Elecampane: A Powerful Herb for Lung Health and Cancer Prevention

Having harvested herbs in the wild for many years now, I think one of the most valuable herbs I’ve ever come across is that of Elecampane root (Inula helenum). This plant is generally found within range of rivers that have overflowed their banks; it likes to take root in the subsequently rich soil. This five to six foot tall plant has a large flower-head, somewhat like that of a sunflower, and big broad leaves. However, it is not the aerial portion that is collected, but the big double-pronged root. Ideally collected after the 2nd or 3rd year, the freshly dug root has a camphorous smell and taste. [1]

After washing the root thoroughly to remove all soil, it can be cut up into small pieces, and either dried for later use, or put into a large jar or bottle for tincturing with 45% alcohol. In the latter case, let it macerate or soak for a good 2 weeks, shaking it regularly. Afterwards, strain, let it sit until any particulate matter has settled to the bottom. Pour off and store in an amber or dark glass bottle out of direct sunlight.

Dosage and frequency of ingestion is dependent upon the condition being treated, but in general terms 1/2 to 1 teaspoon, taken 2 -3 times per day, is an average. A word of caution though: those who have an allergy to any members of the Asteraceae family may want to test their response the use of Elecampane, by ingesting a minimal amount.

Traditionally used for chronic broncho-pulmonary afflictions, it can be combined with other herbs to support lungs which may be congested and full of catarrh. Nicholas Culpeper, a herbalist from the 16th century, also used it as a worm medicine. [2]

New Research on Elecampane

Over the past number of years, much research has been done on this amazing root. Three researchers from Poland studied one of its constituents – alantalactone – and found it to stimulate the immune system, specifically increasing phagocytosis (that aspect of the immune system involved in killing pathogens). [3]

Furthermore, other compounds – the various hydroxycinnamates – were found to be antiviral, neuroprotective, and hepatoprotective. [4]

Finally, researchers at the University of Bucharest , Romania have also found the hydroxycinnamates to be antimicrobial and antifungal. [5]

Given all this novel information that is coming out, perhaps now is the time to consider the use of Elecampane in helping to maintain one’s health and well being. Of serious consideration is the nature of many of today’s ailments, both older chronic conditions as well as more recent ones.

Dr Tullio Simoncini, a former Italian physician, is well known for his belief that cancer is caused by an overgrowth of candida. While I would not suggest that Elecampane be used as a ‘stand alone’ cancer treatment, given the ever-increasing rise of candida, along with the concurrent development of cancer, [6] it does make sense to give thought to incorporating those herbs that have anti-candida potential into one’s health regimen.

While many consider the Echinacea species to be the number one herb to turn to, I would urge those interested in natural health remedies to consider Elecampane. Given the aforementioned findings, its h istorical usage is but a fraction of what it can accomplish…. and there may well be more to find out about this incredible root in months or years to come.

[1] Indian Herbology of North America Alma Hutchens 1973

[2] ibid.

[3] Frontiers in Pharmacology / Ethnopharmacology Sept 2020

[4] Robinson(2005) Kim(2005-7) Phytotherapy Research January 2016

[5] Romainian Biotechnology Letter Vol 19, 2014

[6] personal observation in 44 years of clinical practice.




Richard DeSylva, RH, DNM is the owner of The Herb Works in Rockwood, ON. He is on the Board of the Ontario Herbalist Association. Richard is an advocate and lobbyist for the appropriate regulation of herbs and herbal medicine. For more information visit: theherbworks.com or call 519.856.1636

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