This plant is a native of Europe where it is cultivated medical use. It has now become naturalized in some parts of this country.
The ROOT is the official part, and should be dug up in autumn, in the 2nd year of its growth. When older, it is apt to be stringy and woody.
The taste is aromatic and bitter; the odor is slightly camphorous and, especially in the dried root, agreeably aromatic. Its medical virtues are extracted by alcohol and water; the former being most strongly impregnated with its bitterness and pungency.
By the ancients it was much employed, especially in the complaints peculiar to females and is still used in cases of retained or suppressed menses.
From a belief in its deobstruent and diuretic virtues, it was formerly prescribed in chronic engorgements of the abdominal viscera and the dropsy to which they so often give rise.
It is now considered valuable in chronic diseases of the lungs, coughs, asthma, bronchitis, and all chest troubles, especially with weakness of the digestive organs and with general debility. It is warming and strengthening to the lungs while at the same time it promotes the expectoration of viscid mucus. It is especially recommended in tuberculosis of the lungs. It is claimed that a combination of elecampane and echinacea is very useful in tuberculosis.
It has been highly recommended both as an internal and external remedy in tetter, psora, and other diseases of the skin. It is because of this that elecampane is also called scabwort.
Elecampane is also a warming, strengthening, cleansing tonic remedy to the mucous membrane, especially the gastric, alvine, and pulmonary membranes, and is of excellent use in catarrhal conditions of the bronchi and dyspepsia. It is better suited to chronic than acute conditions.
It is an excellent addition to cough syrups. An infusion of the root, sweetened with honey, will be found useful in whooping cough, although the infusion of thyme is most frequently used for this trouble.
The usual methods of using are in powder or decoction. The dose of the powder is a scruple to a drachm. The decoction may be prepared by boiling % oz. root in 1 pt. water and taken in doses of 1 or 2 fl. oz.
In hot infusion, its stimulating power gives a good outward circulation.