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Plant Profile: Elecampane

Plant Profile: Elecampane, Inula helenuim

Elecampane imbibes a legendary aroma and influence that expands the senses and awakens the respiratory system to promote deep, rejuvenating and cleansing breaths. As a profound root medicine, elecampane teaches us the power of grounding into place, slowness and sustained intention.

Garden Care& Harvest: Elecampane is a perennial that thrives in moist, well draining and fertile soil and grows to be quite tall. She is all leaves the first year but will send up an epic stalk of flowers the subsequent years. She likes to be top dressed with rich compost to add fertility and to keep the ground around her moist. Like any plants harvested for roots, it is worth taking the time to remedy compacted soil for larger root harvests before you plant! For medicine, we grow her with a 2-3 year life cycle where we typically harvest the roots in the fall of second year or early spring of 3rd year (inulin content is usually higher in roots in the fall after the tops have died back, which has always been my personal preference when harvesting- but with everything in life just go with your gut)! When you harvest, clean roots thoroughly before drying or processing into medicine as dirt can get fairly compacted within the crowns.

Planetary Ruler: Mercury

Element: Earth, Air

Energetics: Warming and drying

Preparations: Syrup, decoction, tincture, steam inhalation, incense, infused oil

Physical Medicinal Attributes: Elecampane offers her medicine as a supreme lung and respiratory tonic, supporting the integrity of the lung tissue as well as clearing congestion from deep seated catarrh. Warming and strengthening as a stimulating expectorant, elecampane breaks up chronic, wheezy and phlegmatic conditions that shorten the breath and make for unproductive coughing that irritate the lungs without expelling any of the mucus. It encourages a deep and powerful cough that is able to loosen and break free the congested lung mucosa while also imbibing an antispasmodic influence within the tissue that works effectively without being overly aggressive. Smoke exposure from wild fires are becoming increasingly common these days and this lovely root can be an incredibly ally to support our lungs and spirit through these traumatic times. Elecampane is also a specific when working with habitual patterns of shallow breathing as it awakens our ability to draw in full and sustaining breaths to break tense and ungrounded patterns that will bring us back into out bodies and the fullness of our being.

Elecampane root contains a high inulin content, particularly when dug up in the fall after the growth and vigor from the spring and summer months have settled back into the roots. Inulin is prebiotic as well as being an insoluble fiber, supporting digestion and excretion on a foundational level. Through it’s warming aromatic compounds, elecampane ignites digestion in support of optimal nutrient absorption and awakens a sluggish appetite. Through it’s influence as a warming bitter, she enhances digestive and metabolic functions without being too cooling or drying to the system like many other bitters can become. These actions are specifically indicated when there are signs of excess moisture within the digestion which typically manifesting as sluggish digestion, bloating, gas, edema etc.

With it’s warming and clearing energetics, elecampane is helpful for breaking patterns of night sweats as well as resolving fevers and chills. Elecampane is a soothing antibacterial and antispasmodic that is a helpful presence in herbal support for all manor of covalences or damp, stagnant and swollen conditions within tissues and joints throughout the body. It has that special quality of being stimulating and relaxing in just the right balance and it’s unique and pleasant aroma is deeply comforting in times when we feel vulnerable and unwell.

Elecampane brings light into our senses and mirth to our being when working with chronic fatigue or a deep sense of longing, homesickness or being perpetually ungrounded. Since the lungs are the seat where unprocessed grief accumulates, elecampane supports our ability to let things go and aid in compassionately unpacking unprocessed emotions that open us up to meaningful assimilation of emotions and experiences. As we start to process accumulated grief, it unblocks the respiratory system and we begin to breath deeply and stand tall opening our shoulders from being chronically hunched over and crumpled in on ourselves. As we open up the lungs and the corresponding heart chakra, we begin to form positive relationships to vulnerability which encourages meaningful connections and community with people and place.

Spiritual Medicinal Attributes: Elecampane’s influence upon the respiratory system awakens our breath, our essential life force. The quality and depth of our breath correlates to the vibrancy or weakness of our being. Elecampane encourages a sustained breath practice that awakens our vital force. Through deep breathing, we redirect and create different connections to our sense of knowing. As we open and clear fragmented and stagnant thought and emotional patterns, we begin to effectively process and realize how we unconsciously manifest disease and ailments within our physiology... Through our breath, we bring awareness into our being that redirects perception from the frenetic storm of the mind, into the peace and stillness of the heart. We promote balance as we perceive from the heart where are able to fully and authentically sense and express our essential nature giving us purpose in service to the wider web of life.

Through her powerful root medicine, we too find our roots where we slowly develop a grounded nature within ourselves and our environment. In the fast paced and frenetic facets of the world, the power of our roots shine out as a beacon of hope and strength. Our roots are our connection to eternal wisdom where we are able to discern information and action from a place of truth and deep knowing. This is where we find purpose and we shed the tension and disorder of a life that is disconnected and cut off from meaning. This is slow medicine, but perhaps the most essential for our times. Just remember, the slower the growth, the deeper the roots.

Inhaling and exhaling with you,


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