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Inula helenium

This tall, showy herb of the compositae family never plays hide and seek, its presence is obvious. Its large leaves can't be overlooked and although its sunflower-like blossoms are not all that big, they immediately draw attention. Thus Elecampane has been welcomed in our gardens, not just as a useful medicinal herb to have at hand, but also as an ornamental garden herb. Inula is said to have derived its second name, helenium, from Helena, who, according to legend, had her hands full of the herb when Paris came to take her to Phrygia, or alternatively, that it sprang from her tears. The ancients were already very familiar with it and both Pliny and Dioscurides mention it. Pliny describes how to make medicinal oil and wine from the root and the Roman poet Horace praised it for easing an uncomfortable stomach after one has eaten too much. In fact, the root has sometimes been candied and given as a digestive aid. Others prefer to eat it like a vegetable, which is particularly beneficial for those who suffer from diabetes, as the root is rich in inuline.

Elecampane is diuretic and diaphoretic as well as expectorant. In short it, it gently stimulates the channels of elimination. In practice it is mostly used for conditions of the respiratory system and can be added to any cough blend. Messegue even relates stories of its effectiveness for whooping cough and tuberculosis. Apparently it has an antiseptic component, which indeed makes it effective for this disease. This explains its use as an anti-pest medicine in former times. It was also used in diphtheria, phthisis, flu and other feverish infections. It is a toning and gentle, yet effective remedy which can be used for chronically weak patients, the elderly or children. It also stimulates the appetite and aids digestion. Do not use during pregnancy.

In Denmark Elecampane is associated with elves and fairies. It can be used to appease the fairies and win their favour, but also to break their spells. It is also used for its protective powers and as a good luck charm. In particular, it protects against the demons of disease.

Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.