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What is Elecampane?


Elecampane is obtained from the dried cut root and rhizomes of lnula helenium. Extracts generally contain a volatile oil whose chief components are alantolactone; isoalantolactone; 11,13-dihydroisoalantolactone; 11, 13-dihydroalanlantolactone; and other sesquiterpen-lactones.

Traditionally, elecampane has been used to treat coughs, particularly those associated with bronchitis, asthma, and whooping cough. The herb has also been used to treat poor digestion and general complaints of the intestinal tract.

Alantolactone can be an irritant to the intestinal tract and along with other sesquiterpene lactones in elecampane may cause localized irritation in the mouth and intestinal tract.

Amounts several times larger than those stated above may cause vomiting, diarrhoea, spasms, and signs of paralysis. If these symptoms occur, people should contact their local poison control center. Pregnant or nursing women should not use elecampane.

These compounds may exhibit variable antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, diuretic, expectorant, and hypotensive activities. Elecampane is available as fluid extract, in powdered root preparations, and topical products.

Reported uses:
Elecampane is used to treat diabetes, hypertension, diseases of the respiratory tract such as bronchitis, asthma, and cough, diseases of the GI tract, and diseases of the kidney and lower urinary tract. It's also used to stimulate appetite and bile production, to treat dyspepsia and menstrual complaints, and to promote diuresis.

Administration:
Dried root: 2 to 3 g by mouth three times a day
Fresh root: 1 to 2 tablespoons by mouth three times a day
Extract: 3 g dried root in 20 ml alcohol and 10 ml water by mouth three times a day
Tea (steep 1 g of ground herb in boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes): 1 cup every 4 hours up to three times a day as an expectorant. Hazards:
Adverse reactions associated with elecampane include mucous membrane irritation, allergic contact dermatitis and, with larger doses, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. There is a theoretical interaction with herbs with sedative properties and with hypoglycemic drugs, sedatives, and antihypertensives.

** Those with a history of hypersensitivity or contact dermatitis should avoid use. Pregnant and breast-feeding patients should also avoid use.

Risks:
Safety Risk Large doses of elecampane could cause signs of paralysis.

Clinical considerations:
Elecampane may interfere with the intended therapeutic effect of conventional drugs.

Monitor patient for signs of allergic reaction, especially dermatologic reactions.

The alantolactone component can irritate mucous membranes.

Caution:
If overdose occurs, treat with gastric lavage, intestinal emptying, and activated charcoal.

Instruct patient to keep this and other herbal products out of children's reach.

Instruct patient not to store the herb in a plastic container.

Tell patient to remind pharmacist of any herbal or dietary supplement that he's taking when obtaining a new prescription.

Advise patient to consult his health care provider before using an herbal preparation because a treatment with proven efficacy may be available.

Safety Risk:
Advise patient that little evidence exists supporting therapeutic use of elecampane and that the herb can cause an allergic reaction.

Research summary:
The concepts behind the use of elecampane and the claims made regarding its effects haven't yet been validated scientifically.

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