Fine Art

Inula helenium

Inula helenium, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Asterids
Cladus: Campanulids
Ordo: Asterales

Familia: Asteraceae
Subfamilia: Asteroideae
Tribus: Inuleae
Subtribus: Inulinae
Genus: Inula
Species: Inula helenium
Subspecies: I. h. subsp. helenium – I. h. subsp. orgyalis – I. h. subsp. pseudohelenium – I. h. subsp. turcoracemosa – I. h. subsp. vanensis

Inula helenium L.

Inula helenium Asso = Inula helenioides DC.
Inula helenium Hook. fil. & Thoms. = Inula racemosa Hook. fil.

Inula helenium - 001x


Linnaeus, C. 1753. Species Plantarum. Tomus II: 881. Reference page.


International Plant Names Index. 2018. Inula helenium. Published online. Accessed: Feb. 16 2018.
The Plant List 2013. Inula helenium in The Plant List Version 1.1. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2018 Feb. 16. 2018. Inula helenium. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2018 Feb. 16.
Hassler, M. 2018. Inula helenium. World Plants: Synonymic Checklists of the Vascular Plants of the World In: Roskovh, Y., Abucay, L., Orrell, T., Nicolson, D., Bailly, N., Kirk, P., Bourgoin, T., DeWalt, R.E., Decock, W., De Wever, A., Nieukerken, E. van, Zarucchi, J. & Penev, L., eds. 2018. Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2018 Feb. 16. Reference page.
USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Inula helenium in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Accessed: 07-Oct-06.

Vernacular names
čeština: Oman pravý
Deutsch: Echter Alant
español: Ala, helenio
suomi: Isohirvenjuuri
français: Grande Aunée
italiano: Enula campana
português: Helénio
русский: Девясил высокий
slovenčina: Omán pravý

Elecampane (/ˌɛlɪkæmˈpeɪn/[2]), Inula helenium, also called horse-heal or elfdock, is a widespread plant species in the sunflower family Asteraceae. It is native to Eurasia from Spain to Xinjiang Province in western China, and naturalized in parts of North America.[3][4][5][6][7]


Elecampane is a rather rigid herb, the stem of which attains a height of about 90–150 cm (35–59 in). The leaves are large and toothed, the lower ones stalked, the rest embracing the stem; blades egg-shaped, elliptical, or lance-shaped, as big as 30 cm (12 in) long and 12 cm (4.7 in) wide. Leaves are green on the upper side with light, scattered hairs, but whitish on the underside because of a thick layer of wool. The flower heads up to 5 cm (2 inches) broad, each head containing 50-100 yellow ray flowers and 100-250 yellow disc flowers. The root is thick, branching and mucilaginous, and has a bitter taste and a camphoraceous odour with sweet floral (similar to violet) undertones.[5][7]
Folklore and Traditional Uses

The plant's specific name, helenium, derives from Helen of Troy; elecampane is said to have sprung up from where her tears fell. It was sacred to the ancient Celts, and once had the name "elfwort".[8] The plant traditionally was held to be associated with the elves and fairy folk.[9]

Nicholas Culpeper considered elecampane to be ruled by Mercury and used it to warm a cold and windy stomach, to resist poison, to strengthen sight, and to clear internal blockages.[10]

The herb has been used since Ancient Greek times. Theophrastus recommended using the plant in oil and wine to treat the bites of vipers, spiders and pine caterpillars in his Historia Plantarum.[11]

In Roman times, Apicius, a cookbook from the 1st century AD, describes it as a plant for testing whether honey is spoilt or not, the plant is immersed in the honey and then lit, if it burns brightly the honey is considered fine.[12] The root was mentioned by Pliny in his Natural History both as a medicine and as a condiment.

In Medieval Europe, the roots were candied and eaten as confectionary.[13]

In France and Switzerland it has been used in the manufacture of absinthe.[14] In England it was formerly in great repute as an aromatic tonic and stimulant of the secretory organs.[14] It is mentioned in an 1817 New-England almanack as a cure for hydrophobia when the root is bruised and used with a strong decoction of milk.[15] It is used in herbal medicine as an expectorant and for water retention.[16]
Chemical constituents

Besides the storage polysaccharide inulin (C6H12O6[C6H10O5]n), a polymer of fructose, the root contains helenin (C15H20O2), a phytochemical compound consisting of alantolactone and isoalantolactone. Helenin is a stearoptene, which may be prepared in white acicular crystals, insoluble in water, but freely soluble in alcohol. When freed from the accompanying inula-camphor by repeated crystallization from alcohol, helenin melts at 110 °C.[14]

The Plant List, Inula helenium L.
Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.
B.-E. van Wyk and M. Wink. (2004). Medicinal Plants of the World, p. 181, Singapore: Times Editions.
Altervista Flora Italiana, Inula helenium L. includes photos and European distribution map
Flora of North America, Inula helenium Linnaeus, 1753.
Biota of North America Program 2014 county distribution map
Flora of China, Inula helenium Linnaeus, 1753. 土木香 tu mu xiang
Howard, Michael (1987). Traditional Folk Remedies. Century. p. 135. ISBN 0-7126-1731-0.
Greer, John Michael (2017). The Encyclopedia of Natural Magic (First ed.). Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-7387-0674-0.
Culpeper, Nicholas (1814). Culpeper's Complete Herbal. No. 8, White's Row, Spitalfields: Richard Evans. p. 70.
Roques, Alain (2015). Processionary moths and climate change : an update. Dordrecht: Springer. p. 1. ISBN 978-94-017-9339-1. OCLC 893559920.
De Re Coquinaria of Apicius.*.html#9note5. pp. Book I, 18. {{cite book}}: External link in |location= (help)
Sanderson, Helen; Renfrew, Jane M. (2005). Prance, Ghillean; Nesbitt, Mark (eds.). The Cultural History of Plants. Routledge. p. 102. ISBN 0415927463.
One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Elecampane". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 169.
Daboll, N. (1816). The New-England almanack, for the year of our Lord Christ, 1817: Fitted to the meridian of N. London. New London: Samuel Green.
Bartram, T. (1998). Bartram's Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London: Robinson Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1854875860.

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