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Meet Elecampane

Elecampane (Inula helenium) is a member of the Sunflower family (Asteraceae). It is native to Eurasia and has been naturalized in parts of North America. It can grow up to 8 feet tall and is a happy looking sunshiney plant bursting with bright yellow flowers.

It’s name, “helenium” is derived from lore around Helen of Troy. It was said that Elecampane flowers sprung up where her tears had fallen.

It was also a loved herb of the Ancient Celts, and is also known as Elfwort, as it was associated with elves and fae folk.

Elecampane is one of my favorite herbs for Breath support. It possesses may actions such as expectorant, diaphoretic, anti-microbial, astringent, anticatharrhal, emollient, tonic, and vulnerary. (1)

I use it specifically when there is deep seated mucus that is hindering the Breath - the kind you might have at the end of a respiratory illness. It has the ability to loosen mucus and to help bring it up and out of the lungs, freeing up the breath. It also has demulcent properties, so it can soothe those irritated pathways in the process.

While it is one of my favorite herbs for supporting the Breath at very specific times, it isn’t one of the tastiest herbs, so often I will combine it with others to make it more palatable. When combining it with other herbs, I can also draw on their benefits to make a more well rounded formula to suit different aspects of the situation at hand.

I might combine elecampane with marshmallow root, licorice root, or mullein when more of a demulcent quality is needed to help soothe irritated membranes and lubricate tissues.

I may bring in wild cherry bark, aniseseed, or grindelia to help support the relaxing of tissues which will then allow mucus to flow.

I prefer to use elecampane as a tincture, simply because I am not fond of it’s taste. However, it works beautifully as a water extraction in the form of a tea or a syrup.

Elecampane Syrup

Making an herbal syrup from elecampane is easy!

  • You will need 1/2 cup of elecampane root. Organic is best. Wildcrafted works well too. The most beneficial would be to find elecampane that is growing in your own geographical area and harvest it yourself.

  • 3 cups of water

  • Sweetener of choice. I prefer honey, but organic cane sugar would work as well. I will typically use 1/2 to 1 cup of sweetener per 3 cups of water. I personally do it by taste and prefer my syrups to be less sweet. Some herbal texts instruct on doing 1:1 part with sweetener, which to me is just TOO SWEET. However, the benefit to this is that the sugar will help to preserve without the alcohol needing to be added.

  • 80 proof alcohol. (1 Tablespoon per cup of liquid). This is not necessary, if you make small batches and use them within a short period of time. However, adding a bit of alcohol to your syrup will greatly extend it’s life.

  • A pot. I like to use stainless steel and always avoid using anything with anti-stick coating.

  • A bottle or mason jar for storing your finished syrup

Add 1/2 cup of elecampane root and 3 cups of water to a pot. Bring it just to the boiling point, and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 15 to 30 minutes. Let cool a bit. Strain. Put the strained liquid back into the pot. What you have now is a very strong tea. Add your honey or sugar into the pot and bring just back to the boiling point. Turn the heat down and simmer. You can turn this off when the sugar and honey have been incorporated. OR you can let it simmer until it is reduced by half, which will thicken and concentrate the syrup further. Let cool. Add your alcohol. Bottle. Label. Store in the fridge. Syrups will usually keep up to a month and often will keep up to two months if stored correctly. After two months, it is wise to discard the remaining syrup, as fermentation may have begun and your syrup is not as rich with medicinal properties as it was when it was fresh.

You can add other complimentary herbs to your syrup, to help support it’s actions and to change it’s taste. 1/2 part marshmallow root will bring more soothing, demulcent qualities to it. A teaspoon of cinnamon bark will also bring some demulcent qualities, while bring some warming action to help facilitate. Licorice root will add some sweetness and also some demulcent qualities. (Avoid licorice root when high blood pressure is present).

To use your syrup, I recommend using 1 teaspoon every 3 to 4 hours or so as needed. For children over age 6, half the adult dose.

Elecampane is a relatively safe herb and can be used by children. It is best avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Elecampane can be an emmenagogue in larger amounts. This means it can stimulate vomiting. Be cautious not to overuse this potent and powerful herb.

Always check with a skilled herbalist if you have questions about how to use elecampane or any herbs.

Happy Breathing!

(1) The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman


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