Elecampane root (Helenii radix)

Published May 5, 1988.
List of German Commission E Monographs (Phytotherapy)


Name of Drug

Helenii radix, elecampane root.

Composition of Drug

Elecampane consists of the dried, cut root and rhizome of Inula helenium L. [Fam. Asteraceae], harvested in autumn from 2- to 3-year-old plants, as well as preparations thereof in effective dosage.

The herb contains essential oil and bitter principles.


Elecampane preparations are used for diseases of the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and kidney and lower urinary tract.

The effectiveness for the claimed applications has not been adequately documented.


The sesquiterpene lactones present in elecampane, principally alantolactone, irritate the mucous membranes. These lactones are sensitizing and cause allergic contact dermatitis. Alantolactone is bound as a hapten to the proteins of the skin. The adduct induces hypersensitivity to alantolactone and other compounds with a 2-methylene-g-lactone (cross-reaction). Large amounts of the herb lead to vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and symptoms of paralysis.


Since the activity of the herb and its preparations in the areas indicated has not been adequately substantiated, in view of the risks of an allergy its therapeutic use cannot be justified.