Oats {Avena sativa}

Also, Known As:

  • Avena Sativa
  • Common Oats
  • Groats
  • Oats
  • Wild Oats

The plant-based cereals called the oats – botanical name: Avena sativa – is a very nutritious food and remedy. The oat is rich in protein, has lots of beneficial minerals such as calcium and magnesium, trace elements and potassium as well as iron – while also being very high in vitamin content. The presence of these bodybuilding nutrients in the oats makes for strong bones and teeth, most of these vital minerals found in the oats are also necessary for the maintenance of a healthy nervous system in a human being. Remedies made from the oats were traditionally used as a herbal nerve tonic; this tonic was given to patients to treat problems like depression, and mental debility as well as nervous exhaustion. Eating oats is a very good remedy when withdrawing from the effects of tranquilizers and antidepressant medications. The oats not only stimulates the body but also boosts energy levels up. At the same time, eating oats can be very relaxing and can greatly aid sleep in people affected by insomnia. The oats are ideal as a food for the chronically sick patients, for other convalescents and for mothers recovering from the labors of childbirth as it is very easily digested by the body. The estrogen levels in the body are also regulated by the oats. The oats also lower blood cholesterol mainly because of the fiber present in the oats, the fiber aids the body in combating various cardiovascular diseases that can affect the body of a person. At the same time, the eating of oats can help lower high blood pressure; it can help combat obesity, and is also useful in cases of varicose veins and problems like hemorrhoids. Irritations along the digestive tract can be soothed using the oats; eating oats is also an excellent remedy for problems like diverticulitis, long-term irritable bowel syndrome, conditions such as gastritis and persistent constipation. The fiber in the oat results in bulkier stools being produced and the bulk is sped faster along the gut, this reduces the exposure time of the sensitive gut lining tissues to various irritants and carcinogens present in the waste. The chances of cancer in the bowel is said to be reduced by eating oats on a regular basis for this reason. The consumption of oats is also believed to protect the body against all general cancer types that can potentially affect the body of a person. Oats also lowers the blood sugar levels in the body and this exciting discovery suggests that the oats will be helpful to diabetics. Oats also prevents retention of excessive fluids and aids digestion in general.

Plant Parts Used:

Grain, straw (dried stems).

oat strawHealth Benefits:

Human health is benefited in numerous ways by the consumption of oats, and the plant itself is best known as a nutritious breakfast cereal – it is also used as an animal feed. The ability to lower cholesterol levels in the blood is a major positive point of oats. Research also suggests that consumption of an oat-based diet can result in improved stamina in the person. When they are taken medically for different disorders the oats and especially the oat straw work as a tonic. Medical herbalist often suggests the consumption of the oats straw for the treatment of general debility and as a tonic for a different variety of nervous conditions affecting patients. A mild anti-depressant action is also evident in the grains and the straw of the oats; they can raising the energy levels in the body very gently and help in supporting a weakened nervous system in the body. Nervous exhaustion, as well as depression, is treated using the oats. Eating oats is also useful in combating the profound lethargy which comes as a direct result of multiple sclerosis, and oats are also used as a food in case of chronic neurological pain, and to help insomnia affected patients. Eating oats are supposed to help with insomnia, as the oats seem to be able to stimulate enough nervous energy to enable a person to sleep. As a food, the oats are considered to be one of the principal herbal treatments during convalescence following a long illness – they are easily digested and provide a lot of energy quickly. An emollient and cleansing action is also performed by the oats on the external body. The oats are turned into a decoction and when this is strained into bath water, it will aid in soothing down itchiness and problems linked to skin disorders such as eczema in patients.

 MEDICAL USE:

  • Homeopathy
  • Urinary incontinence

The Habitat of Oats:

The oats plant is a native species of northern Europe. However, nowadays, the oats is grown around the world in almost all temperate regions as a cereal crop and for animal feed production. Late summer is the usual time for harvesting the oats crop.

Researchers Have Found:

Oats may induce greater stamina in athletes, according to the results of a research conducted in Australia, where those athletes given an oat-based diet for three weeks displayed a four percent increase in the stamina and were healthier than others. Muscle function is believed to be aided by eating oats, and researchers suggest oats should be eaten in the meals during training and exercise regimen lasting days to boost stamina and performance.

Constituents:

Oats contain saponins, flavonoids, many minerals, alkaloids, steroidal compounds, vitamins B1, B2, D, E, carotene, wheat protein (gluten), starch, fat.

Recommended Herbal Preparation:

The best way to take the oats is as a morning breakfast cereal or in the form of porridge. Oats herbal tea can be prepared by brewing about a heaped tablespoonful of the oats in 250 ml or a cup of boiling water, letting the oats steep into the water slowly and cooling and straining the drink. This oats herbal tea can be drunk as a treatment for various disorders many times a day or once shortly before sleeping at night. Oats tincture can be used at doses of 3 – 5 ml three times every day for various disorders. The oats are also available in encapsulated and tablet forms; these can be taken at 1-4 grams daily for different disorders. Topical soothing oats soaked bath can help bring soothing relief and ease from irritated skin. The bath water can be prepared by running hot water through a sock having several tablespoons of oats and allowing the oats to steep into the water.

Possible Side Effects and Precautions:

No side effects of any adverse kind have been reported with the use of oats in any form. However, those individuals suffering from gluten sensitivity – celiac disease must consume the oats with some care as it might trigger the same reactions like wheat flour.

Applications:

Oat straw:
FLUID EXTRACT – The fluid extract of the oats can be used at doses of 2-3 ml for treating problems like insomnia, nervous anxiety, as well as depression affecting patients. Oats based tincture is taken in similar doses. The oats based fluid extract is very effective in a combination herbal formula with the vervain herb. The fluid extract made from the oats is also very effective as a nutritive addition to some herbal remedies for the treatment of colds and chills and encourages sweating in the body.

DECOCTION – The herbal oats based decoction can be prepared using the whole dried oats plant, it can be taken for the same disorders treated using the oats fluid extract remedy.

WASH – The herbal oats decoction is also excellent as an herbal healing wash for various skin conditions affecting a person.

Grain:
POULTICE – An oatmeal poultice can be gently rubbed into the skin to treat different skin conditions like eczema, various cold sores, and problems such as shingles in affected people.

Oat Straw Tea:

“He feels his oats” is an expression that is sometimes applied to a lively, energetic young person. Oats are considered an energy food and, as such, prime fare for children and the ailing. The grain contains biologically valuable forms of protein and fat. Oat starch is so easy to digest that it begins breaking down while it is still being chewed. Green oats, harvested just before they bloom, deliver the most important active ingredients in their juice. The tea made of the “still green” grain was an ancient folk remedy in Hildegard’s time and is still used today. Nowadays it is employed to free the body of harmful waste products. It is particularly useful in cases of arthritic joint inflammation and when the uric acid level in the urine is high, as in cases of gout. Green straw tea will release harmful metabolic by-products and simultaneously remove unnecessary water held in the tissues. Naturally, you may be able to obtain the ingredients for this tea fresh, but if not, your health food store offers dried oat straw and ready-made teas. In these, the role of the other herbs is to support the action of the oat straw.

  • 2. 7 oz. (75 g) oat straw
  • 0.4 oz. (10 g) stinging nettle
  • 0.2 oz. (5 g) alpine lady’s mantle (Alchemilla alpina)
  • 0.4 oz. (10 g) St.John’s wort

First, mix all of these dry ingredients well; this is your tea blend. Now add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the mixture to 2 or 3 cups (500- 750 ml) of boiling water. Simmer the herbs for about 20 minutes. An alternative method is to start the tea cold, letting the herbs steep for several hours. The tea only needs 10 minutes of simmering and 10 minutes of steeping before it is ready to strain. The dosage: 3 cups daily, if possible, unsweetened.

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DIY Yarrow Tincture (And 5 Ways To Use It)

Original post-July 10th 2017…

This past spring, I was excited to see a couple of yarrow plants growing next to my driveway. I’ve watched them as they’ve grown, budded, and unfurled their creamy white flowers, and now that they’re full grown, they’re ready to be put to good use.

This week, I decided to take some time to quickly tincture the yarrow tops before it was too late and the flowers dried up. Below, I’m sharing the steps with you in case you too have some fresh yarrow growing nearby that you’d like to preserve and use in the future.

Disclaimer: Yarrow is a herb that has several look-a-likes, some of which are poisonous and even deadly (poison hemlock and water hemlock). Before harvesting and using what you think is yarrow, be sure you’ve positively identified it first!

So the directions below are for tincturing fresh yarrow using the folk method. You can certainly tincture dried yarrow if you want. Just follow the directions for that here.

How To Make A Fresh Yarrow Tincture

1. Clip the flowering tops of your yarrow plant (some stem and leaves are fine too), and lay these out on a white towel for an hour or two so any bugs can crawl off.
2. Chop your wilted yarrow into small pieces using a sharp kitchen knife, and pack it into a glass jar, filling it up, 1-inch from the top of the jar.
3. Cover the plant material with a 190-proof alcohol (Everclear) making sure you completely cover the plant material. (Feel free to substitute this with filling your jar 1/4 full of boiled water and 3/4 full of glycerine if you want to make an alcohol-free tincture.)
4. Put a cap on and let this sit in a cool, dark place for 6-weeks (shaking daily if you can remember) before straining the plant material from the liquid. Compost the plant material, filter the liquid through a coffee filter, and bottle in a clean dropper bottle.
5. Be sure to label your bottle with the name of your tincture, the date it finished, and what it’s tinctured in (alcohol or glycerine).

5 Ways To Use Yarrow Tincture

Yarrow is one of those plants that can be used in a lot of different ways so today I’m gonna share 5 simple ways you can use this tincture if you decide to make (or buy) it. You can learn more about dosing herbs here.

1. As a herbal bitter

Yarrow has bitter properties and is stimulating to the gallbladder and other digestive organs. Not only will taking it before meals help prepare your body to digest your food properly, but if you have a tendency to have sluggish digestion (putting you at risk for gallstones), regular use of yarrow tincture in a small amount of room temperature water before meals along with a high fiber diet can decrease the chance of gallstones forming.

Disclaimer: Do not take yarrow tincture if you currently have gallstones as it can bring on an attack.

2. To reduce a fever

Yarrow is a diaphoretic herb which means it stimulates the body’s pores to open allowing heat to escape via sweating. The next time you have a high fever and you want to safely reduce it to a more comfortable level without taking it completely away, try taking a little yarrow tincture in some hot water every 30 minutes or so.

(You can learn even more about managing fevers naturally here.)

3. To strengthen the vascular system

Yarrow has a great overall effect on strengthening and toning the entire vascular system… arteries, veins, and capillaries. If you bruise easily, have varicose veins, or get burst blood vessels in your eyes or hands often, regularly taking yarrow tincture can help to tone the walls of your blood vessels, giving them more support in the work they do.

4. To cleanse wounds

Yarrow is a well-known herb for wounds thanks to its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, astringent, and analgesic actions. The next time you have a cut, scrape, bite, or puncture, dilute some yarrow tincture in some water and use it to wash the wound well before applying other herbal remedies that promote wound healing.

5. To aid in urinary tract infections

When it comes to herbs, did you know Yarrow is one of the several herbs that are specifically indicated for urinary tract infections? It is thanks to its antimicrobial and diuretic properties. When yarrow tincture is drunk in cool water, it acts as a diuretic… basically making you pee more. And, because of its antibacterial properties, it can decrease the chance of you getting a full-blown UTI as well as aid the body in healing itself if you already have one.

Disclaimer: Some individuals may be sensitive to Yarrow as it’s one of many plants in the Asteraceae family that can cause mild allergic reactions in certain individuals. Be sure to test yourself or your child for an herbal sensitivity before taking large amounts of yarrow. Yarrow is also not recommended for pregnant or nursing mamas!

Herbal Tincture: Echinacea

Just as you can make a tea and extract your herb’s medicinal constituents with hot water, you can do the same with a cool liquid – alcohol. You can grind and soak your fresh or dried herbs in an alcoholic liquid or solvent {such as Vodka}, then strain out the herbs. The resulting liquid is called a tincture.

Alcohol is an excellent solvent {meaning that the medicinal constituents of herbs dissolve in it very well}. In our opinion, alcohol is second only to water. For most herbs, a hot tea will make the best herbal preparation, but in a few cases, tinctures can be an excellent choice.

Why make a tincture instead of a tea? One reason is that alcohol will pull out the active constituents of the herbs as a cool liquid instead of as a hot one, which will better protect certain delicate constituents that can be boiled or steamed away by hot water {such as the oils that contribute to peppermint’s lovely scent, or valerian’s heat-sensitive active compounds}. Alcohol carries the healing components of the herbs into your bloodstream quickly when you drink a tincture. In addition, alcohol is a very good preservative, so tinctures stored away from heat and light remain medicinally active for a year or more {and, depending on the herb, can sometimes remain viable for 2 to 3 years or longer}. Tinctures are also portable and convenient – you can carry a small bottle with you and take it directly by mouth or by adding a few droppers full to water.

Tinctures are made by grinding or finely chopping up fresh or dried herbs, adding them to a solution of alcohol, letting the mixture stand for 2 to 3 weeks, and straining out the herbs. It’s that simple!

You will need to pay attention to the strength of your alcohol because different herbs extract somewhat differently. Alcohol’s strength is known as it’s “proof,” and proof is written as twice the percentage of alcohol in the liquid. Some herbs need a higher proof alcohol to extract all of their medicinal constituents, while other herbs will yield their components better when the level of pure alcohol is lower. If the herb you want to tincture needs a very high alcoholic percentage, you will need to use a higher proof alcohol, for other herbs, you can use a spirit with a lower level of pure alcohol, or you can dilute a high-proof alcohol with water to change its strength. When you are making a tincture, the alcoholic liquid is technically called the “menstruum,” and the herb, when you strain it out at the end, is called the “marc.”

Finding the Right Solution:

To obtain the correct level of alcohol for a menstruum, you have several choices. You can make your tincture with 100-proof vodka {50 percent pure alcohol}, 160-proof vodka {80 percent pure alcohol}, or 190-proof pure ethyl alcohol {95 percent pure alcohol}. Ethyl alcohol is the strongest alcohol you can purchase, but it is restricted in some states; if you can obtain it, pure ethyl alcohol is often superior to vodka as a solvent. Traditionally, brandy has been used as a menstruum {it is 40 percent alcohol by volume}, but modern brandy may contain pigments, flavoring compounds, sugars, and other components that diminish its ability to draw out the medicinal components of the herbs. We recommend using vodka or pure ethyl alcohol when available.

Basic Tincture:

A basic tincture is made with a herb {by weight, given in ounces}, and a menstruum {by volume, given in liquid ounces}. This recipe will make a little more than 1/2 cup of finished tincture.

2 – 3 ounces ground or finely chopped fresh or 1 ounce dried flowers, leaves, bark, seeds, or roots

5 liquid ounces vodka or ethyl alcohol

In a clean glass jar with a lid, combine the herb and the alcohol, making sure that the herb is completely submerged in the menstruum. If it’s not, add more alcohol until the herb is completely covered by about 1 inch of liquid. Many herbalists recommend whirring the herb and the alcohol in a blender or food processor until pureed to make sure that lots of surface area are exposed on the herb. Cover the jar and store it in a dark place, shaking it daily for 2 to 3 weeks. Do not allow the herb to float above the level of the alcohol or the tincture will spoil; add more alcohol if necessary to keep the herb submerged. When the tincture is finished, filter it through cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or a fine-mesh strainer. Then put the herbs into a muslin bag, square of cheesecloth, or even a length of clean hosiery, draw the sides together, and squeeze out the last drops of liquid from the herbs. {You can even buy special herb presses that do the job well.} Compost the herb, pour the tincture into amber bottles, label the bottles with the contents and date, and store.

Dosage: 2 to 4 droppers full tincture, every 2 to 3 hours.

Echinacea Tincture:

You can take this tincture when you feel a cold coming on, or if you’re treating an infection.

12 tablespoons fresh or 6 tablespoons dried ground or finely chopped echinacea root

2 cups 160-proof vodka {if using fresh herbs} or 100-proof vodka {if using dried herbs

In a blender or food processor, combine the echinacea and alcohol. Blend or process until pureed. Pour the liquid into a clean glass jar with a lid, making sure that when it settles, the herb is completely submerged in the menstruum. If it’s not, add more alcohol until the herb is covered by about 1 inch of liquid. Cover the jar and store it in a dark place, shaking it daily, for 2 to 3 weeks. Add more alcohol if necessary to keep the herb submerged. When the tincture is finished, filter it and then squeeze out the last drops of liquid from the herbs. Compost the herb, pour the tincture into amber bottles, label the bottles with the contents and date, and store.

Dosage: 2 to 4 droppers full tincture, every 2 to 3 hours.

Herbalism, Anatomy, Physiology Series

Healing starts with the gut. That’s what our herbalists will tell you. A healthy digestive system supports our mental and emotional well-being, while also processing nutrients and delivering them through the entire body. And it’s not just about what you eat, but rather, what you assimilate. Through the release of the liver’s bile and digestive enzymes and an orchestra of other processes, our bodies are capable of creating fuel from the foods we eat and absorbing essential vitamins and minerals. That’s why a healthy digestive function is so important to herbal practitioners and why many tea and tincture formulas contain herbs to support the gut and the liver.

Herbalists aren’t the only practitioners to recognize the immense powers of the gut. Recent studies show that “gut feelings” aren’t just an old wives’ tale; they’re actually an old wise tale, which highlights what we now know: the gut-brain connection is incredibly intricate, and even the microbiota in our gut can influence our serotonin levels and, in turn, our mood.

Recent studies show that “gut feelings” aren’t just an old wives’ tale; they’re actually an old wise tale…

So How Does it All Work?

Digestion begins when you first see and smell your food. The sight and aroma of a delicious meal trigger the salivary glands, which release saliva to help the body break down sugar and starches. This is why digestive bitters are so good to take medicinally; they stimulate a similar reaction by igniting the taste buds to set off the production of digestive juices, from saliva to bile. We then chew our food, which is one of the first voluntary opportunities we have to promote healthy digestion. By chewing slowly, we can more mindfully process our food and promote healthy digestion.

Once you swallow your food, it then passes through the esophagus through peristalsis, a series of wave-like motions that helps to move food through the digestive tract to the stomach, where it can be stored for up to five hours. With the help of gastric juices, your food breaks down into a liquid substance called chyme and is slowly released into the small intestine. While most of the absorption happens in the small intestine, water and medications are capable of being absorbed quickly through the stomach and then directly into the bloodstream. This is why medicinal teas are so powerful.

To call this intestine small is a bit misleading. This vital organ stretches about 22 feet in length and absorbs critical nutrients through the walls of its lengthy and windy canal. From there, these digested nutrients are absorbed and delivered to the rest of the body via the bloodstream. Next stop on the digestion ride? The large intestine, where the final undigested particles are either absorbed or turned into waste to be released through the rectum. By examining or asking questions about your stool, traditional medicine practitioners can tell if your digestive system and processes of elimination are functioning properly. (Incidentally, this is why consultations involve a lot of talk about number two!) During this whole process, accessory organs like the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas also work in tandem with the stomach and intestines to facilitate digestion.

So what happens if those gut feelings aren’t all that pleasant? Here at Traditional Medicinals, we turn to our herbal allies. There are many different ways to approach digestive dysfunction, depending on the root of the symptom. If nerves are throwing your gut out of whack, we suggest calming nervines like lemon balm and chamomile.* If a heavy celebratory meal has got you feeling like a spaz, ginger is the perfect carminative to warm and soothe digestive spasms and bloating.* Or, if you’re having trouble digesting fats it might be time to use some herbal bitters, like dandelion leaf and root tea, to support liver function.* While the world of herbal remedies can feel overwhelming, digestive support is where plants easily shine. Adding these herbal teas to your eating rituals can do wonders for digestive support.*

Herbs for the Digestive System

Peppermint (Mentha x Piperita): cool and uplifting, a herbal carminative that alleviates digestive discomfort.*

Dandelion Leaf and Root (Taraxacum officinale): while the whole plant can be enjoyed as a medicinal tea for its bitter liver supporting properties,* its leaves can be enjoyed in salad, pesto, and more.*

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): this sweet, soothing tea might not taste like herbal medicine, but each seed contains essential oils rich with anethole and fenchone, known for their capacity to ease bloating and gas.*

Ginger (Zingiber officinale): a warming carminative traditionally used for motion sickness, stomach upset, and cramping.*

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis): used for thousands of years as an aromatic nervine to support digestion and calm frazzled nerves.*

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita): this common flower isn’t just a sleep aid but also a calming flower that eases digestion and relaxes twitchy tummies.*

Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra): while we famously infuse this (inner) bark into our Throat Coat Tea, this demulcent herb soothes gastrointestinal tissues, too.*

Calendula (Calendula officinalis): herbalists prize this golden flower for lending its bright notes to herbal butter, and salads. Traditionally, they use it as a gentle demulcent to moisten and soothe digestive tissue.*

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): this common flower isn’t just a lovely scent, but also a treasure trove of essential oils that work to calm nerves and upset tummies.

While the human body is amazingly complex, herbs that support it don’t have to be. By simply infusing one medicinal herb into your day—like herbal tea—you’re adding hundreds of medicinal compounds in your life that you didn’t have before! It’s always a good idea to connect with a herbal practitioner for individual recommendations.

Elecampane

Inula helenium

Also, Known As

  • Elecampane
  • Horseheal
  • Scabwort

Elecampane (botanical name Inula helenium) is a tall, bristly perennial plant that is native to south-eastern Europe and western Asia. This herb, which bears yellow flowers resembling the daisy, has been naturalized in North America and is found growing in abundance in the moist meadows, fields and along the roads in the central and eastern regions of the United States and neighboring Canada. Elecampane belongs to the Asteraceae family and grows up to a height of four to six feet. The herb has a heavy branching stem that emerges from a basal rosette (a circular arrangement of leaves at the base) with leaves that are large, oval-shaped and pointed at the end. The herb bears vivid yellow flower heads during the period between the middle to the end of the summer. The flower heads of elecampane are generally four inches in diameter and appear like diminutive sunflowers. The root of this herb is large, weighty and elongated. While the exterior of the root is yellowish, the color changes to white inside. The roots of elecampane are medicinally useful and release an aroma akin to violets in blossom.

The elecampane herb is also commonly known as ‘Horseheal’ and ‘Scabwort’ – both names derived from the plant’s original medical use. The herb was used to treat horses and, hence, the name ‘Horseheal’. In ancient time, veterinary practitioners used the herb to treat pulmonary ailments in horses. On the other hand, the plant’s usefulness in healing scabs on sheep gave it the name ‘Scabwort’. The Latin classical name for elecampane is Inula.

Elecampane is an attractive herb with leaves bearing a resemblance to those of the mullein herb, while the blooms appear as petite sunflowers. The herb grows naturally all over Europe and in the temperate climatic regions of Asia and can be found in an area extending in so far as north-western India and southern Siberia. In North America, the herb is found growing in the wild in a region extending from Nova Scotia to North Carolina and again towards the west to Missouri. This is one of the tall herbs that may grow up to a maximum height of six feet.

The stem of elecampane plant is heavy having deep grooves and it branches out at the top. The base of the herb is covered with a rosette of big, oval-shaped leaves that grow up to one to 1 ½ feet long and four inches in width. The leaves comprising the rosette at the base of the elecampane herb are soft and silky with jagged borders. On the other hand, the elecampane leaves that grow on the plant’s stem are comparatively shorter and wider and usually hold on to the stem. The plant bears vivid yellow flowers appearing on outsized terminal heads. The flowers have a diameter varying from three to four inches. The root of the herb resembles a rhizome. These tuber-like roots of elecampane are large, juicy and branch out. The roots release an aroma resembling violets in bloom (as mentioned before).

Propagating the herb from its offshoots and/ or root cuttings is the best way to grow elecampane. The root cuttings, which should be ideally two inches in length, are usually done from mature plants during autumn. The root cuttings need to be covered with somewhat damp, sandy soil and preserved in a room having a steady temperature around 50°F and 60°F during the winter months. By the time it is spring, the root cuttings will develop new shoots and they may be planted in their permanent positions outdoors once the threat of frosting is over. For ideal growth of the plants, the root cuttings with shoots need to be positioned in spaced out rows three feet from one another and there ought to be an approximate distance of 18 inches between two plants. Alternately, elecampane may also be propagated from its seeds without much trouble. Growing elecampane from its roots is best for indoors and in a cold frame during the early phase of spring. Even when the plants are grown from seeds indoors, they need to be transplanted outdoors once the risk of frosting is over. Generally, the elecampane herbs have a preference for a clay loam that is damp and also in damp soils with a good drainage system. The plants also have the aptitude to grow in partial shades.

elecampane-root

Of all the parts of the elecampane, its roots are used for treating various conditions. As mentioned earlier, the roots of the herb are collected during the second autumn of the plant’s existence – precisely after it has withered two frosting seasons. In fact, the roots of the herb are regarded to be effective for remedial purposes only in the second year of their growth. In primordial Rome, people used the medication prepared with elecampane roots to treat indigestion following a sumptuous meal in a banquet. The herb became a part of traditional medication when the people of ancient Rome and Greece used it as a remedy for cold, as they believed that it helped perspiration and also to be effective in drawing out phlegm. During the 19 the century, people boiled the elecampane roots in a sugar solution to prepare cough syrups and lozenges to cure asthma. Some people consumed these sugary roots simply as candy.

The roots of elecampane initially taste slightly sticky, but subsequently, it becomes aromatic after chewing them for some time. In addition, the roots are also somewhat bitter and overpowering and possess a pleasant scent something like the odor of camphoraceous orris.

People in earlier days also considered the elecampane roots to be beneficial for the stomach. In fact, the Romans used it regularly to overcome indigestion. Later on, elecampane became the principal herbal element in a digestive wine prepared during the medieval period known as potio Paulina or the ‘drink of Paul’. In fact, ‘drink of Paul’ referred to St. Paul’s instructions recorded in the Bible regarding the use of a small amount of wine for the health of the stomach – ‘use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake’.

Apart from the herb being beneficial for the stomach, the bright yellow blooms of the elecampane made it an attractive garden plant. However, the early European settlers in North America did not cultivate the plant for either of these virtues. On the contrary, they grew the plant for its remedial value in treating skin ailments, especially on horses and sheep. The roots of the herb were widely popular for treating pulmonary diseases in horses and scabs on sheep. Such veterinary use of the herb gave it its common names – ‘Horseheal’ and ‘Scabwort’. In addition, the roots of elecampane were also used to treat humans, especially respiratory ailments. Interesting enough, this is one reason why the herb was once cataloged in the United States Pharmacopeia.

Plant Parts Used

Root, flowers.

Remedial Properties

Since time immemorial elecampane has been regarded as an effective remedy against respiratory disease and as a stimulating herb for the respiratory system. The herb has a warming impact on the lungs along with its aptitude to tenderly invigorate coughing up or drawing out phlegm (clearing the chest of mucus accumulation) rendered elecampane a harmless medication for the young as well as the old. The herb may be utilized for nearly all chest problems and is highly effective when the patient is weak or incapacitated.

The remedial properties of elecampane have resulted in its specific use for curing chronic bronchitis and bronchial asthma. The herb is especially effective in these conditions since it not only relieves the linings of the bronchial tube but is also a useful expectorant. Besides these virtues, elecampane has a somewhat bitter flavor that facilitates recuperation by perking up the digestive system as well as in the absorption of ingested nourishments by the body.

For ages, people have been taking preparations made with elecampane roots to stimulate the digestive process. The herb promotes appetite and, at the same time alleviates dyspepsia (stomach upset). In addition, the herb is also effective to treat and flush out worms from the body.

Long back, practitioners of herbal medicine prescribed formulations prepared with the elecampane root to treat tuberculosis. Elecampane has the aptitude to blend suitably with further antiseptic herbs and, hence, it is still used to cure contagions like flu and tonsillitis. The herb has curative properties, while its tonic action harmonizes with elecampane’s capability to offset infections.

Habitat and Growing Elecampane

Elecampane is indigenous to Eurasia, especially south-eastern Europe, and western Asia, but now has been naturalized in various temperate climatic zones, which includes several regions of North America, particularly the United States. Apart from the naturally growing elecampane, the plant is also cultivated for its remedial properties. Elecampane may be propagated by root division or from its seeds during spring. This herb has a preference for damp and well-drained soil. The root of the herb, which actually possesses all the medicinal properties of the plant, is harvested in autumn, sliced into pieces and dehydrated at high temperatures. While the herb is no longer popular in England and largely not cultivated there, people in other countries of the continent, such as Germany, Holland, and Switzerland still continue to cultivate elecampane for its medicinal properties. In fact, the herb is still cultivated extensively close to the German township of Collada, which is near Leipzig.

The elecampane herb thrives well in locations that are damp and shady and also grows well in the common garden soil. However, the plant thrives best when the soil is rich and loamy with the ground being moist, but having a proper drainage system.

It takes little effort to grow the elecampane plants. If you are propagating the plant with its seeds, it is best to sow the mature seeds in cold frames or outdoors during the spring. Nevertheless, the best way to propagate elecampane is to use root cuttings from mature plants with an eye or bud. The root cuttings are normally done during autumn. Each root cutting should be approximately two inches in length and they need to be covered with somewhat moist sandy soils immediately after harvesting. During the winter months, the root cutting should be preserved in a room under a consistent temperature ranging between 50°F and 60°F. These roots grow roots quite easily and develop new shoots by the next spring. Once the frosting period is over, these root cuttings with new shoots may be planted in their permanent positions outdoors. The root cutting need to be planted in rows about three feet apart and the plants should have a distance of about 12 inches to 18 inches from one another. After placing the root cuttings in their permanent position, it is necessary to keep the ground free of weeds. The soil around the plantation should be dug up a little during the following summer with a view to augment the root growth. Usually, the roots are ready for use during the second autumn of their existence. It may be noted here that elecampane roots are medically viable only when they are two years old.

A good stock of elecampane plants may also be obtained by slicing the roots into small sections, each measuring two inches long, and covering them with luxuriant, light, sandy soil and preserving them in mild temperatures during the winter month. The elecampane plants cannot withstand frosting and, hence, care should be taken to protect them during this season. In fact, even after they are planted outdoors, they may require protection from frosts during the first year of their existence.

Research

Way back in 1804, scientists were able to segregate inulin from elecampane for the first time and the substance derived its name from the herb. Inulin has been found to possess the property of secreting mucous (mucilaginous) and this aspect of the substance facilitates in soothing the linings of the bronchial tubes.

Alantolactone: Alantolactone found in elecampane is believed to possess anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, this element inhibits the secretion of mucous and invigorates the immune system.

In general, elecampane possesses a tonic, expectorant impact and stimulates drawing out a cough formed by the mucous secretions from the lungs. The tonic and expectorant properties of elecampane are attributed to the volatile oil enclosed by the herb as well as the antiseptic aspects of the herb.

In fact, in 1804, Valentine Rose of Berlin found that elecampane encloses plenty of the substance known as inulin. While Valentine names the substance Alantin derived from the plant’s German name Alantwurzel and French name Aunée, by and large, the name inulin proposed by botanist Thompson was accepted. The chemical composition of inulin is similar to that of starch, but to some degree, it is also opposite of starch. In effect, inulin replaces starch in the root system of Compositae (plants with heads made up of several florets). While the plant is living, inulin easily disbands in the diluted sap and when the plants are dead and dried, this substance accumulates in the cells as shapeless heaps that are inactive in polarized light. Although inulin and starch appear to be alike, the former differs from starch as it releases a yellow color, rather than blue, when it interacts with iodine. In addition, inulin also differs from starch in a number of ways – when it dissolves in boiling water, it does not form any paste, as in the case of starch, and it remains unchanged when it sediments after the water solution cools down. Moreover, unlike starch, inula does not produce any volatile compound when it interacts with nitric acid. However, when inula is heated for a long period or reacts with watered down acids, it first transforms into inulin and then to levulin eventually changing to levulose. Inula somewhat transforms into sugar when it is fermented.

In 1864, Julius von Sachs demonstrated that it is possible to hasten the extraction of inulin in the globular mass of needle-shaped crystalline form by submerging the elecampane roots either in alcohol or glycerine.

In fact, the quantity of inulin present in elecampane differs depending on the season but is found in maximum amount during autumn. Hence, the plant is harvested during autumn. In 1870, Hans Drangendorff made inulin a subject of a highly comprehensive dissertation. He, however, acquired the root of elecampane during October and hence, it had approximately 44 percent of the substance. In spring, the herb contains a mere 19 percent of inulin as much of it is substituted by or transformed into levulin, mucilage, sugar and different glucosides. It has been found that inulin is extensively dispersed in the perennial roots of Compositae and is naturally present in Goodeniaceae, Campanulaceae, Stylidiaceae, and Lobeliaceae. In addition, the substance is also found occurring naturally in the root of the White Ipecacuanha, belonging to the class of Violaceae, mostly found in Brazil.

It has been found that inulin is intimately related to inulenin in elecampane. Inulin may be obtained in the form of microscopic needles that have an aptitude to dissolve in cold water and diluted alcohol, while pseudo-inulin that is found in the form of uneven grains and are highly soluble in hot water. Pseudo-inulin also dissolves in diluted and warm alcohol but does not dissolve in chilled alcohol.

In early 1660, Le Febre noticed when the elecampane roots are exposed to refinement using water, it formed a substance that could be turned into crystals at the top of the receiver and comparable crystals could be detected when thin segments of the herb’s roots are heated watchfully; Le Febre also observed that the crystals were formed like natural blooming on the exterior of the roots that have been left unattended for prolonged periods. The efflorescence formed on the outer side of the roots was believed to be a separate body called helenin or elecampane camphor. However, studies undertaken by Kallen in 1874 demonstrated that the efflorescence could be identified as two different substances that had the aptitude to form crystals. Kallen named these two different crystallizable substances as Helenin, a mass having no essence or hue, and Alantcamphor, which possessed a flavor and scent similar to peppermint. Further research on the subject, discovered that the crystalline substance formed by elecampane roots the following distillation with water in the ratio of 1:2 percent and related with approximately 1 percent of the unstable oil enclosed by the herb, actually comprises alantolactone, iso-alantolactone as well as alantolic acid. All these substances are crystalline in form, having a near monochrome, but possess a slight scent and essence. The oily part of the distillate known as alantol is a dull fluid possessing a scent similar to peppermint.

Constituents

  • Inulin (up to 44%)
  • Volatile oil (up to 4%), containing alantol and sesquiterpene lactones (including alantolactone)
  • Triterpene saponins ( dammarane dienol)

Remedial Application

As discussed earlier, of all its parts, only the tuber roots and sometimes the petite yellow flowers of elecampane are used for remedial purposes. Several preparations made with the elecampane roots, such as tincture, decoction, syrup, and wash, are used to treat different conditions. On the other hand, the flowers of the herb are only used to prepare a decoction.

Root:
The root of elecampane possesses several medicinal properties, including diuretic, stimulant, diaphoretic (a medication that promotes sweating), expectorant (a medication that promotes discharge of phlegm), and antiseptic, acerbic and mild tonic. In ancient times, medications prepared with elecampane roots were used by herbalists to cure certain ailments in women, edema or excess fluid accumulation in the body tissues as well as skin infections.
DECOCTION – A decoction prepared with the roots of elecampane is used to treat conditions like asthma, bronchitis, problems of the upper respiratory system as well as relieve the symptoms of hay fever. The decoction should be consumed on a regular basis as a common stimulant or to cure venerable chronic respiratory problems. The decoction also serves as a digestive stimulant and refreshment for the liver.
TINCTURE – The tincture prepared with the roots of elecampane is taken to cure weakness as well as chronic respiratory problems.
WASH – The decoction prepared with elecampane roots or the watered down tincture made from the herb’s roots may be used as a wash to cure eczema (inflammation of the skin), rashes and also varicose ulcers.
SYRUP – Prepare elecampane syrup by boiling sliced roots of the herb in a sugar solution. Alternately, the syrup may also be prepared with elecampane decoction. Take the syrup at regular intervals to alleviate a cough.
Flowers:
In addition to the tuberous roots, the bright yellow flowers of elecampane enclose certain medicinal properties and, hence, they are used to prepare decoction along with other herbs and organic substances for treating a number of conditions. In addition, the flowers of the herb are also used to prepare the medicinal syrup.
DECOCTION – Decoction prepared with elecampane flowers may be taken to relieve queasiness, vomiting or coughs with profuse phlegm. On the other hand, prepare a formulation blending 10 g of elecampane flowers with 10 g freshly cut ginger root, 5 ml of licorice root and 10 ml of ban xi and take it on a regular basis to cure an overload of phlegm in the stomach accompanied with queasiness or nausea, flatulence, swollenness of the abdominal region and vomiting of mucus.
SYRUP – Syrup prepared by boiling the elecampane flower decoction with sugar may be taken in dosages of 10 ml to 20 ml for treating coughs.

Vermifuge wine

A wine prepared with elecampane roots and other ingredients, especially alcoholic beverages, is useful in expelling worms and other parasites from the intestines. The following ingredients are required to prepare this vermifuge wine:

  • Seven ounces (200 g) fresh or dried finely chopped elecampane root
  • One cup (250 ml) gin or vodka
  • One-fourth cup (75 g) sugar cane
  • Four cups (one liter) red wine

Soak the chopped elecampane root in alcohol for about a week in an amber-hued jar and store it in a dark place. After a week of maceration, add the red wine and sugar to the solution and leave the solution for about a month, shaking the jar at regular intervals. After a month has passed, filter the solution and store it in a clean glass jar. The herbal wine prepared is aromatic and possesses aperients (mildly laxative), digestive and stimulant properties. Take the wine in a dosage of one ounce (25 ml) in a liqueur glass prior to meals for three successive days. After taking the wine for three days, give a break for 10 days and continue taking it for another three consecutive days. Repeat this treatment thrice. Here is a word of caution – it is advisable not to drink this preparation if you have an ulcer, are suffering from diarrhea or are in the initial stage of pregnancy it may cause undesirable side effects.