Due to its shape and weight, this is one of the harder seeds to clean, so you may find a small amount of chaff with your seeds, but this will not affect germination.
Sow indoors anytime from early spring, or outdoors once the soil has warmed up a bit. Scatter seeds on the surface and press into the soil; do not cover with soil as the seed requires light to germinate. Transplant or thin with a spacing of 60cm.
Elecampane root is respected as one of Europe’s strongest respiratory tonics. It has a warming aromatic smell and taste, with some bitterness, that helps to alleviate irritated, chesty coughs. Think of elecampane whenever there is restricted airways, catarrh or wheezing. Its expansive nature helps to open up constrictions, and even induces a sweat when taken as a hot tea at the first sign of a cold.
The bitter sesquiterpene lactones and volatile oils have some anti-bacterial effects and are associated with the benefits seen in digestion where Elecampane acts as a bitter-aromatic, carminative – and has been shown to have ulcer ameliorating effects. Its high in polysaccharides, mainly the microbiome-enhancing inulin and also a compound called alantolactone with a very specific anti-worming property . So it is both stimulating and soothing- the volatile oils warm digestion and stimulate the expectoration of catarrh and the soft mucilage calms any irritation. Think of Elecampane as a plant that brings strength and is especially appropriate to help with convalescence and to use as a restorative.
Elecampane grows large roots that can be harvested from the second year, though third year roots will be bigger. They will need a good scrub clean and you may need to cut out same damaged bits before slicing into thin discs. Lay out evenly on a drying rack and keep at 40C in a drier or above a radiator overnight.
Replant the ‘crown’ or any self-seeded smaller plants that come up when you harvest for the future.
The roots can be used for making a syrup with elderberries, thyme and horseradish or tinctured fresh or dry. As a winter tonic, infuse a teaspoon of the cleaned and dried root in a cup of cold water overnight. Strain and drink warmed as two divided cups.
One potential downside of the sesquiterpene lactones is that they can act as mild to potent allergens for susceptible individuals. Reported reactions have ranged from varying degrees of allergic contact dermatitis all the way up to severe anaphylaxis requiring emergency treatment. Because these compounds are so widely distributed among the Asteraceae, cross reactions can easily occur. A person might become sensitized to the sesquiterpene lactones in one plant (e.g., Ragweed’s – Ambrosia spp.) and subsequently will have a reaction to a novel species (e.g., Chamomile or Yarrow) in the family. This is why the herbalist should be cautious when using Asteraceae herbs with people who have a tendency toward respiratory and contact allergies or problems with chronic eczema / atopic dermatitis.