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Elecampane (Inula helenium)
Growing Conditions: Elecampagne grows best in full sun to partial shade, in loamy, well-drained soil. It thrives in fertile soils. To increase root harvest it is worth preparing the bed extra well to loosen up the soil if you are dealing with heavy clay. In heavy clay the addition of sand and organic matter (compost) is very valuable. Double digging or creating raised beds can be great to increase harvest.
Planting: Elecampage is lovely and large with sunflower like flowers. It needs two years to reach maturity and to produce highly potent roots. Space the plants 45 cm apart. Elecampage provides a great yield with big, fat roots and 1-2 plants are plenty for one family to provide enough medicine for one year.
Medicinal uses: Elecampagne is warming and fights infection. It clears dense, sticky mucus from the bronchial system. It is often made into cough syrups, teas and tinctures. We would not be able to go through a winter without Elecampagne to support our bronchial system and relieve coughing.
Harvesting: The roots are harvested after the autumn of the second or third growing season when starting from seed. A root division can provide a good yield in the second year. The roots are harvested while the plants are dormant (all the leaves and stalks are fully wilted and brown). The roots are fleshy and large, branching out from a thick centralized stalk. They can grow up to 60cm deep. Dig the roots with a fork or trenching spade and loosen the soil on all sides until the whole crown can be lifted.
Processing and Drying: Soil often gets compacted in the central crown of elecampagne where the roots begin to branch off. It is therefore helpful to quarter the roots before washing. The roots are relatively soft and can be chopped easily. Wash thoroughly before chopping in small slices for drying and processing. They dry in 3-4 days at 37 – 40 degrees Celsius. Mill the roots when they are thoroughly dry. We only mill what we need for the herbal preparation and store the roots in whole pieces in a paper bag in a dry storage area.
Herbal Preparation: Internal use. Roots can be used for a cough syrup, as a tea (decoction) or turned into a tincture. It is best to soak the dried roots overnight before making a decoction. You can also use the fresh roots to make a syrup that lasts you throughout the winter. Then you only need to dry a small part as a back up in case you run out or you need some for a cough in summer or early autumn when fresh roots are not available yet. We always have two separate beds on the go and dig one each year while the other one is maturing. Therefore we dig the plants every second year, but get a fresh root harvest every year.
|Ingredients||life plant material to plant into your garden|