Elecampane is a perennial plant that is cultivated and also grows wild along roadsides and in fields and waste places eastward from Minnesota and Missouri and northward from North Carolina.
The fibrous, top-shaped rootstock is brown outside and white inside. The stout, round stem is coarse and
woolly, 3 to 6 feet high, and bears large, alternate, ovate, serrate, olive-colored leaves with white veins. The large, yellow flower heads are solitary or grow in paniculate clusters. The fruit is a brown, quadrangular achene.
Family: Compositae (Sunflower family)
Other Names: Elfdock, Elfwort, Scabwort, Wild sunfower, Velvet dock
Flowers: July – September
Parts Used: Roots, leaves, and flowers
Habitat: Fields, roadsides. Locally established. (Alien)
History: Legend has it that Helen of Troy carried a handful of elecampane on the fateful day the Trojan prince, Paris, abducted her from Sparta, igniting the Trojan War. Perhaps the woman whose face launched a thousand ships had amoebic dysentery, pinworms, hookworms, or giardiasis.
Hippocrates said elecampane stimulated the brain, kidneys, stomach, and uterus. The ancient Romans used it to treat indigestion.
During the Middle Ages, European herbalists prescribed elecampane to treat coughs, bronchitis, and asthma, but the herb was more popular as a veterinary medicine.
Seventeenth-century London herbalist Nicholas Culpeper touted elecampane “to relieve cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing in the lungs.”
Early American colonists naturalized elecampane and used it as an expectorant, digestive aid, menstruation promoter, and diuretic for treatment of the water retention associated with “dropsy” (congestive heart failure).
Constituents: Alantolactone, isoalantalactone, azulene, inulin, sterols, resin, pectin, mucilage.
Properties: Anthelmintic, Cholagogue, Diuretic, Expectorant, Stimulant, Tonic.
Main Uses: Elecampane tea is used to quiet coughing, to stimulate digestion and to tone the stomach; for bronchitis, urinary and respiratory tract inflammation, and menstrual problems. The decoction or tincture is used for worms, and externally as a wash for skin problems such as scabies and itches.
Present-day herbalists generally recommend elecampane only for respiratory ailments: cough, asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. Some recommend it as a digestive aid, as a treatment for menstrual and skin problems, and to banish intestinal parasites.
Preparation And Dosages:
Gather the rootstock in the fall of the second year.
Infusion: Use 1 heaping teaspoon rootstock with 1 cup water. Take 1 to 2 cups a day. If desired, sweeten with honey, 1 tsp honey to 1/2 cup tea.
Fluid extract: Take 20 to 40 drops, three or more times a day.
Tincture: Fresh root (1:2), dry root (1:5), in 60% alcohol. 10 to 30 drops, up to 4 times a day.
Elecampane is also a wild food.