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Elecampane

Elecampane

Botanical Description & Habitat

Inula helenium

Family
Compositae

Common Names

Elf dockElfwort
HorsehealScabwort
Velvet dockWild sunflower



Habitat
Europe, northern and western Asia, Japan, and North America; found in moist, sandy areas, mountainous regions, and along streams and moist meadows.

Description
Elecampane is a perennial herb with a large branched rootstock producing elliptical basal leaves. A stiff, furrowed stem originates from the center of the basal leaves, and grows to 4-6 feet in height. The upper leaves are elongated and smooth, with irregularly-toothed margins. Large, yellow disk flowers grow at the end of the stem and from leaf axils during July and August.

Medicinal Parts
Roots and rhizome - dried, collected in spring and autumn.

Historical Properties & Uses

Elecampane root possesses strong antibiotic activity. It is hypoglycemic, hypotensive, and high in inulin. The root's alanactone content make it useful as an athelmintic.

Elecampane is rich in essential oil with expectorant, antitussive, tonic, and stimulant properties. In addition, elecampane root is said to be a mild diuretic, cholagogue, and anti-cancer agent, but these qualities have not been experimentally validated.

Elecampane tea has some proven sedative effect.

This herb has not achieved approval status by the German Commission E. Either there was insufficient evidence in favor, or a contraindication.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

Elecampane has not been the subject of much research, but has been shown to have good antitubercular activity. Incubated at 37 degrees C. for seven days with the H37Rv strain of mycobacterium tuberculosis, elder extract produced inhibition at dilutions of 1:180 and higher.

Elecampane tea has also produced mark sedation experimentally in mice.

Chinese research has substantiated antibacterial, hypotensive, hyperglycemic (in large doses) and hypoglycemic (in small doses) activity in animals.

The properties of this plant may be attributed to the presence of plant lactones (e.g., alantolactone and isoalantolactone). These chemicals have some of the highest degree of antibiotic and fungicidal activity among the lactones.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Known Interactions
Since elecampane's diuretic action increases the renal excretion of sodium and chloride, this herb may potentiate the hyperglycemic and hyperuricemic effects of glucose-elevating agents.

Diuretics such as elecampane may also potentiate the action of antihypertensive, ganglionic or peripheral adrenergic blocking drugs, tubocurarine, and, to a lesser degree, norepinephrine.

Possible Interactions
When taken in conjunction with corticotropin (ACTH) or corticosteroids elecampane, as a diuretic, is more prone to produce hypokalemia. It should also be noted the use of diuretics may require dosage adjustments of antidiabetic drugs.

Furthermore, the diuretic action of elecampane may reduce renal clearance of lithium.

Elecampane should be used with caution in conjunction with CNS depressants or stimulants.

The antituberculous activity of elecampane may potentiate the adverse effects of other antituberculous drugs, especially ethionamide.

By sequestering elecampane, mineral oil may reduce the herb's anthelmintic effect. The same may be true, to a lesser extent, of antacids.

The anti-inflammatory activity of elecampane can be seriously inhibited by phenobarbital and certain other sedatives and hypnotics, such as chloral hydrate, meprobamate. This is also true of beta-adrenergic blocking agents, such as propranolol.

Comments
The antidiabetic ability of elecampane may be decreased by concomitant use of acetazolamide, oral contraceptives, corticosteroids, dextrothyroxine, epinephrine, ethanol, glucagon, and marijuana.

The antidiabetic effects of elecampane may be decreased when used in conjunction with phenothiazines, rifampin, thiazide diuretics, and thyroid hormones.

The antidiabetic action of elecampane may be enhanced when it is used with allopurinol, anabolic steroids, chloramphenicol, clofibrate, fenfluramine, guanethidine, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI's), phenylbutazone, probenecid, and phenyramidol.

The antidiabetic action of elecampane may be enhanced when used in conjunction with salicylates, sulfinpyrazone, sulfonamides, and tetracyclines.

The presence of azulenes in elecampane may interfere with actions of bradykinin, histamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

The oil has been known to produce symptoms of toxicity when applied to the skin of sensitive individuals.

The German Commission E also notes the possibility for irritation of mucosa and allergic contact dermatitis due to alantolactone.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Preparation & Administration

Three times a day

Dried root
1.5-4

Tea
made from 1 tsp dried root

Fluid extract
1:1 in 25% alcohol, 1.5-4 ml

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.

References

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