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Elecampane

Inula helenium

Elecampane is a herb used in traditional herbal medicine, the root is the part of the plant most commonly used for medicinal purposes. Elecampane is known for its traditional use for many conditions ranging from respiratory conditions, digestive health, parasites, to stimulate urine excretion, diabetes and to ease menstrual cramps [i] [ii]. This herb was recognised by the Ancient Greeks and Romans; in accordance with the teachings of Hippocrates it stimulates organs such as the brain, kidneys, stomach and uterus. It was also said to be helpful for chronic itching, skin eruptions and boils [iii]. Traditional Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine use this root for bronchitis and asthma.


Respiratory Health, Colds and Coughs:


Elecampane has a long history of use in respiratory conditions such as allergic responses and those caused by microbial infections. Elecampane is traditionally used for conditions affecting the lungs such as asthma, bronchitis and whooping cough [iv]. The benefits include reduced bronchial spasms which cause coughing. It is also an expectorant, meaning it helps to loosen and expel phlegm from the lungs.


A study in children with an acute cough, associated with an upper respiratory tract infection, provided subjects with a herbal cough mixture containing an extract of elecampane. Compared with the control group, children receiving the herbal elecampane mixture showed an early and significant reduction in night-time and day-time coughing, as judged by scores on a specific scale. The duration of the cough experienced was also shorter than that of the children treated with placebo [v].


One test tube study found that the compound alantolactone from elecampane prevented airway inflammation caused by cigarette smoke exposure. The NF-kB pathway controls DNA and the instructions influencing the creation of inflammatory cytokines (inflammation-causing proteins in the body). The elecampane compound worked on the NF-kB pathway of inflammation to reduce levels of tissue inflammation, it was found this helped to open airways. As such, authors of the study also proposed elecampane as potentially being an effective therapy in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) a chronic inflammatory lung disease that often arises from smoking and causes long-term breathing difficulties [vi].


The herb has also been used to promote sweating, which is useful in regulating body temperature in cases of fevers or chills.


Antimicrobial Action:


Test tube studies have found that compounds from elecampane extract were effective in killing the bacteria, Staphylococcus. It was also suggested by the authors that further research should be conducted to propose these compounds in the setting of antibiotic-resistant infectious diseases [vii].


It was also found via in vitro study that these same compounds from elecampane care effective against tuberculosis causing microbes and opportunistic disease causing yeasts such as candida [viii] [ix].


Chronic Disease:


An unresolved imbalance in the production of reactive oxygen species (which cause oxidative stress) can cause damage to cells and tissues. This damage results in the development or potentiation of chronic diseases such as chronic inflammation, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and obesity. It has been found that metabolites in elecampane can play an important role in the prevention and treatment of such oxidative stress-related diseases. A review looked at 120 articles to this effect and highlighted the most active compounds with special emphasis on their antioxidative-stress mechanism of action. Alantolactone and 1-O-acetylbritannilactone were pinpointed as the outstanding beneficial compounds from elecampane to fight against chronic disease [x].


Diabetes:


Findings from an in vitro study suggest the potential implication of isoalantolactone (an active component of elecampane) for the management of diabetes. Mechanisms such as the AMPK-dependent signalling pathway are altered by this component, which increases energy expenditure in skeletal muscle cells and thus improves blood sugar control. Metabolic health markers including body mass index and blood lipid profiles were also improved by the improvement in blood sugar control [xi].


Pain and Menstrual Cramps:


A study in rats found that an alcohol-based extract of Inula helenium leaf (elecampane) may benefit from a reduced perception of pain as well as having anti-inflammatory effects [xii]. Such findings can be applied to the traditional uses of elecampane to reduce pain and inflammation in conditions such as pain from inflammation and menstrual cramps.


Safety:


Precautions:


Allergy:


One study suggested that the sesquiterpene lactone compounds in elecampane root could trigger a multi-body system allergic reaction among people with a sensitivity to plants in the Compositae family, which includes ragweed and other related plants [xiii] [xiv].


Pregnancy and Breastfeeding:


Elecampane is not deemed safe during pregnancy and lactation.


Diabetes:


Due to the effects of elecampane on blood sugar control, there is concern that blood sugar may be lowered excessively in those with diabetes or on diabetes medication. It is recommended that blood sugar should be monitored carefully.


High Blood Pressure:


Elecampane may alter blood pressure. In the case of high or low blood pressure, it is recommended to monitor blood pressure levels whilst taking elecampane.


Interactions:


Sedative Medications: Medications which act on the central nervous system (CNS) may interact with elecampane and might cause excessive sedation causing drowsiness. Examples of these drugs include clonazepam, lorazepam, phenobarbital, zolpidem among others.





Recommended For

Cough , Allergies (Respiratory) , Viral Infection

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