1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Elecampane

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

ELECAMPANE (Med. Lat. Enula Campana), a perennial composite plant, the Inula Helenium of botanists, which is common in many parts of Britain, and ranges throughout central and southern Europe, and in Asia as far eastwards as the Himalayas. It is a rather rigid herb, the stem of which attains a height of from 3 to 5 ft.; the leaves are large and toothed, the lower ones stalked, the rest embracing the stem; the flowers are yellow, 2 in. broad, and have many rays, each three-notched at the extremity. The root is thick, branching mucilaginous, and has a warm, bitter taste and a camphoraceous odour. For medicinal purposes it should be procured from plants not more than two or three years old. Besides inulin, C12H20O10, a body isomeric with starch, the root contains helenin, C6H8O, 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 110º C. By the ancients the root was employed as a medicine and as a condiment, and in England it was formerly in great repute as an aromatic tonic and stimulant of the secretory organs. "The fresh roots of elecampane preserved with sugar, or made into a syrup or conserve," are recommended by John Parkinson in his Theatrum Botanicum as "very effectual to warm a cold and windy stomack, and the pricking and stitches therein or in the sides caused by the Spleene, and to helpe the cough, shortnesse of breath, and wheesing in the Lungs." As a drug, however, the root is now seldom resorted to except in veterinary practice, though it is undoubtedly possessed of antiseptic properties. In France and Switzerland it is used in the manufacture of absinthe.