Elecampane, Inula helenium

Inula helenium Asteraceae Also called Scabwort

Native to central Europe and Asia, elecampane has been renowned for its healing powers for thousands of years. By the Middle Ages, it was cultivated across much of Europe. A hardy perennial, it can grow up to 3m high, Long oval leaves shoot out from the strong, branched stem, and from June to August its large goldell flower heads can be seen across damp meadows and along woodland fringes, The tough, thick root has many buds and a dense, spreading network of strong rootlets.

Parts used


The roots are dug up in September and October, then cut up and dried at a temperature of at least 40░. Decoctions, tinctures and extracts are prepared from the dried root, which is also used in an ointment for treating skin infections.


The elecampane root is composed mainly of inulin - about 44 per cent. It also contains mucilage and a small amount of essential oil. Antolactone (that can sometimes irritate the mucous membranes) and helenin are found in this oil.

Medicinal uses

Preparations made from elecampane root are prescribed to treat a wide range of respiratory problems. The mucilage acts as an expectorant, soothing coughs caused by infection and inflammation, and elecampane extract is known to significantly inhibit the growth of the bacteria responsible for tuberculosis. Research has shown that the alantolactone is largely responsible for these antibacterial powers. When mixed with other plants extracts, elecampane is also a highly effective treatment for bronchitis and asthma.

The helenin has anti-fungal properties, and is particularly effective against the Microsporum and Trichophyton types of fungi. The plant root is therefore used externally in ointments to treat certain fungal skin infections.

Elecampane is also known to act as a diuretic, helping to eliminate toxins, and to stimulate the secretion of bile by the gall bladder, easing digestive problems


  • High doses of elecampane may cause vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pains.
  • As a result, it should not be used if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Elecampane can sometimes cause an allergic reaction, when used in an ointment to treat skin infections.


For internal use

TO TREAT coughs, inflammation of the respiratory system DECOCTION Put 1 0-15g of dried root into 1 litre of water. Leave to boil for 10 minutes and then filter. Take 1 tablespoon every 2 hours.

For external use

TO TREAT fungal skin infections OINTMENT (50% elecampane) Apply several times a day.



Elecampane grows easily from root cuttings. Plant these in moist, clay soil that contains plenty of leaf mould, preferably in the shade.


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