Wandering with Elecampane – Inula helenium
Elecampane is a master of physical medicine for respiratory, skin, and gut support and as a soul and spirit medicine for seeking our way back home. For tapping into what is true for each of us. Abundant, yes, and maybe a little off the beaten path, come wander a little with me as we shine some love on this torch carrier for the soul.
Root - dig in fall. Perennial
Elecampane is the richest source of inulin. The amount of inulin varies according to the season, but is more abundant in the autumn which is why I also dig Burdock roots in the fall (biennial) versus 2nd year spring as it too has a good inulin component to it's roots. Inulin is a bulking agent, encourages growth of beneficial gut flora, tones mucosa linings, and helps with the dynamic and complex balancing of blood sugar through good communications between the GI tract, the blood, the pancreas, and the liver.
Diuretic, tonic, diaphoretic, expectorant, alterative, antiseptic, astringent, gently stimulant/blood mover. It was given by the ancients in phthisis (old word for pulmonary tuberculosis), in dropsy (old word for edema/swelling), and in many if not all skin disorders. So we think of the GI tract, lungs and throat, liver, and the skin for internal and external treatments, The name 'scabwort' arose from the fact that a decoction of it is said to cure sheep affected with the scab, and the name 'Horse-heal' was given from its virtues in curing the many skin diseases of horses. We can apply it similarly as humans for skin conditions as a wound wash or compress.
Scabwort. Elf Dock. Wild Sunflower. Horse-heal. Velvet Dock.
Habitat and Description:
It's found wild throughout continental Europe, temperate Asia as far as Southern Siberia and North-West India. As a cultivated plant for medicine, it's wandered to North America, where it's become thoroughly naturalized in the eastern United States. It now resides from Nova Scotia to Northern Carolina and maybe farther south, and westward as far as Missouri, growing abundantly in pastures and along roadsides, preferring wet, rocky ground at or near the base of eastern and southern slopes.
Elecampane is one of our largest herbaceous plants.
The leaves are tropical-like in size and number and sometimes reach three feet long arching out from the central stem that can reach 6-8 feet in height. The root harvest is generous and rather easy if you're skilled at using your body and a good spade fork. They take about three years to get fully established from seed. And they demand space! Sometimes it's hard to imagine in early spring but I continually find myself transplanting loved ones farther away so as to not get lost and shaded in such massive leaves. Chickweed and others that thrive in dappled sun and crawl out to the sun as needed love growing around the base of Elecampane.
More on the Medicine of Elecampane Root
“In herbal medicine it is chiefly used for coughs, consumption and other pulmonary complaints, being a favorite domestic remedy for bronchitis. It has been employed for many years with good results in chest affections, for which it is a valuable medicine as it is in all chronic diseases of the lungs asthma and bronchitis. It gives relief to the respiratory difficulties and assists expectoration. Its principal employment as a separate remedy is in acute catarrhal affections, and in dyspepsia attended with relaxation and debility, given in small, warm and frequently repeated doses. It is, however, seldom given alone, but most frequently preferred in combination with other medicines of a similar nature. It is best given in the form of decoction, the dose being a small teaspoonful, three times a day.”
-An extract from Elecampane demonstrated ulcer healing properties, relieving symptoms and improved gastric mucosal circulation in a clinical trial with 102 patients with peptic ulcer disease. Identifying the stress which causes such ulcers is more important work but Elecampane with help when combined with Marshmallow root and a adaptive nervine such as Tulsi.
-Experiments with extracts of Elecampane in the laboratory showed it to have potent antibacterial activity against an array of infectious organisms. European scientists have shown that Elecampane contains a substance (alantolactone) that helps rid the body of intestinal parasites. Again this would be part of a treatment plan for such conditions.
-The root was long ago candied and eaten as a sweetmeat or made into lozenges for sore, infected throats. It's often called upon for acute and long term treatment of whooping-cough, pneumonia, and chronic bronchitis. It's fast acting for acute conditions with more frequent doses but also helps chronic conditions with lower, long term dosing.
Elecampane is generally a safe and well-tolerated herb so long as it's taken in moderation, especially for the young or elderly. Excess doses will likely cause significant gastric upset fairly quickly so it would be difficult to overdose on this herb. I love this built-in safety mechanism. If you feel nauseated, back up your dose to half and see how you feel. Resisting the 'more is better mentality' is wise here. Elecampane is not recommended to take during breastfeeding (the sesquiterpene lactones will pass into the milk and upset the baby's stomach - I repeat again if the dose is too high - read on). It's unlikely to be of any direct danger but it's still 'recommended to avoid it during pregnancy'. This being said, when I was pregnant and breast feeding I did take Elecampane in very low 3-5 drop doses three times a day if I was sick or baby was sick and needed this support. My milk provided the medicine in minute doses to my baby. I always suggest dosing for baby's comfort even if the medicine is for Mama. I'm sharing my experience here is all.
Mouth Washes with Elecampane Root:
Yes, I love this fresh root tincture added to a tincture blend for sensitive or infected gums and where lots of dental work is underway. It tones and tightens the gums and disinfects the mucosa while supporting rapid healing. The drawback here? Taste. It's pungent and I love it but many complain, unless they are threatened with loosing teeth! The priority list changes in this situation. Comfort is not always the priority when healing is asked for. So I formulate a gentle easy-tasting mouth rinse for general care and for children that can be added to water for swishing, to put into a water-pick, or applied straight on the gums if needed. I offer the Elecampane root addition when the condition and situation calls for a bit more.
Fresh or dried root tincture can be taken in water 3-5 drops to 60 drops 3 times per day or every four hours for acute intense conditions. Decoctions of dried root are made by simmering 1 tablespoon of dried root in 1 1/2 cups water for 20 minutes. Keep covered and allow to cool another 20 minutes and drink 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) every four hours for acute situations. It's deliciously strong but an acquired taste for some. Learn to at least like it is what i would say next. I don't bother with pills or capsules.
Consider the lower dosing for chronic long term conditions and for those of you that know your system needs less medicine to respond. Being more sensitive is a strength and it's also economical. We need less medicine.
The Spirit and Soul Medicine of Elecampane
Plant dieting on Elecampane is in the plans for a future group experience and I do look forward to what Elecampane will reveal to us in such a setting. Elecampane will inform me as to when, where and how. This I trust. I'm sure there will be some juicy things to chew on as we step closer for a listen in shared space. Stay tuned... hands to heart here.
So what I know of Elecampane so far as a soul medicine it that it works like the torch of the Hermit in the tarot, heralding a way to see through the mist in a time where discerning can be challenging. There's an anchoring to the indigenous soul that is always wanting to rise and express itself in these times. Maybe we shy away from this? Some do and it's fine. But once aware of this, we can call on Elecampane to anchor and support flow from this soul space that carries a healing we long for and also thrive within. So 'finding and seeking home' is the key phrase Elecampane gave to me long ago about how to do this. To be this. To find a way no matter what. And to also find comfort, acceptance and healing in finding this place within us that is always present and available. Elecampane stands at the portal shining this light for us.
Suggested 'Dosing' to Work with Elecampane Spirit and Soul Medicine:
- 3 drops of fresh root tincture added to water and taken morning and night.
- Make an altar and call on Elecampane. It could be a tiny movable one made in a plant saucer with sand so it can be by your bed, bath, or larger altar.
- Draw pics or seek art or photos.
- Make a syrup for daily doses and keep on your altar for morning and evening doses, before journey or meditation, during journal time.
- Get the Flower Essence and take orally, make a spray for yourself, or add to your bath.
- Add 1/2 cup of decoction to your bath for spiritual bathing.
- Grow it! This is the best learning if your landscape and region lend itself to this.
- Create a plant diet experience for a plant spirit quest if this calls to you.
- Pilgrimage to someone's place that does grow it. I traveled to Ecuador to sit with Cacao. It was one of the reasons, yes. These can be acts of great love and honoring and while not necessary, they might just be for you. You know you.
“Elecampane is an aromatic stimulant and tonic, and is much used in chronic pulmonary affections and weakness of the digestive organs.
Night-sweats are relieved by Inula, as are some cases of humid asthma, and, by its tonic properties, it tends to sustain the strength of the patient in chronic disorders of the respiratory tract. Inula is somewhat slow in action, and should be used for quite a time to get its full action.
That it is an important remedy in irritation of the trachea and bronchia is now well established. It is adapted to cases with free and abundant expectoration, teasing cough, and pain beneath the sternum, conditions frequent in the grippe (old fashioned term for the flu), and the severer forms of colds.”
"grippe" ... "severer"... Just love the old writings!
Elecampane Cough Syrup
- 3 cups cold water
- 1 TB each of dried Elecampane root, Comfrey root, Coltsfoot leaf, Thyme Leaf
- 1/3 -1/2 cup honey
- 1-2 TB Echinacea root or Ginger root tincture
- Simmer herbs in water slow, (gentle simmer here!) with the lid off for 30 minutes. - Cover allow to sit for another 20 minutes.
- Strain herbs out squeezing all the goodness - you should have about 1 cup of liquid remaining or simmer this again slowly until you are close to 1 cup (this is technically a 'double decoction' concentrated to increase shelf life and strength with lower doses).
- Cool to touchable, add honey (can be an herbal infused honey if you have) and tincture (also optional but leave out if you don't want the alcohol).
- mix and taste - adjust sweetness but know that Elecampane packs a nice pungent flavor. Get to know it and teach your children or finicky ones to accept strong flavors too. My family did. It's possible! I not a fan of any syrup too sweet and so will add apple cider vinegar in small amounts to find the tangy sweet I prefer. This helps with healing and supports a good shelf-life too.
- Bottle with your own funky personal label and store in the refrigerator- use up within 8-10 weeks.
Hint Hint: YES! This syrup can be made with just Elecampane root as a spirit medicine for dosing over time. Seek your medicine. Walking with you, Jen