encyclopedia

Elecampane Root

Scientific Names:    

Inula helenium L. [Fam. Asteraceae]    
     

Forms:    

Powered root or root extract of elecampane.    
     

Traditional Usage:    

– Antibacterial
– Bronchitis
– Bronchial Catarrh
– Coughs
– Digestive Disorders
– Edema
– Expectorant
– Gastritis
– Gastrointestinal Disorders
– Intestinal Worms
– Respiratory Infections
– Stomach Upset
– Menstrual Complaints
– Skin Conditions
– Tuberculosis
– Urinary System Disorders
– Water Retention
– Whooping Cough
– Worms     
     
    
Overview:    

Elecampane root, Inula helenium L. [Fam. Asteraceae], is native to southern and eastern Europe but is now cultivated in central Europe, the Near East and North America. Traditionally, elecampane root was used to treat respiratory problems, digestive disorders and urinary conditions. When given as an expectorant, it is recommended only for coughs that are accompanied with secretions or phlegm. If taken with dry cough, elecampane root may make the chest feel constricted and tight. A recent study found that elecampane root contains compounds active against tuberculosis bacteria. Fractions of root extracts of elecampane, which exhibited significant activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, contained the known eudesmanolides (alantolactone, isoalantolactone, and 11 alpha H, 13-dihydroisoalantolactone). Up to fifty percent of elecampane root is made up of complex carbohydrates known as fructo-oligo-saccharides (FOS), including 20-44% inulin. Based on clinical studies, inulin increases mineral absorption during digestion, boosts beneficial bifidobacteria within the gut and eliminates pathogens. This ultimately stimulates the immune system and suppresses abnormal cells. Inulin is also beneficial for kidney health, blood sugar control and cholesterol reduction. Elecampane root aqueous extract has also been shown to possess anti-worm activity. The boiled water extracts of 32 species of raw herbs known to possess anti-worm activity were given orally to rabbits infected with the parasitic worm, Clonorchis sinensis. Suppression of egg-laying in the worms from the rabbits given Inula helenium was greatest. Many extracts did not induce physical changes in the worms, however, extracts of Inula helenium caused regressive and progressive changes such as degeneration, atrophy, necrosis and dilatation of viscera of the worms. The recovery rate of the worms from rabbits treated with elecampane root extract for 30 days, beginning at the 3rd day of inoculation, was as low as 2%, indicating that it could be used as an effective treatment against this parasitic worm.    
     
    
Active Ingredients:    

Sesquiterpene lactones (bitter substances): the eudesmanolides alantolactone, isoalantolactone, 11,13-dihydroalantolactone, 4,5-dihydro-5.6-dehydroalantolactone (= 1=desoxy-8-epi-ivangustin), and germacrene D-lactone. The mixture of alanto-lactones is also known as helenin or elecampane camphor. 1-3% essential oil containing alantolactone and its degradation products (alantol, alantic acid) as principal components, along with sesquiterpene hydrocarbons (including b-elemene). Polyacetylenes, aliphatic hydrocarbons (including nonacosane), 8,9-epoxy-10-isobutyryloxythymol isobutyrate. Triterpenes: friedelin, dammaranedienol and its acetate. Sterols: b-sitosterol and its glucoside stigmasterol. Up to 44% inulin, together with various degradation products. Chromatographic fractions of root extracts of elecampane, which exhibited significant activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, provided the known eudesmanolides alantolactone, isoalantolactone, and 11 alpha H, 13-dihydroisoalantolactone. (Note: For activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, alantolactone, isoalantolactone and its 4 alpha, 15-epoxide, 1,2-dehydro-3-epi-isotelekin and alloalantolactone had minimum inhibition concentrations (MICs) of 32 micrograms per milliliter; all other compounds showed MIC values of 128 micrograms per milliliter or higher).    
     
    
Suggested Amount:    

Tea: Pour boiling water over 1 gram of coarsely powered elecampane root, steep 10-15 minutes and then strain. If desired add honey. Drink three or four times per day to relieve cough and other respiratory conditions. 1 teaspoon = 4 grams. For activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a standardized eudesmanolide product would be required and should only be taken under the direction of a qualified medical doctor. Alantolactone, isoalantolactone and its 4 alpha, 15-epoxide, 1,2-dehydro-3-epi-isotelekin and alloalantolactone had minimum inhibition concentrations (MICs) of 32 micrograms per milliliter; all other compounds showed MIC values of 128 micrograms per milliliter or higher.    
   
     
Drug Interactions:    

None known.    
     
    
Contraindications:    

Elecampane root is contraindicated in cases of known allergy to this common garden plant and other plants with similar allergenic compounds including feverfew, blanket flower (Gaillardia) and large yellow ox-eye (Telekia speciosa) and cosmea (Cosmos). Avoid during pregnancy and lactation.    
     
    
Side Effects:    

According to the German Commission E. the sesquiterpene lactones in elecampane root may irritate the mucous membranes and may also cause dermatitis. Elecampane root can irritate the mucous membranes of the nose, throat, stomach, and intestines. Some practitioners do not recommend using elecampane root because of these potential risks and side effects. Because this allergic reaction is common, the drug should be used with extreme care and caution. If taken in large doses, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and symptoms of paralysis may occur.    
   
     
References:    

Cantrell CL, Abate L, Fronczek FR, Franzblau SG, Quijano L, Fischer NH. 1999. Antimycobacterial eudesmanolides from Inula helenium and Rudbeckia subtomentosa. Planta Med 1999 May; 65(4): 351-5.
 
Paulsen E, Andersen KE, Hausen BM. 2001. Sensitization and cross-reaction patterns in Danish Compositae-allergic patients. Contact Dermatitis 2001 Oct; 45(4): 197-204.
 
Rhee JK, Baek BK, Ahn BZ. 1985. Alternations of Clonorchis sinensis EPG by administration of herbs in rabbits. Am J Chin Med. 1985; 13(1-4): 65-9.
 
Rhee JK, Baek BK, Ahn BZ. 1985. Structural investigation on the effects of the herbs on Clonorchis sinensis in rabbits. Am J Chin Med. 1985; 13(1-4): 119-25.
 
Wichtl M and NG Bisset (eds). 1994. Elecampane root. In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). CRC Press, Stuttgart, Pp. 254-256.