Inula helenium

Botanical Name : Inula helenium
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Inuleae
Genus: Inula
Species: I. helenium
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Synonyms: Aster helenium. Aster officinalis. Corvisartia helenium. Helenium grandiflorum. Elfdock; Aunee (French); Enula campana (Spanish); Echter Alant (German); Enula campana (Italian

Common Names: Elecampane , Wild sunflower, Yellow Starwort, Horse-heal or Marchalan

Habitat :Inula helenium grows throughout central and Southern Europe, and in Asia as far eastwards as the Himalayas. It is naturalized in North America. It grows in fields, waysides, waste places, copses etc, often on moist soils in shade.

Description:
Inula helenium is a perennial and rather rigid herb, the stem of which attains a height of from 90 cm to 150 cm (3 to 5 feet); the leaves are large and toothed, the lower ones stalked, the rest embracing the stem; the flowers are yellow, 5 cm (2 inches) broad, and have many rays, each three-notched at the extremity. The root is thick, branching and mucilaginous, and has a warm, bitter taste and a camphoraceous odor with sweet floral (similar to violet) undertones.
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It is hardy to zone 5. It is in flower from Jul to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, lepidoptera, self.The plant is self-fertile.

Cultivation:        
An easily grown plant, it grows well in moist shady positions in ordinary garden soil, though it grows best in a good loamy soil. Succeeds in an ordinary garden soil in a sunny position. Plants are also tolerant of considerable neglect, succeeding on our Cornwall trial ground even when left unweeded for four years. Elecampane has a long history of cultivation as a medicinal herb, though it is not commonly grown nowadays. When first dug up, the roots smell like ripe bananas, but as they dry they take on the scent of violets.

Propagation:        
Seed – sow in spring or autumn in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. If you have sufficient seed, it could be worthwhile trying an outdoor sowing in situ in the spring. Division in spring or autumn. Fairly small pieces of root can be used, so long as each piece has a growth bud on it. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring. Root cuttings in winter. Cut sections of root about 5cm long, place them in a warm greenhouse over the winter and they should grow away vigorously

Edible Uses:
Leaves – cooked. Rather bitter and aromatic, they were used as a potherb by the ancient Romans but are rarely used at present. Root – candied and eaten as a sweetmeat. It contains up to 44% inulin. Inulin is a starch that cannot be digested by humans. It usually passes straight through the digestive system, though it can ferment and cause wind problems for some people. Inulin can be converted into a sugar that is suitable for diabetics to eat. The Council of Europe list Inula helenium as a natural food flavouring.

Medicinal Uses:
Alterative;  Anthelmintic;  Antiseptic;  Antitussive;  Astringent;  Bitter;  Cholagogue;  Demulcent;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Expectorant;  Stimulant;  Stomachic;  Tonic.

Elecampane has a long history of use as a medicinal herb. A gently warming and tonic herb, it is especially effective in treating coughs, consumption, bronchitis and many other complaints of the chest as well as disorders of the digestive system. A very safe herb to use, it is suitable for the old and the young and especially useful when the patient is debilitated. It cleanses toxins from the body, stimulating the immune and digestive systems and treating bacterial and fungal infections. The root is alterative, anthelmintic, antiseptic, astringent, bitter, cholagogue, demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic, mildly expectorant, gently stimulant, stomachic, tonic. It is best harvested in the autumn from plants that are two years old, and it can be dried for later use. The roots should be at least 3 years old according to another report. This remedy should not be prescribed for pregnant women. An extract of the plant is a powerful antiseptic and bactericide, particularly effective against the organism that causes TB. The root contains alantolactone, which is strongly anthelmintic. In a 1:1000 dilution it kills the parasitic worm Ascaris in 16 hours. Alantolactone has an anti-inflammatory action, it also reduces mucous secretions and stimulates the immune system. The plant is sometimes recommended as an external wash for skin inflammations and varicose ulcers, but has been known to cause allergic reactions

For medicinal purposes, the roots should be procured from plants not more than two or three years old. Besides inulin (C6H12O6[C6H10O5]n), a body isomeric with starch, the root contains helenin (C15H20O2), a stearoptene, which may be prepared in white acicular crystals, insoluble in water, but freely soluble in alcohol. When freed from the accompanying inula-camphor by repeated crystallization from alcohol, helenin melts at 110 °C.

Recent science:
Susan O’Shea, a research student at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), Ireland, has shown that extracts from the herb kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as well as a broad spectrum of other bacteria.

Other Uses  
Dye;  Essential.

A blue dye is obtained from the bruised and macerated root mixed with ashes and whortleberries (Vaccinium myrtillus)[4, 46, 61]. The root yields up to 2% of a camphor-scented essential oil, this is used as a flavouring and medicinally.

In France and Switzerland it is used in the manufacture of absinthe.

Known Hazards: This herb may have  allergic reactions. Potential to interfere with the treatment of diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure. Avoid if history of allergy

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

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Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elecampane

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Inula+helenium

http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail146.php

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