Introducing… a favourite herb

Fiona Chapman Inula helenium

Inula helenium or elecampane is one of my favourite herbs.
I started growing it last year but just got the foliage, huge lance-shaped leaves, but this year, excitingly, it is going to flower, a bright yellow flower, a cross between a daisy and sunflower.
It is also known as elfwort – apparently elves live under the leaves, although sadly I haven’t met one yet!
The root of the plant has a huge amount of healing powers and is a very restorative tonic, especially where there is excess phlegm and fluid in the body.
First and foremost, we use it as a lung trophorestorative.
Any condition, from a cold to chronic bronchitis, where there is infection in the lungs, thick green mucus and bacteria we give elecampane.
It has stimulating, warming and pungent bitters that get right down into the lungs and will remove old sticky mucus allowing new, immunologically rich, mucus to form.
These bitters support the digestive system so if we swallow old mucus from the lungs it will protect the digestive tract.
It is a highly anti-sceptic and anti-bacterial herb. I have used it in all my cold and flu formulas just to protect the lungs.
Its warming action will decongest stagnant fluids and work on the lymphatic tissues – tonsils, adenoids, lymph glands – of the throat down to the gut to sanitise them and remove any congestion which will also help with oedema.
Not only does this wonderful plant look after the lungs, it is full of inulin – this is a starch which does not trigger insulin – but gives blood sugar to the peripheral parts of the body and muscles.
It is nutritious and building so perfect for those in a depressed or weak state both physically and mentally. As it stimulates the liver and pancreas to release bile, it helps digestion and nutrient uptake, and will ease spasm and wind.
An oil can be made from the root and it can be applied topically to help with rheumatism, especially if it is worse from the cold, or wounds which refuse to heal over, ‘proud’ flesh, where a bacterial infection is stopping healing.
In Ayurvedic medicine it is given as a heart tonic and for the grief of being taken away from your home.
According to legend, when Helen of Troy was kidnapped by Paris, where her tears fell, Helen of the campagna – elecampane grew.
Fiona Chapman is studying naturopathy and herbal medicine at the College of Naturopathic Medicine (

by Fiona Chapman

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