneath; the upper leaves are small and sessile. FLOWER-HEADS appear singly at the top of the stem or in a corymb of 2 to 3, being 2 to 3 inches in diameter with pronounced bracts and bright yellow ray florets surrounding a circular mass of darker yellow tubular florets. Overall, the plant resembles a horse radish with a ragged sunflower type bloom.

Astrologically ruled by Mercury and associated with the 8's of the Minor Arcana of Tarot.§
CONTAINS: Volatile oil (3% of root; includes helenin and camphor), mucilage, bitter principles, inulin (40% in autumn; a complex carbohydrate, being a starchy substance that swells and forms a slippery suspension when mixed with digestive fluids), sesquiterpene lactones, saponins.
Also 100 grams with zero moisture basis = 7.2% ash, 1,000 mg calcium, 0.10 mg chromium, 0.18 mg cobalt, 0.4 mg iron, 750 mg magnesium, 0.08 mg manganese, 7 mg niacin, 150 mg phosphorus, 1,010 mg potassium, 0.32 mg riboflavin, trace mg selenium, trace mg silicon, 58 mg sodium, 1.1 mg thiamine, trace IU of vitamin A, 2 mg vitamin C, 0.39 mg zinc.
PROPAGATION By DIVISION of at least 2 year old plants in fall or by SEED sown in spring or autumn. Also by OFFSHOOTS or 2-inch ROOT CUTTINGS in fall or spring. Perennial.
NEEDS Grown as an ornamental in moist, well-draining soil in full to part sun. Average soil requirements.
HARVEST ROOT is taken in the fall after the stem has died back (usually after 2 hard frosts), then chopped fresh into small pieces and dried slowly, but completely with low heat. Root is also distilled at this time for oil, or used fresh to make extracts and syrup. FLOWERS are taken when fully open, then dried whole for use in decoctions, infusions, and powders. The FLOWERHEADS are contained in a muslin bag when using them for preparations in order to contain the irritant fibers.
PART USED Dried root (pulverized just previous to use by grinding in a coffee grinder); flowers, oil.
FORM Infusion; steam inhalation; extracts, syrup, tincture, ointment, powders, lozenges, candy.
SOLVENTS Alcohol, water (partly)
RELATED SPECIES JAPANESE/CHINESE ELECAMPANE (Inula Britannica var chinensis): Hardy perennial native to wetlands and river banks of Japan, China, Manchuria, and Korea. Is also grown as a crop in moist, well-draining soil in sun, propagation being by division or seed sown in spring or autumn. The flower is used medicinally and is considered bitter, pungent, antibacterial, digestive stimulant, expectorant, and anti-vomiting. Has been used internally for bronchitis, nasuea, vomiting, hiccups, ingested poison, and flatulence, and is combined with honey for use as an expectorant and with ginger and licorice for digestive troubles. The flower has also been used in the treament of cancer and the leaf as a wound healer.
INULA CAPPA: Asian species used medicinally in southern China for bronchial problems and rheumatism, migraine, and skin infections.
Bitter, pungent, aromatic, expectorant, antitussive, hepatic, antiseptic, diuretic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, immunostimulant, alterative. A stimulating expectorant, but one which contains buffering mucilage to soothe the airway passages. Digestive system disinfectant.
The volatile oil is antiseptic, working much like garlic through the gut to the lungs; it is also vermifuge and fungicidal. Both the oil and root have been used to treat bacterial and fungal infections. Helenin has been used to inhibit the activity of the tuberculosis bacillus.
Has been used for chronic bronchitic infections, chronic or aged bronchitis, lung infections as part of overall treatment, whooping cough, emphysema, urinary tract infections, cystitis, hay fever, irritant coughs, asthma, pleurisy, excess mucus, laryngitis, weak digestion associated with mucous formation, diarrhea, dystenary, yeast infections (bowel), amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea (tea or candy have been used for both conditions) and intestinal parasites. A root tea has been used for bronchial and lung complaints; for chronic lung problems has been combined with Wild Cherry bark, White Pine bark, Comfrey root, and Licorice; has also been combined by assorted herbal practioners with Horehound, Coltsfoot, Butterfly weed, and Yarrow. Has been used in China in form of syrup, lozenge and candy for bronchitis and asthma.
A wine extract has been used for colic, cough, and bronchitis. A European method of treating indigestion has been to sip on a cordial made by infusing the root with sugar and currants in port wine. In Russia the root is preserved in vodka for winter use as a restorative after illness, and for digestive problems.
Pieces of the dried root have been chewed morning and evening to treat asthma.
Known in India as pushkaramula and highly regarded as an analgesic and treatment for lung problems.
Has been used in Asia to treat cholera, malarial fever, dysentary, bronchitis, snake bites, insect stings, cancer, and nausea; a decoction of the plant has been used to treat thyroid tumor.
Once used by the Spanish in surgical dressings.
A decoction is used as a lotion for scabies mites on both humans and animals.
In ointment form has been used for muscular aches and pains.
Native Americans made a syrup to treat chest complaints by combining 1/2 lb each of Elecampane root, Spikenard root, and Comfrey root. The roots were mashed, then combined with a gallon of water and boiled down to a quart. The fluid was strained off into a 2-quart container where it was combined with 8 oz of alcohol and 3 cups of honey. A teaspoon was taken every two hours.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
*Usually combined with other herbs; too much to be avoided; tincture regarded as the best form to use.
GRAINS = 20 to 60
FRESH ROOT = 1 to 2 tbsp
DRIED ROOT = 2 to 3 gm (1/2 to 3/4 tsp)
INFUSION = 1 tsp of the crushed dried root to 1 cup water, steeped 15 to 20 minutes; this 1 cup taken in sips over the course of the day.
COLD INFUSION = 1 cup of cold water poured onto 1 tsp of shredded dried root; let stand for 8 to 10 hours. Taken cold a mouthful at a time during the day. Has also been heated and taken warm.
TINCTURE = 1 to 2 ml 3 times daily
WINE EXTRACT = 1 oz of bruised root combined with 1 pint of red wine. (Also preserved in vodka)
TONIC (British Herbal 1772] = Slice fresh root thin. To a quarter pound of root pour 3 pints boiling water over; let stand all night; boil for a few minutes and when cold, strain the liquor off and to a pint of the liquid add a quarter of a pint of mountain wine and drink a full wineglass 4 times a day.
OLD INDIAN REMEDY = 1/2 lb. of dried crushed root each of elecampane, spikenard, comfrey; combine with 1 gallon water and boil down to 1 quart; add 8 oz. alcohol and 1½ pints of honey; take 1 tsp every 2 hours. {NOTE: Comfrey is not currently considered safe for internal consumption}

Homepathic preparations are used for asthma, nervous cough, dysmenorrhea.
Used to treat skin diseases in horses and sheep.
A strong infusion of the leaves, used warm, has been used to treat skin eruptions.
Once used by veterinarians to treat pulmonary problems in horses.
The whole plant is used to make a strong brew to treat asthma in dogs (flat-nosed breeds being more prone); dose being 1 tbsp morning and night, sweetened with honey; also the steam from the boiled root used to ease breathing.
Was once used as a flavoring for desserts, fish sauces, candies, and liqueurs; used to flavor vermouth.
Root was candied and up until about 1920 was a common flavoring in English sweets.
Root has been made into a cordial.
Used in the herbal bath for skin inflammation.
The oil is camphor scented and used in perfumery.
Cut flower heads when plant reaches brown stage for dried arrangements.
Blue from roots when combined with ashes and blueberries.
Boil dry root in water on top of stove to freshen stale winter air and in sickrooms.
An infusion or decoction is added to laundry rinse water to freshen linens.
Low-growing mints.
The root was once chewed by travelers when passing close to a polluted river as protection from whatever noxious substance/s was causing the stench.
In France it has been used in the production of absinthe.
Used as a religious herb by the Druids and still used by Earth religions in the form of incense in rituals for initiation and baby blessings.

©2001 & 2007 by Ernestina Parziale, CH