Day 5 Herb of the Day Elecampane! Magic and Medicinals. What our ancestors knew by The Magic Apothecary, Mary Elizabeth Micari

Disclamer: The following information is of an educational and general nature and should not be construed as legal advice. You should consult appropriate written and professional sources to answer questions related to your individual situation. Exercising one’s rights often entails some element of risk, and you should verify all information relevant to your situation before acting; the author and publisher disclaim any responsibility or liability for any loss incurred as a consequence of the use of any information herein.


ELECAMPANE  (Inula Helenium)

Also known as Scabwort. Elf Dock. Wild Sunflower. Horseheal. Velvet Dock.

Do not take Elecampane without asking your Physician and do not use when breast feeding or pregnant.

Part Used-Root.
Where it Grows: Elecampane is a very large plant.  It is found throughout England and the Europe and now cultivated and growing wild in the Eastern USA.  Can be found from Nova Scotia to the deep south and as far west as Missouri.   It grows in damp pastures and in shady places.  This was a common medicinal plant used for many sicknesses in the Middle Ages.

The stem grows from 4 to 5 feet high, is very stout and deeply rooted.  The whole plant has down, and it produces a large flower with pointed leaves.  It looks a bit like Mullein as it is downy and the leaves are velvety underneath.

The plant is in bloom from June to August. The flowers are bright yellow, with large heads, 3 to 4 inches in diameter, on long stalks, resembling a double sunflower. The broad leaves under the head are velvety. After the flowers have fallen, these scales spread horizontally, and the removal of the fruit shows the a beautifully regular arrangement of little pits on the receptacle, which form a pattern like the inside of a watch. The fruit is quadrangular and crowned by a ring of pale-reddish hairs it is called the pappus.

The plant comes from a perennial root which is large and succulent, with large, fleshy roots.

Elecampane was known to the ancient writers on agriculture and natural history, and even the Roman poets knew it! They called it Inula and said its root was used both as a medicine and a condiment!  The Monks made cordials from it and many ate the roots daily.

Elecampane is frequently mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon writings on medicine in England prior to the Norman Conquest; it is also the ‘Marchalan’ of the Welsh physicians of the thirteenth century, and was generally known during the Middle Ages.

There was a candy made with it in the Middle Ages used for Asthma.  It was then called Elf-Dock or Elf root or Wort.

Part Used Medicinally For pharmaceutical use, the root is taken from plants two to three years old; when more advanced it becomes too woody. As a rule, it is dug in autumn. Elecampane root has at first a somewhat glutinous taste, but by chewing, it becomes aromatic, and slightly bitter and pungent; it has an agreeably aromatic somewhat camphorate orris-like odor. Please refer to information and pictures when searching for plants in the wild.  Most plants I mention will be available from reputable herb sellers in the USA already grown, cleaned and packed for you.

The substance most abundantly contained in Elecampane root is Inulin. Inulin can first be described as a fibrous carbohydrate that can be classified as a starch.  This substance can be found in a variety amount of foods such as vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Inulin is in the class of compounds known as fructans and is a naturally occurring oligosaccharide, meaning it has several simple sugars linked together.  Elecampane is the richest source of inulin.

The amount of Inulin varies according to the season, but is more abundant in the autumn.

Medicinal Action and Uses Elecampane is a Diuretic, tonic, diaphoretic (causes perspiration), expectorant, antiseptic, astringent and gently stimulant. It was used by the ancients in certain diseases of women, also in tuberculosis, in heart failure and in skin infections. Its name ‘Scabwort’ came from the fact that a decoction (root boiled in water) of it is said to cure sheep affected with scabs, and the name ‘Horse-heal’ was given it from its curing the skin diseases of horses.

In herbal medicine it is chiefly used for coughs, consumption and other pulmonary complaints.  It is a favorite remedy for bronchitis. It has been employed for many years with good results in chest infections, and chronic diseases of the lungs such as asthma.  It can help with respiratory difficulties and helps with expectoration.

The root used not only to be candied and eaten as a sweetmeat, but lozenges were made of it as I mentioned earlier about the candies used for asthma.

Some have used it on the skin as a treatment of sciatica and neuralgia.

Modern scientific research has proved that the claims of Elecampane to be a valuable remedy in pulmonary diseases.


Elecampane root can be boiled into a decoction, made into and extract or tincture or dried and mixed with sugar. Some have left it to sit in vinegar or wine and used it that way.

Used as a syrup, for gassy stomach, to relieve coughs, shortness of breath and wheezing.  Has been used for fever, skin eruptions and even the plague! It can be made into and used as an ointment as well.

Magical Properties

Planetary Influence: Mercury

It is associated with Fairies and is also associated with elves.

Elecampane can be used to encourage a better connection between mind and body. It is especially good for those who live in their intellect and ignore their physical health, allowing them to relax and trust their feelings a little more. It brings about balance – the healthy and normal balance between mind, emotions and body. In this case it can be a grounding herb.

Elecampane is useful for those who are home sick and during uncertain times.  It is used in spells to ward off bad luck and loss.

It is also used to open the third eye and clairvoyance.  It is said to give clear sight.  It can be used in initiation rites to open the mind to the sprit world.  It can be added to incense to promote joy and communication and for blessings of babies and mothers.

It was used in to treat illnesses caused by evil faery folk. Can be used to promote communication with the faery realm and as an offering to these beings.  Elecampane was very well known by the Anglo Saxons, who used it extensively both in medicine and magic.  It was used to treat elf shot which is mentioned above as well.  This was a medical condition believed to be caused by invisible elves shooting invisible arrows at a person or animal causing sudden shooting pains in one part of the body.

What an amazing herb and what an amazing history.  Please take some time to explore this herb and its stories and uses.  This magic and medicine still seem to be one!


Modern Information Web MD:




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