The Inula helenium, also known by names like elenio, énula or elecampane root, is a plant native to Europe. It has rigid, yellow flowers with long petals and thick, bifurcated roots.
The name comes from Helena, the woman who caused the start of the Trojan conflict. In addition, the ancient Romans used it to treat various skin conditions, digestive system issues, and even kidney problems.
Likewise, traditional Chinese medicine and herbology often uses the root and rhizomes. You can find it in teas, tinctures, syrups, extracts and sweets. Here, we’ll show you everything you need to know.
Uses of Elecampane root
Elecampane root has served as a traditional remedy for lots of ailments. As we have said, the ancient Romans used it to treat diseases that affected the state of organs like the skin, stomach, uterus, kidneys and brain.
In the seventeenth century, it became popular in chewable tablets. Today, it’s used for pulmonary colds, as well as to combat staphylococcal infections and relieve stomach problems. Similarly, people use it to flavor food and beverages, as well as add its pleasant fragrance to beauty products.
Possible health benefits
Although elecampane root has been widely used in herbal medicine, there’s not much scientific evidence about it. Let’s take a look at what we do know.
1. It’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant
According to research published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, elecampane root has anti-inflammatory properties that can help with respiratory disorders.
On the other hand, a review of more than 120 studies found that Inula helenium is a source of antioxidants that fight oxidative stress and diseases caused by chronic inflammation, such as diabetes. In general, this is because of the chemical compound allantolactone.
2. Could improve respiratory health
In folk medicine, specialists love elecampane root for its ability to reduce coughs and alleviate respiratory illnesses like rhinitis, bronchitis, and throat infections.
According to a study in Respiratory Research, the allantolactone in the elecampane root was able to inhibit inflammation from contact with cigarette smoke. Research also suggested that this compound has the potential to contribute to the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Additionally, a study in children with acute cough found that taking a suppressant with elecampane for 8 days was not only safe, but also reduced the severity and duration of the cough. However, we should also mention that this suppressant had other ingredients, so the root may not work alone.
3. May have anticancer properties
Although more research is needed, there’s scientific evidence linking the chemical compounds in elecampane with a decrease in carcinogenic activity.
A test-tube study showed that elecampane extract is toxic to some cancer cells and has anti-tumor potential. Another test-tube study showed that the eudesmane sesquiterpenoid compound in elecampane can kill leukemic cells.
Similarly, research in Phytotherapy Research and Archives of Pharmacal Research suggested that Elecampane root extract may inhibit breast cancer cells. This is because of the sesquiterpene lactones and allantolactone action.
However, there isn’t any certainty about using it as a first-line treatment in oncology. It’s best to be careful and never use the root without your doctor’s approval.
4. Natural antimicrobial
Studies show that the extract has helenio active compounds that fight bacteria Staphylococcus. In fact, a study in the European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases revealed that the root was effective against this bacterium.
Additionally, a study in Planta Medica also found that elecampane root extract may contain the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes tuberculosis. Likewise, it’s associated with stopping the Candida fungus.
5. Could improve digestive problems
Given its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, carminative and antispasmodic properties, researchers think that it can help reduce nausea, flatulence, and diarrhea.
Its amount of allantolactone and isoallantolactone is also associated with the death of intestinal parasites and whipworms, which cause many different digestive problems.
Side effects and contraindications of elecampane root
Taking a standard dose of elecampane root is safe. However, some herbs of the Inula genus could affect blood pressure and blood sugar control. Therefore, it’s not the best option for diabetics or people taking medicine for high blood pressure.
On the other hand, a review of studies observed that the sesquiterpene lactone in it can cause an allergic reaction in people who don’t tolerate plants of the Asteraceae family.
In addition, there’s anecdotal evidence that you shouldn’t take this plant while taking sleep medication. Pregnant and lactating women shouldn’t consume it either, as there’s no research showing that it’s completely safe.
Presentation and dosage
You can find this plant as a dry powder, liquid extract, bulk tea, and dried root pieces. However, their doses may vary, and there isn’t enough evidence to know the best one.
Therefore, although some products say to take 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon a day, it’s best to talk to your doctor about it.
Elecampane root, a source of multiple benefits
The elecampane root is a plant native to Europe. The myth says that its name comes from Helen of Troy, who gave birth to this herb with her tears. The most commonly used part is the root. It has lots of properties that help it alleviate certain conditions.
In general, we know it has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and even carminative benefits. It may also improve respiratory health and certain digestive problems.
However, although it’s safe in its standard dose, pregnant and lactating women, as well as diabetics and people taking certain medications, should avoid it.