Inula helenium L. Asteraceae. Elecampine, Elecampane, Enulae campinae Distribution: Britain, S. Europe to the Himalayas. Used medicinally for 2,000 years. Culpeper (1650) writes ‘Elecampane, is ... wholesome for the stomach, resists poison, helps old coughs and shortness of breath, helps ruptures and provokes lust
- Dr Henry Oakeley
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Credit: Inula helenium L. Asteraceae. Elecampine, Elecampane, Enulae campinae Distribution: Britain, S. Europe to the Himalayas. Used medicinally for 2,000 years. Culpeper (1650) writes ‘Elecampane, is ... wholesome for the stomach, resists poison, helps old coughs and shortness of breath, helps ruptures and provokes lust. Credit: Dr Henry Oakeley. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
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in ointments it is good against scabs and itch.’ Coles (1657) writes '... some think it took the name from the tears of Helen [of Troy] from whence it sprung, which is a Fable. others say it was so called, because Helen first found it available against the biting and stingings of venomous Beasts, and others think it took its name from the Island Helena where the best was found to grow. We in English call it Elecampane generally, yet in some countries of the Land, it is called Sabwort and Horse-heal.' He recommends it for almost every condition - phlegm, breathlessness, cough, stomach upsets, gout, rheumatism, epilepsy, plague, fevers, scabs, itch, sores, bad teeth, freckles, melancholy, purgation, wind, inducing diuresis and menstruation. Coles is quoting Dioscorides' Materia Medica of c. 70AD (Gunther, 1959). Bentley (1861) used it for chronic catarrh and dyspepsia. It contains sesquiterpene lactones which can cause allergies and irritation (Medicines Control Agency report, 2002).It is the source of Inulin, stored as an energy source for the plant instead of starch, a polysaccharide with use as a sugar substitute for diabetics, but for those with fructose malabsorption it causes flatulence and indigestion. It is licensed for use in Traditional Herbal Medicines in the UK (UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)). Photographed in the Medicinal Garden of the Royal College of Physicians, London.