It has been lovely taking up roots over the last weeks. Even though root harvesting is messy and takes more preparation before processing than plant material, I find it very exciting unearthing roots for medicine.
Inula helenium (Elecampagne) has gained a lot of popularity over the last year as it is an excellent respiratory herb. It is a very large plant with thick stalks, broad leaves and bright yellow flowers that are easily recognisable as Asteraceae family.
The roots are used medicinally as an expectorant to relieve the lungs of any mucus while having the ability to ease spasms of the bronchi, making it specific for chronic bronchitis and asthma. It alleviates painful coughing while warming and clearing the lungs. It is antibacterial showing effectiveness for many strains for bacteria associated with respiratory tract infections including influenza. Inula’s ability to induce sweating furthers its usefulness in flu’s that are accompanied by fever. It is often one of the first herbs I consider for treating chest infections, particularly if the digestion appears weak.
Inula is well known to strengthen digestion. This is partially due to the roots ability to increase blood supply to the gastric mucosa. Bringing heat to the body, it reduces dampness in, and tonifies the Spleen to promote digestion. In lingering chest infections, you often find the digestion is compromised. In cases that show this, I always favour herbs like Angelica archangelica or Inula helenium that speed the recovery of respiratory conditions by gently stimulating a positive action in the digestion.
The amount of root harvested here in the picture is enough to make 1-2 litres of tincture. We tincture and then part decoct the plant material to make a very potent fresh plant extraction. It is also nice to save some root for drying. We keep this dried root handy for decocting into teas as needed throughout the winter months. Be careful when drying this root - it’s full of volatile oils which are very aromatic and can become overwhelming, so dry in an airy space!
You can use your fresh Inula root to make a herbal paste. Simply grate the freshly dug root, add honey and then jar. This mix will keep indefinitely in the fridge and can be used by the teaspoonful to add to a cup of boiled water as a respiratory remedy. Syrups from respiratory herbs are fantastic to have to hand as they are much more soothing on the lungs than tinctures or teas. Here is a simple syrup recipe below you could make from your plants and have bottled for use.
Inula root – 1tsp
Licorice root – ½ tsp
Grindelia flowering tops – 2tsp
Mullein leaves – 2tsp
Thyme leaves – ½ tsp
Honey – enough to match the amount of tea after straining.
Decoct all the dried herbs by placing in a pot of 400ml water and boiling up and simmering for 30 mins. This will make a strong tea. Let stand for another hour. Strain.
I often like to leave herbs macerating for a long time - this decoction could be left to sit for several hours/ overnight. Add enough honey to match the amount of strained water making a 1:1 honey tea mix syrup. Bottle and leave in the fridge. Use 1tsp – 1tbsp of syrup to a cup of hot water for a soothing expectorant, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, ant- catarrhal, anti -inflammatory, mucous membrane healing tonic for respiratory tract infections. Please note: people with high blood pressure should not be taking Licorice root in medicinal doses.