Inula helenium Open-pollinated. Also known as Horseheal, Wild Sunflower and Elf Dock. Large dramatic plant is an excellent lung tonic. Important to the ancient Greeks, said to have sprung from the tears of Helen of Troy, thus its botanical name. Mucilaginous root relaxes lungs and helps clear mucus, calms cough. Antibacterial and antifungal, also used for asthma, bronchitis, cough and flu, especially in children. Helpful for scabies, herpes and other skin disorders (an old name is Scabwort). Plant in heavy moist well-drained loam with generous helpings of compost. Dig root in mid fall. 5–8' perennial with 2–3" bright yellow rayed flowers, blooming May to August. Zone 3. ~1,600 seeds/g. ③
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See Herb Chart in the sidebar for uses and cultural information.
About medicinal herbs: Archeological evidence dates the medicinal use of herbs back 60,000 years to the Neanderthals. 85% of the world’s population employ herbs as medicines, and 40% of pharmaceuticals in the U.S. contain plant-derived materials. Fewer than 10% of higher plant species have been investigated for their medicinal components. Interest in traditional herbal remedies continues to grow.
Statements about medicinal use of plants have not been evaluated by the FDA, and should not be used for the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any ailment. Before using or ingesting any medicinal plant, consult a healthcare practitioner familiar with botanical medicine.
Using herbs: Drying herbs at home is not difficult. Whole leaves retain their flavor at least a year. To substitute fresh herbs for dried in cooking, use triple the dried quantity called for in a recipe.
Culture: Some herbs are customarily grown from divisions because they cannot come true from seed, such as scented thymes and flavored mints. Some require fall sowing of fresh seed, such as sweet cicely and angelica, and these become available in August or September.
For the latest results of our germination tests, please see the germination page.