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Least Viewed Herbs

Finocchio
Southernwood
(archangelica Officinalis Hoffm)
And There Is Pansies That's For Thoughts
Acorn
Poppy
Bluebell (wild Hyacinth)
Asparagus
Anemone (wood)
House Leek (crassulaceoe)



Elecampane








Elecampane, writes William Coles, is one of the plants whereof
England may boast as much as any, for there grows none better in
the world than in England, let apothecaries and druggists say what
they will. It is a tall, stout, downy plant, from three to five feet
high, of the Composite order, with broad leaves, and bright,
yellow flowers. Campania is the original source of the plant
(Enula campana), which is called also Elf-wort, and Elf-dock.
Its botanical title is Helenium inula, to commemorate Helen of
Troy, from whose tears the herb was thought to have sprung, or
whose hands were full of the leaves when Paris carried her off
from Menelaus. This title has become corrupted in some districts
to Horse-heal, or Horse-hele, or Horse-heel, through a double,
blunder, the word inula being misunderstood for hinnula, a
colt; and the term Hellenium being thought to have something
to do with healing, or [173] heels; and solely on this account the
Elecampane has been employed by farriers to cure horses of scabs
and sore heels. Though found wild only seldom, and as a local
production in our copses and meadows, it is cultivated in our
gardens as a medicinal and culinary herb. The name inula is
only a corruption of the Greek elenium; and the herb is of
ancient repute, having been described by Dioscorides. An old
Latin distich thus celebrates its virtues: Enula campana reddit
proecordia sana--Elecampane will the spirits sustain. Julia
Augusta, said Pliny, let no day pass without eating some of the
roots of Enula condired, to help digestion, and cause mirth.

The inula was noticed by Horace, Satire viii., 51:--

Erucos virides inulas ego primus amaras
Monstravi incoquere.

Also the Enula campana has been identified with the herb Moly
(of Homer), apo tou moleuein, from its mitigating pain.

Prior to the Norman Conquest, and during the Middle Ages, the
root of Elecampane was much employed in Great Britain as a
medicine; and likewise it was candied and eaten as a sweetmeat.
Some fifty years ago the candy was sold commonly in London, as
flat, round cakes, being composed largely of sugar, and coloured
with cochineal. A piece was eaten each night and morning for
asthmatical complaints, whilst it was customary when travelling
by a river to suck a bit of the root against poisonous exhalations
and bad air. The candy may be still had from our confectioners,
but now containing no more of the plant Elecampane than there is
of barley in barley sugar.

Gerard says: The flowers of this herb are in all [174] their
bravery during June and July; the roots should be gathered in the
autumn. The plant is good for an old cough, and for such as cannot
breathe freely unless they hold their necks upright; also it is of
great value when given in a loch, which is a medicine to be licked
on. It voids out thick clammy humors, which stick in the chest and
lungs. Galen says further: It is good for passions of the
huckle-bones, called sciatica. The root is thick and substantial,
having, when sliced, a fragrant aromatic odour.

Chemically, it contains a crystalline principle, resembling
camphor, and called helenin; also a starch, named inulin,
which is peculiar as not being soluble in water, alcohol, or ether;
and conjointly a volatile oil, a resin, albumen, and acetic acid.
Inulin is allied to starch, and its crystallized camphor is separable
into true helenin, and alantin camphor. The former is a powerful
antiseptic to arrest putrefaction. In Spain it is much used as a
surgical dressing, and is said to be more destructive than any other
agent to the bacillus of cholera. Helenin is very useful in
ulceration within the nose (ozoena), and in chronic bronchitis to
lessen the expectoration. The dose is from a third of a grain to two
grains.

Furthermore, Elecampane counteracts the acidity of gouty
indigestion, and regulates the monthly illnesses of women. The
French use it in the distillation of absinthe, and term it l'aulnee,
d'un lieu plante d'aulnes ou elle se plait. To make a decoction,
half-an-ounce of the root should be gently boiled for ten minutes
in a pint of water, and then allowed to cool. From one to two
ounces of this may be taken three times in the day. Of the
powdered root, from half to one teaspoonful may be given for a
dose.

[175] A medicinal tincture (H.) is prepared from the root, of
which thirty or forty drops may be taken for a dose, with two
tablespoonfuls of cold water; but too large a dose will induce
sickness. Elecampane is specifically curative of a sharp pain
affecting the right elbow joint, and recurring daily; also of a
congestive headache coming on through costiveness of the lowest
bowel. Moreover, at the present time, when there is so much talk
about the inoculative treatment of pulmonary consumption by the
cultivated virus of its special microbe, it is highly interesting to
know that the helenin of Elecampane is said to be peculiarly
destructive to the bacillus of tubercular disease.

In classic times the poet Horace told how Fundanius first taught
the making of a delicate sauce, by boiling in it the bitter Inula
(Elecampane); and how the Roman stomach, when surfeited with
an excess of rich viands, pined for turnips, and the appetising
Enulas acidas from frugal Campania:--

Quum rapula plenus
Atque acidas mavult inulas.





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