Elecampane Description - Some Great Medicinal Uses and Benefits of Elecampane
Common Trade Names
Multi-ingredient preparations: Blood Sugar Blues, Cough-eze Syrup, Digestease, HAS Original Formula, Lung-Mend
Available as capsules, fluidextract, powdered root preparations, and topical product.
Active ingredients of elecampane are extracted from the dried rhizome and roots of 2- to 3-year-old Inula helenium plants.
The main constituents in I. helenium are inulin, helenin, volatile oils, and a mixture of sesquiterpene lactones-primarily alantolactone, alantol, and alantic acid.
Claims for I. helenium include anthelmintic, antiseptic, bactericidal, diaphoretic, diuretic, and expectorant activities. Anecdotal animal data suggest that the agent exerts relaxant effects on tracheal and ileal smooth muscles and antiparasitic activity against the liver fluke Clonorchis sinensis . It failed to demonstrate in vitro antiviral activity against the tickborne encephalitis virus . Specific pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic data are not available. In vitro data indicate activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
I. helenium is claimed to be effective in treating asthma, bronchitis, cough, diarrhea, nausea, and pulmonary disease. It is also claimed to
be useful as an antiseptic, an appetite stimulant, a bactericidal agent against M. tuberculosis, a diuretic, and an agent to treat dyspepsia. Medical data regarding the efficacy of I. helenium are largely anecdotal and derived from animal research. Anecdotal human reports suggest possible use as a snake venom antidote. Randomized, placebo-controlled human trials using I. helenium have not been conducted.
Some sources suggest the following doses:
Dried root: 2 to 3 g P.O. t.i.d.
Extract: 3 g of dried root in 20 ml of alcohol and 10 ml of water P.O. t.i.d.
Fresh root: 1 or 2 tbsp P.O. t.i.d.
CNS: paralysis (large oral doses).
GI: GI upset (large oral doses).
Skin: contact dermatitis.
Contraindications And Precautions
Elecampane is contraindicated in pregnant and breast-feeding patients. Use cautiously in patients with a history of atopy, in those prone to contact dermatitis, or in those who are hypersensitive to the Asteraceae family (common herbs include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies).
Several case reports suggest that elecampane is highly allergenic when applied topically. The mechanism is thought to involve degranulation of mast cells. The identified toxin is SL alantolactone.
Monitor for signs of an allergic reaction in patients who are prone to hypersensitivity reactions.
Inform the patient that allergic reactions can occur when elecampane is handled. Advise him to take precautions (wear gloves, long sleeves) if he is likely to handle the herb.
Inform the patient that no scientifically proven therapeutic use is associated with elecampane.
Points of Interest
In France and Switzerland, elecampane root is one of the substances used in the preparation of absinthe, a popular cordial at the turn of the century.
Helen of Troy is said to have carried elecampane when she was abducted from Sparta by the Trojans.
Elecampane has been used as a medicinal product for many centuries in Europe and Asia. The presence of volatile oils suggests that the herb might be effective as an expectorant, but the lack of animal or human data limits its usefulness for this purpose. Elecampane appears to be safe and well tolerated, but medical supervision is recommended. Data supporting the use of I. helenium suggest some efficacy as an antiseptic and mild GI stimulant, but the lack of well-designed human trials prevents recommendation for its use.
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