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Scientific Name(s): Inula helenium L.
Common Name(s): Alant, Elecampane, Horseheal, Inula, Radix Inulae, Scabwort, Yellow starwort

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Nov 3, 2021.

Clinical Overview


Clinical trials evaluating the use of elecampane are lacking; however, in vitro research focuses on potential application in chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Antibacterial, cardiovascular, and hypoglycemic effects have also been suggested.


None suggested due to lack of clinical data.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


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


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.


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

Scientific Family

  • Asteraceae (aster or daisy)


Elecampane 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.Bisset 2001, Chevallier 1996, Newall 1996, USDA 2017 Synonyms include Helenium grandiflorum Gilib., Aster officinalis All., and Aster helenium (L.) Scop. Elecampane is a member of the daisy (Asteraceae) family that includes chamomile, chrysanthemum, feverfew, ragweed, sunflower, tansy, and yarrow.


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.Al-Gammal 1998, Chevallier 1996

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.Konishi 2002

The herb was used as a snake venom antidote in Slovenian folk medicine in the 19th century.Dolenc 1978

Radix Inulae is a commonly used traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine, particularly for gastric effect and antibacterial action.Huo 2008


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.Bisset 2001, Duke 2017, Khan 2010, Konishi 2002, Newall 1996

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.Bisset 2001, Newall 1996, Stojakowska 2004

Uses and Pharmacology

Clinical trials evaluating the use of elecampane are lacking; however, in vitro research focuses on potential application in chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Antibacterial, cardiovascular, and hypoglycemic effects have also been suggested.(Huo 2008, Khan 2010)

Anti-inflammatory effects

Animal and experimental data

Reductions in inflammatory genes, cytokines, cells, and pathways including inducible NO synthase (iNOS) expression, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-6, neutrophils, NF-kappaB signaling, and toll-like receptors have been demonstrated by elecampane extracts in several animal and in vitro studies.(Ding 2019, Gao 2017, Kim 2017, Wang 2018)

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.(Cantrell 1999, El Garhy 2002)

Lung injury

Animal and experimental data

Lipopolysaccharide-induced lung injury was alleviated by an elecampane root lactone extract (20 mg/kg) in an acute lung injury mouse model. mRNA of various inflammatory cytokines (ie, TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, IL-6) as well as iNOS expression were significantly reduced with treatment (P<0.001 each) and NF-kappaB signaling was also decreased. This led to a significant reduction in the accumulation of neutrophils and other inflammatory cells in both percentage and number (P<0.01). In vitro experiments supported these results.(Ding 2019)

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.(Bisset 2001, Nesterova 2003, Newall 1996)

In 2 animal arthritis models, oral administration of elecampane root extract significantly reduced arthritis index scores and paw swelling in a dose-dependent manner. Significant benefit was observed when administered as a prophylactic or treatment regimen. In vitro studies demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects were in play via inhibition of TNF-alpha induced activation of NF-kappaB and MAPK pathways.(Gao 2017)

Improved glucose tolerance and decreased fat accumulation has been documented with I. helenium root extract in vitro. The mechanism of action did not involve NF-kappaB but instead the inhibition of toll-like receptor pathways that are important in insulin resistance and inflammation. Additionally, levels of proinflammatory adipokines (ie, IL-6, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1) were reduced but not TNF-alpha.(Kim 2017)

Antioxidant activity has been observed in vitro and shown to be related to the total phenolic content of the elecampane root extract.(Nder 2021)

In an atopic dermatitis-like skin lesion mouse model, topical application of 1% elecampane root extract cream significantly reduced clinical symptoms via suppression of inflammatory cytokines in a dose-dependent manner.(Wang 2018)


None suggested due to lack of clinical data.

Pregnancy / Lactation

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


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.Lamminpaa 1996, Newall 1996


Large doses of the herb may cause gastrointestinal discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and symptoms of paralysis.Bisset 2001

Index Terms

  • Aster helenium (L.) Scop.
  • Aster officinalis All.
  • Helenium grandiflorum Gilib.



This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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Bisset NG, ed. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. 2nd ed. New York, NY: CRC Press. 2001:254-256.
Cantrell CL, Abate L, Fronczek FR, Franzblau SG, Quijano L, Fischer NH. Antimycobacterial eudesmanolides from Inula helenium and Rudbeckia subtomentosa. Planta Med. 1999;65:351-355.10364842
Chevallier A, ed. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. New York, NY: DK Publishing; 1996.
Ding YH, Song YD, Wu YX, et al. Isoalantolactone suppresses LPS-induced inflammation by inhibiting TRAF6 ubiquitination and alleviates acute lung injury. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2019;40(1):64-74.30013035
Dolenc M. Inula helenium -popular snake venom antidote. Farm Vestn. 1978;29:118-121.
El Garhy MF, Mahmoud LH. Anthelminthic efficacy of traditional herbs on Ascaris lumbricoides. J Egypt Soc Parasitol. 2002;32:893-900.12512821
Gao S, Wang Q, Tian XH, et al. Total sesquiterpene lactones prepared from Inula helenium L. has potentials in prevention and therapy of rheumatoid arthritis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2017;196:39-46.27988396
Huo Y, Shi HM, Wang MY, Li XB. Chemical constituents and pharmacological properties of Radix Inulae. Pharmazie. 2008;63(10):699-703.18972829
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Kim M, Song K, Kim YS. Alantolactone improves palmitate-induced glucose intolerance and inflammation in both lean and obese states in vitro: Adipocyte and adipocyte-macrophage co-culture system. Int Immunopharmacol. 2017;49:187-194.28599253
Konishi T, Shimada Y, Nagao T, Okabe H, Konoshima T. Antiproliferative sesquiterpene lactones from the roots of Inula helenium. Biol Pharm Bull. 2002;25:1370-1372.12392098
Lamminpaa A, Estlander T, Jolanki R, Kanerva L. Occupational allergic contact dermatitis caused by decorative plants. Contact Dermatitis. 1996;34:330-335.8807225
Nder AE. Efficacy of methanol-water extract of Inula helenium root against oxidative DNA damage. J Tradit Chin Med. 2021;41(2):293-300.33825410
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;66:63-65.14558358
Newall C, Anderson L, Phillipson J, eds. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London, England: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
Stojakowska A, Malarz J, Kisiel W. Thymol derivatives from a root culture of Inula helenium. Z Naturforsch [C]. 2004;59:606-608.15813387
Wang Q, Gao S, Wu GZ, et al. Total sesquiterpene lactones isolated from Inula helenium L. attenuates 2,4-dinitrochlorobenzene-induced atopic dermatitis-like skin lesions in mice. Phytomedicine. 2018;46:78-84.30097125

Further information

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