A genus of about 90 species of mainly perennials and subshrubs, which is distributed across warm and temperate parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Many are grown in rock gardens and borders for their showy, daisy-like flowers. Several species are used medicinally and as dye plants. Inula helenium is a giant, summer-flowering species that provides a focal point in the herb garden. Though long used in European herbal medicine, and widely naturalized in Europe and N America, I. helenium is Asian in origin. Known as pushkaramula in Ayurvedic medicine, it is highly regarded as a lung tonic and analgesic. Inula helenium contains up to 44 percent inulin, a slightly sweet polysaccharide, which is of little food value but often recommended to diabetics as a sweetener. Inula is the Latin name used by Horace for the plant. The common name "elecampane" is thought to be a corruption of the Medieval Latin enula campana, "Inula of the fields". Other species used include: the shrubby I. cappa, a popular remedy in S China for bronchial and rheumatic complaints, migraines, and skin infections; and the Himalayan I. racemosa (poshkar), whose aromatic roots protect fabrics from insect damage and have antiseptic, anthelmintic, expectorant, and diuretic properties. The fleshy leaves and shoots of I. crithmoides (golden samphire) are eaten locally in Europe as a substitute for rock samphire (Crithmum maritimum See, rock samphire).

Elecampane's scientific name, Inula helenium, was taken from Helen of Troy, who was said to be carrying a handful of these sunflowers when the Trojan prince Paris stole her from Sparta, igniting the Trojan War. Favored by the Romans, Greeks, and Celts as a way to treat poor digestion and the effects of overeating, elecampane is used today for these same purposes, as well as for treating respiratory tract infections.

Robust perennial with thick rhizomes, stout erect stems, and pointed, toothed leaves, to 70cm (28in) long. Yellow daisy-like flowers, to 7cm (3in) across, appear in summer.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Elfdock, Elfwort, Scabwort, Velvet Dock, Wild Sunflower
Botanical Name:
Inulu helenium
Moist, well-drained soil in sun.
By seed sown in spring or autumn; by division in spring.
Roots are lifted in autumn and distilled for oil, used fresh to make extracts and syrup, or dried for decoctions, liquid extracts, powders and tinctures. Flower heads are picked when fully open and dried whole for use in decoctions (prepared using a muslin bag to contain irritant fibers), infusions and powder.
Native Location:
Europe, W Asia
3m (10ft)
1.5m (5ft)
Parts Used:
Roots, flowers, oil, Rhizome
A bitter, pungent, aromatic herb that is expectorant and diuretic; it relaxes spasms, reduces inflammation, and increases perspiration. Effective against bacterial and fungal infections, it acts as an alterative, cleansing toxins and stimulating the immune and digestive systems.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for bronchitis, hay fever, irritant coughs, asthma, tuberculosis, pleurisy, mucus, and weak digestion associated with mucus formation. Not given to pregnant women. Combines well with Achillea millefolium (See, yarrow), Asclepias tuberosa (See, pleurisy root), Marrubium vulgare (See, horehound), and Tussilago farfara (See, coltsfoot). Sometimes recommended externally as a wash for skin inflammations and varicose ulcers, but may cause allergic reactions.
To treat colds, menstrual complaints, whooping cough, bronchitis, urinary tract infections, and worm infestation; to stimulate the appetite and digestion.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of elecampane is approximately 3g of dried root three times a day.
Possible Side Effects:
Elecampane's side effects include irritation of mucous membranes and allergic reactions.
Drug Interactions:
Taking Elecampane with these drugs may cause excessive sedation and mental depression and impairment:
Acetaminophen and Codeine, (Capital and Codeine, Tylenol and Codeine)
Alfentanil, (Alfenta)
Alprazolam, (Apo-Alpraz, Xanax)
Amobarbital, (Amytal)
Amobarbital and Secobarbital, (Tiunal)
Aspirin and Codeine, (Coryphen Codeine)
Belladonna and Opium, (B&O Supprettes)
Bromazepam, (Apo-Bromazepam, Gen-Bromazepam)
Brotizolam, (Lendorm, Sintonal)
Buprenorphine, (Buprenex, Subutex)
Buprenorphine and Naloxone, (Suboxone)
Butabarbital, (Butisol Sodium)
Butalbital, Acetominophen, and Caffeine, (Esgic, Fioricet)
Butalbital, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Fiorinal)
Butorphanol, (Apo-Butophanol, Stadol)
Chloral Hydrate, (Aquachloral Supprettes, Somnote)
Chlordiazepoxide, (Apo-Chlordiazepoxide, Librium)
Clobazam, (Alti-Clobazam, Frisium)
Clonazepam, (Klonopin, Rivotril)
Clorazepate, (Tranxene, T-Tab)
Codeine, (Codeine Contin)
Dexmedetomidine, (Precedex)
Diazepam, (Apo-Diazepam, Valium)
Dihydrocodeine, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Synalgos-DC)
Diphenhydramine, (Benedryl Allergy, Nytol)
Estazolam, (ProSom)
Fentanyl, (Actiq, Duragesic)
Flurazepam, (Apo-Flurazepam, Dalmane)
Glutethimide, (Glutethimide)
Haloperidol, (Haldol, Novo-Peridol)
Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen, (Vicodin, Zydone)
Hydrocodone and Aspirin, (Damason-P)
Hydrocodone and Ibuprofen, (Vicoprofen)
Hydromorphone, (Dilaudid, PMS-Hydromorphone)
Hydroxyzine, (Atarax, Vistaril)
Levomethadyl Acetate Hydrochloride, (Levomethadyl Acetate Hydrochloride)
Levorphanol, (LevoDromoran)
Loprazolam, (Dormonoct, Havlane)
Lorazepam, (Ativan, Nu-Loraz)
Meperidine, (Demerol, Meperitab)
Meperidine and Promethazine, (Meperidine and Promethazine)
Mephobarbital, (Mebaral)
Methadone, (Dolophine, Methadose)
Methohexital, (Brevital, Brevital Sodium)
Midazolam, (Apo-Midazolam, Versed)
Morphine Sulfate, (Kadian, MS Contin)
Nalbuphine, (Nubain)
Opium Tincture, (Opium Tincture)
Oxycodone, (OxyContin, Roxicodone)
Oxycodone and Acetominophen, (Endocet, Percocet)
Oxycodone and Aspirin, (Endodan, Percodan)
Oxymorphone, (Numorphan)
Paregoric, (Paregoric)
Pentazocine, (Talwin)
Pentobarbital, (Nembutal)
Phenobarbital, (Luminal Sodium, PMS-Phenobarbital)
Phenoperidine, (Phenoperidine)
Prazepam, (Prazepam)
Primidone, (Apo-Primidone, Mysoline)
Promethazine, (Phenergan)
Propofol, (Diprivan)
Propoxyphene, (Darvon, Darvon-N)
Propoxyphene and Acetominophen, (Darvocet-N 50, Darvocet-N 100)
Propoxyphene, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Darvon Compound)
Quazepam, (Doral)
Remifentanil, (Ultiva)
Secobarbital, (Seconal)
Sufentanil, (Sufenta)
S-Zopiclone, (Lunesta)
Temazepam, (Novo-Temazepam, Restoril)
Tetrazepam, (Mobiforton, Musapam)
Thiopental, (Pentothal)
Triazolam, (Apo-Triazo, Halcion)
Zaleplon, (Sonata, Stamoc)
Zolpidem, (Ambien)
Zopiclone, (Alti-Zopiclone, Gen-Zopiclone)
Disease Effects:
  • May interfere with blood sugar control in diabetics.
  • May interfere with blood pressure control in those with elevated or lowered blood pressure.
Supplement Interactions:
May enhance therapeutic and adverse effects of herbs and supplements that have sedative properties, such as 5-HTP, Kava Kava, St. John's Wort, and Valerian.
Culinary Uses:
Once popular as a flavoring for desserts and fish sauces. Root may be candied or made into a cordial.
Economic Uses:
An ingredient of vermouth and absinthe. Camphor-scented oil used in perfumery.
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown. Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pg 243
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp.194-196