Scientific Name(s): Inula helenium L.
Common Name(s): Alant, Elecampane, Horseheal, Inula, Radix Inulae, Scabwort, Yellow starwort
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
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
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
None suggested due to lack of clinical data.
Pregnancy / Lactation
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented.
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
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