Elecampane

Scientific Name(s): Inula helenium L. (Asteraceae) 1

Common Name(s): Alant , horseheal , inula , scabwort , yellow starwort 1

Uses

In vitro evidence supports antimycobacterial and anthelminthic activity.

Dosing

None suggested due to lack of clinical data.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Elecampane may cause hypersensitivity reactions in patients with an existing allergy to plants in the Asteraceae family. Alantolactones may irritate the mucous membranes. There are case reports of contact dermatitis.

Toxicology

Large doses may cause gastrointestinal discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and symptoms of paralysis.

Botany

Elecampane ( Helenium grandiflorum Gilib., Aster officinalis All., Aster helenium [L.] Scop.) is indigenous to southern and eastern Europe, but is also found in central Europe, the Near East, and North America. This perennial grows up to 3 meters in height, has large irregularly toothed leaves, and its golden yellow daisy-like flowers grow up to 7 centimeters in diameter. 1 , 2 , 3

History

The ancient Romans used the plant as medicine and food. Hippocrates also used the plant to treat chronic skin eruptions and itching. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the plant was used as a panacea to treat all kinds of pains, especially pain associated with chills or animal bites. 2 , 4

The roots of the plant have been traditionally used as a diuretic in Europe, as a fragrance in Japan, and as a preservative in China. American Indians used the roots medicinally in infusions and decoctions to treat lung disorders and tuberculosis. 5

The herb was used as a snake venom antidote in Slovenian folk medicine in the 19th century. 6

Chemistry

The root contains up to 44% of the carbohydrate inulin as well as mucilage. Sesquiterpenes isolated from the plant include a germacrane, an elemane, and the eudesmanes alantolactone, isoalantolactone, as well as several derivatives. 1 , 3 , 5

The plant also contains the triterpenes friedelin and dammaranedienol and its acetate. Sterols include β-sitosterol and its glucoside, and stigmasterol. Chromatographic techniques identified the following 2 thymol derivatives: 10-isobutyryloxy-8,9-epoxy-thymol isobutyrate and 10-isobutyryloxy-6-methoxy-8,9-epoxy-thymol isobutyrate. 1 , 3 , 7

Uses and Pharmacology

Review of the scientific literature reveals mostly historical and animal studies evaluating the efficacy of elecampane.

Tertiary references document elecampane as a natural source of food flavoring in Europe and in alcoholic beverages in the US. Other references document its medicinal use in treating ailments of the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, and lower urinary tract; but clinical evidence for these uses is lacking. 1

Antimycobacterial and anthelminthic activity

Alantolactone is reported to have antimycobacterial and anthelminthic activity. Chromatographic fractions from the root of I. helenium exhibited activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis . Another study found that the aqueous extracts of I. helenium may inhibit growth of the parasite Ascaris lumbricoides . 8 , 9

Other uses

Alantolactone and isoalantolactone may have antitumor activity. Alantolactone may have hypotensive effects and hyperglycemic as well as hypoglycemic activity. The plant has also been examined for its antioxidant properties. 1 , 3 , 10

Dosage

None suggested due to lack of clinical data.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Elecampane may cause hypersensitivity reactions in patients with an existing allergy to plants in the Asteraceae family. The alantolactones may irritate the mucous membranes and there are case reports in the scientific literature of allergic contact dermatitis. 1 , 11

Toxicology

Large doses of the herb may cause gastrointestinal discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and symptoms of paralysis. 3

Bibliography

1. Newall C, Anderson L, Phillipson J, eds. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals . London, England: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
2. Chevallier A, ed. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants . New York, NY: DK Publishing; 1996.
3. Bisset NG, ed. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals . 2nd ed. New York, NY: CRC Press; 2001:254-256.
4. Al-Gammal SY. Elecampane and Job's disease. Bull Indian Inst Hist Med Hyderabad . 1998;28:7-11.
5. Konishi T, Shimada Y, Nagao T, Okabe H, Konoshima T. Antiproliferative sesquiterpene lactones from the roots of Inula helenium . Biol Pharm Bull . 2002;25:1370-1372.
6. Dolenc M. Inula helenium -popular snake venom antidote. Farm Vestn . 1978;29:118-121.
7. Stojakowska A, Malarz J, Kisiel W. Thymol derivatives from a root culture of Inula helenium . Z Naturforsch [C] . 2004;59:606-608.
8. Cantrell CL, Abate L, Fronczek FR, Franzblau SG, Quijano L, Fischer NH. Antimycobacterial eudesmanolides from Inula helenium and Rudbeckia subtomentosa . Planta Med . 1999;65:351-355.
9. El Garhy MF, Mahmoud LH. Anthelminthic efficacy of traditional herbs on Ascaris lumbricoides . J Egypt Soc Parasitol . 2002;32:893-900.
10. Nesterova I, Zelenskaia KL, Vetoshkina TV, Aksinenko SG, Gorbacheva AV, Gorbatykh NA. Mechanisms of antistressor activity of Inula helenium preparations [in Russian]. Eksp Klin Farmakol . 2003;66:63-65.
11. Lamminpaa A, Estlander T, Jolanki R, Kanerva L. Occupational allergic contact dermatitis caused by decorative plants. Contact Dermatitis . 1996;34:330-335.

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