Herb Profile: Elecampane (Inula helenium)
A photogenic member of the sunflower family, Elecampane is near and dear to my heart. Not only because it grows resiliently, offers much nectar for pollinators, breaks up hardpan with its thick taproots, outcompetes even the most vivacious weeds, and looks just gorgeous.... But because there is truly no other flavor or aroma like the intoxicating roots of this plant. I love it and I hope to never go through a winter without delicious elecampane vinegar, honey, oxymel, and tincture!
Our dear friend elecampane is a valiant ally of the respiratory system. Native Americans herbalists have used it for lung and bronchial infections, mixed with comfrey root and spikenard root. In China, it's been used to make syrup, lozenges, and candy as a remedy for bronchitis and asthma. It's also helpful for digestion and soothing discomfort associated with menses, as the Romans enjoyed it.
While elecampane roots are on the delicate side, they can be stored for 3-4 days before using. If drying, chop and dry right away on a screen or towel in a low light area with good ventilation - think box fan!
Tincture, oxymel, infused honey, dried, or vinegar! All are about the same process, but with different menstruum, or liquid used to make the extract. All you need is probably already in your kitchen - a knife and cutting board, a jar with a tight fitting lid, and whatever menstruum you chose.
Check out the Moonwise Herbs website to learn how to make elecampane oxymel!
The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood
Asparagus to Zucchini by Fairshare Coalition
Produce: A fruit and vegetable lover's guide by Bruce Beck
Our own experience!