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This herb is of ancient medicinal repute.
Elecampane is a large herbaceous plant found widely distributed throughout England, though it occurs only locally, in damp pastures and shady ground.
An old Latin distich celebrates its virtues: Enula campana reddit praecordia sana (Elecampane will the spirits sustain). ‘Julia Augustus,‘ said Pliny, ‘let no day pass without eating some of the roots of Enula, considered to help digestion and cause mirth.‘
The monks equally esteemed it as a cordial. Pliny affirmed that the root ‘being chewed fasting, doth fasten the teeth,’ and Galen that ‘It is good for passions of the hucklebone called sciatica.‘
Elecampane was formally cultivated in all private herb-gardens, as a culinary and medicinal plant, and it is still to be found in old cottage gardens. Not only was its root much employed as a medicine, but it was also candied and eaten as a sweetmeat.
Elecampane root has at first a somewhat glutinous taste, but by chewing, it becomes subsequently aromatic, and slightly bitter and pungent; it has an agreeably aromatic odor. Elecampane is a very rich source of inulin.
Elecampane as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
The medicinal part of the Elecampane herb is the dried or fresh rhizome. The rhizome has a strong odor, the taste is pungent, bitter and tangy.
Although Elecampane is no longer grown to any extent in England, it is still cultivated for medicinal use on the Continent, mainly in Holland, Switzerland and Germany, most largely near the German town of Colleda, not far from Leipzig.
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 it from its reputed virtues in curing the cutaneous diseases of horses.
Elecampane is used for getting rid of intestinal worms, to eliminate water retention, and to lessen tooth decay and firm the gums. It gives relief to all respiratory ailments. It is usually used in combination with other herbs.
Externally, Elecampane is used as a wash for wounds and itching rashes. It is burned to repel insects.
Native Americans made a syrup to treat chest complaints by combining 1/2 pound each of Elecampane root, Spikenard root, and Comfrey root. The roots were mashed, then combined with a gallon of water and boiled down to a quart. The fluid was strained off into a 2-quart container where it was combined with 8 ounces of alcohol and 3 cups of honey. A teaspoon was taken every two hours.
When preparing a tea with the root and rhizome elecampane has a mild sedative effect. This can help promote sleep and relaxation, as well as relieve tension headaches and stress.
To prepare an infusion, boiling water is poured over 1 gm of ground herb and left to draw for 10 to 15 minutes, after which time it is strained through a tea strainer (1 teaspoonful corresponds to about 4 gm drug).
Tea: 1 cup is drunk 3 to 4 times daily as an expectorant; may be sweetened with honey.
Boil dry root in water on top of stove to freshen stale winter air and in sickrooms.
An infusion or decoction is added to laundry rinse water to freshen linens.
- Infusion: 1 teaspoon of the crushed dried root to 1 cup water, steeped 15 to 20 minutes; this 1 cup taken in sips over the course of the day.
- Wine Extract: 1 ounce of bruised root combined with 1 pint of red wine. (Also preserved in vodka)
- Tonic: (British Herbal 1772) Slice fresh root thin. To a quarter pound of root pour 3 pints boiling water over; let stand all night; boil for a few minutes and when cold, strain the liquor off and to a pint of the liquid add a quarter of a pint of mountain wine and drink a full wineglass 4 times a day.
- Old Indian Remedy: 1/2 pound of dried crushed root each of elecampane, spikenard, comfrey; combine with 1 gallon water and boil down to 1 quart; add 8 ounces alcohol and 1-1/2 pints of honey. Take 1 teaspoon every 2 hours.
Culinary Uses of Elecampane
Elecampane was once used as a flavoring for desserts, fish sauces, candies, and liqueurs; used to flavor vermouth.
Elecampane Root was candied and up until about 1920 was a common flavoring in English sweets.
Root has been made into a cordial.
Elcampane honey has been – and still is – used for sore throats, congested coughs, strengthening the lungs and promoting digestion.
There are not too many warnings or side effects of elecampane. This herb is not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing.
The drug is severely irritating to mucous membranes and strongly sensitizing.
Those who have diabetes should avoid this herb because it may cause hypoglycemia.
Those who have low blood pressure must also be careful because it may cause their blood pressure to drop even more, resulting in headaches, dizziness, or blurred vision.
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