Elecampane 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 Elecampane to support our bronchial system and relieve coughing.
Image below: Elecampane is a great garden plant.
Elecampane (Inula helenium)
Growing Conditions: Elecampane 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 organic matter like compost is very valuable. Mulch heavily with autumn leaves.
Planting: Elecampane is lovely and large with sunflower like flowers. It needs two years to reach maturity and to produce highly potent roots. Prepare the soil with compost, breaking up lumps. Plant the crown with the growing shoot/s pointing upwards (see image below). The shoots should be slightly covered with soil. Space the plants 45 cm apart and mulch well with woodchips, autumn leaves or organic straw. They emerge between September and October and have their peak in January. They will start to die back in April/May. Elecampane 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: Elecampane 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 Elecampane 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 elecampane 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.