Elecampane (Xuan Fu Hua)

Botanical Name: Inula helenium

Elecampane is a popular herb in tablet form. It is also used to make tea, tincture, and essential oil. It is a popular treatment for various conditions including lung infections, and digestive issues, and as a support for kidney and immune health.

Watch a short video, from Ann Christensen, Founder and Creator of White Rabbit Institute of Healing™ – Elecampane – A Little Goes a Long Way.

Below is an overview of elecampane, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of elecampane.

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Western Name: Elecampane

Also Known As: Flower – Elf Dock, Wild Sunflower, Scabwort, Velvet Dock, Marchalan. Root – Horseheal

Organs/Systems: Respiratory, Digestive, Skin

Key Actions: Expectorant, Antitussive, Antimicrobial, Sedative, Anthelmintic, Diaphoretic, Stomachic, Antiparasitic, Relaxant, Warming, Tonic, Alterative, Diuretic, Carminative, Gentle Stimulant, In large doses Emetic.

Medicinal Uses: Common cold, chronic bronchitis, whooping cough, asthma, pleurisy, digestive disorders, menstrual cramps, sciatica, dropsy, worms (including roundworm, threadworm, hookworm, and whipworm), distention, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, angina pectoris.


Pin Yin: Xuan Fu Hua (Flower, translates as “Revolved, Upturned Flower”) / Jin Fei Cao (Aerial Part of the Plant) / Tu Mu Xiang (Root)

Also Known As: N/A

Meridians: Flower – Liver, Lung, Stomach, Spleen. Root – Lung, Liver, Spleen, Stomach.

Key Actions: Flower – Redirects Qi Downward, Expels Phlegm. Root – Builds Qi, Restores the Lungs, Dissolves Phlegm from the Lungs and Stomach, Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach, Moves Qi, Stimulates the Liver and Uterus, Dredges the Kidneys, Releases Toxins.

Medicinal Uses: Flower – Wheezing, congestive fluid disorders with copious sputum, nausea, vomiting due to Cold Deficiency in the Stomach or Spleen.  Root – Autoimmune diseases, exhaustion, daytime sweating, weakness, palpitations, chronic cough, bronchial asthma, coughing up copious white or clear sputum, cough with sputum, bloating, diarrhea, loss of appetite, rattling in the chest, distension, bloating, full feeling and pain in the chest or abdomen, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, menstrual cramping, constipation, jaundice, irritability, painful scanty urination, headache, edema, cholera, malaria, dysentery.

Basic Habitat / Botany:

Elecampane leaves are similar to the downy soft leaves of mullein. Its flowers produce narrow rays of petals that look like small sunflowers, about 4 inches in diameter, and bloom from mid to late summer. The stems are deeply furrowed and rise from a basal rosette of large, ovate, pointed leaves. The lower part of the stems are hairy, becoming sparsely branched and downy towards the top. The plant can grow to be 3-6 feet tall.

Elecampane is found throughout Great Britain, Europe, the temperate zones of the west Himalayas, and eastern and central North America. It likes damp meadows, well-drained loamy soil in damp, partly shaded environments. It is often found along roadways, grasslands, and fields.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Flowers, Roots, Rhizomes

Flavors/Temps: Root – Bitter, Acrid, Warm. Flower – Bitter, Acrid, Slightly Salty, Warm.  Aerial Parts – Salty, Slightly Bitter, Warming

Caution: Considered safe, though a few people may have an allergic reaction. High doses can cause vomiting and nausea. It is not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Key Constituents: Inulin, Quercetin, Mucilage, Volatile oils (Including Helenin, Camphor, Alantol), Alantonic acid, Thymol derivative, Sesquiterpene lactones (Including Alantolactone, Isoalantolactone), Triterpenoid saponins, Sterols, Bitters, Resin, Pectin, Alkaloid.

History/Folklore: The key to elecampane is its ability to clear mucus from the lungs, bronchial tubes, sinuses, liver, and digestive tract. Therefore, it treats the full range of phlegm disorders in the respiratory and digestive systems, including the liver. Conditions include chronic bronchitis, nausea, gallstones, and diarrhea. Compared to other popularly used Western herbs, elecampane is most similar to what is known in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) as a “Qi tonic.” The herb Tonifies the Lungs, Spleen, Heart, Liver, and Kidneys, making it an excellent example of a true Qi tonic.

Elecampane is an excellent herb for treating long-term respiratory ailments such as asthma or chronic bronchitis. Traditionally it was used to treat pulmonary tuberculosis and emphysema. It strengthens the lungs, easing coughing and wheezing. It is an excellent lung tonic for those who are prone to asthma. The longer you use it the better it works, it is a tonic herb and works slowly and steadily. Small daily doses are all that are needed. It is known for penetrating to a person’s core to heal, lift the spirit, and open the lungs. Large doses can cause nausea and vomiting and are not necessary. Small doses of this powerful, effective, penetrating herb are sufficient.

Elecampane blends well with mullein and licorice to help clear the lungs. If a person is especially weak in the heart and lungs, combining elecampane with hawthorn and used long-term can make all the difference in a person’s recovery. It is a good herb when a cleansing action is needed, especially when removing and dissolving phlegm from the body.

The flowers and the roots have similar properties and taste, though the flowers can also tend to be slightly salty and the roots are not. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the flowers are also viewed as more moving than the roots. They are used to help Move Qi and Phlegm Downward. The flowers are considered to be especially helpful for treating nausea after chemotherapy.

Traditionally in China, the flowers were steamed and dried. Today they are fried in honey. This is done by soaking the flowers with honey that has been thinned by adding water and then baking or frying the prepared flowers over moderate heat until they are no longer sticky.

Herba Inulae/Jin Fei Cao is the name of the aerial part of the plant, it is used in China to Warm, Transform Phlegm, and Stop Coughing. While similar to the flower and roots in actions, it is used to treat more superficial problems. It is salty, slightly bitter, and warming.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, besides using the roots in teas, decoctions, washes, and extracts, a preparation of the root is also made by dry-frying or baking it until it is yellow, this moderates the acrid taste of the herb and improves its ability to treat diarrhea and nausea. Good quality roots are large, and intact, with a golden tinge and thin white hair.

The Chinese also make use of the bitter leaves and stalks. These are considered to have strong diuretic properties, helping to Move Pathogens and Phlegm Downward and out of the Body. In contrast, the flowers are better for relieving coughs by expectorating Phlegm Upwards and out.  Research in China confirms the herb’s antibacterial properties and its stimulating effect on the nervous and digestive systems and the adrenal cortex.

The constituent inulin, is a phytochemical that coats and soothes bronchial passages and works as an expectorant helping to reduce the flow of phlegm associated with chronic bronchitis or bad colds. Elecampane contains the richest sources of inulin compared to other herbs. The amount of inulin available will vary per season, with the highest levels in the fall.

The constituent alantolactone is known to have expectorant, secretolytic, antitussive, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. It is also the substance that helps rid the body of intestinal parasites.

The sesquiterpene lactone constituents in elecampane have been shown to have potent healing, antiseptic, and relaxant properties that contribute to the herb’s ability to treat coughs, colds, and bronchitis.

The plant’s bitter qualities support its action as a stomachic. The bitter taste stimulates the appetite and improves digestive function.

The roots are thick cylindrical branched rhizomes that are yellow on the outside and white on the inside. They give off a scent that is similar to blooming violets. The roots can be distinguished from belladonna, dandelion, and marshmallow, by noting the presence of oil glands, which none of these similar roots contain. Elecampane roots are also not starchy (belladonna roots are starchy) and lack any well-marked radiate structure in the wood dandelion and marshmallow both have clear radiated structures (marshmallow) or ringed barks (dandelion).

The roots can be used to help menstrual cramping due to estrogen and progesterone insufficiency, including delayed scanty menses.

Typical dosing for the dried root used in decoction is 1.5 – 3 g taken 3x daily, in liquid extract (1:1 in 25% alcohol) of 1-2 ml taken 3x daily, in tincture (1:5 in 25% alcohol) of 3-5 ml taken 3x daily. To make a cup of tea from the root, add 1 tsp to 1 pint of boiling water. It can be taken 2x daily.

Elecampane essential oil is also used to boost the immune system, prevent bacterial and intestinal infections, improve digestion, and support proper lung function. Elecampane essential oil is one of the few essential oils prescribed by doctors. Studies have clearly shown the effectiveness of this essential oil in supporting the lungs, aiding digestion, building immunity, and preventing infections. It is also used to help pregnant women suffering from water retention and as an aid to rid toxins from the body through urination. In Tibet, the oil is blended with ginger and used to prevent constipation which can lead to constipation-related cancer.

The herb is used to enhance psychic abilities and was used in ancient times as part of a blend to protect against witches. One of its common names, elfwort, refers to the plant being a favorite of the elves as a remedy if you were shot by tiny elf arrows—a reference to feeling bad without knowing why. Stabbing the root was also said to cancel elf magic.

In Medieval times the herb was one of the main ingredients in a digestive wine known as “Potio Paulina”, named after St. Paul’s suggestion to use a little wine to ease stomach aches. A cordial was made by infusing the root with sugar or honey and blending this infusion with currants in port wine. This was enjoyed as an aid to digestion. It was grown in all herb gardens as a culinary and medicinal plant. The roots used to be chewed by travelers when passing near polluted waters to protect against noxious substances.

Legend says that the name Inula comes from Helen of Troy whose tears are said to have turned into the healing plant we know as elecampane. Hippocrates, “the father of medicine,” said that elecampane stimulates the brain, kidneys, stomach, and uterus.

The common name, Marchalan, was used by Welsh physicians of the thirteenth century and was its common name in the Middle Ages.

The Druids used the herb as an incense in rituals for initiation and blessing babies.

The Spanish used the herb in surgical dressings.

Elecampane is a flavoring agent in digestive liqueurs, vermouth, absinthe, cough syrups, pastilles, and candy. It is also used as a fragrance for cosmetics and soaps. It can be used to make a blue dye.

Did you know?

Cough Drops

The roots are popularly used to make cough drops and lozenges to ease asthma and even candy.


Sheep & Horses

Elecampane is used in veterinary medicine as an effective remedy for skin diseases of sheep and horses, hence the common names: horseheal and scabwort.

Fun fact!


The constituent alantolactone is known to have anthelmintic properties making it effective for treating roundworm, threadworm, hookworm, and whipworm infestations.

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