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Inula helenium, also known as horseheal, is an herb cultivated for medicinal purposes. Native to parts of Europe and Asia, inula helenium may also be found growing in numerous temperate climates worldwide. Often used to treat a variety of respiratory and digestive issues, there are some risks associated with the use of horseheal for certain individuals. Prior to use, individuals should speak with a qualified health care professional to discuss the benefits and potential risks of horseheal.
Commonly found in the United States and Canada, inula helenium grows in uncultivated areas such as fields and pastures. The plant can mature to a height of nearly 6 feet (1.828 meters) and thrives in damp areas that regularly receive moderate rainfall. The horseheal's bright yellow flowers resemble sunflowers in appearance and bloom in late summer.
The root and flowers of the inula helenium are generally cultivated for medicinal purposes. Harvesting of the roots does not take place until the fall of the plant's second year, after it has had time to mature. Roots cultivated prior to the second year do not hold the same potency as those from an older plant and should not be used. Flowers may be cultivated as needed or harvested and stored for long-term use. When prepared for future use, dried flowers should be stored in jars that are kept in dry areas and away from direct sunlight.
Considered the most active constituent of inula helenium, the volatile oil alantolactone is valued for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. For some individuals, alantolactone may cause intestinal irritation. Inulin, a starchy polysaccharide, is another active element found in inula helenium and possesses expectorant qualities, which promote mucus production.
As an ancient folk remedy dating back to Greek and Roman times, inula helenium was used to treat indigestion. The herb's anti-inflammatory and tonic properties make it a treatment option for individuals experiencing respiratory issues. Aiding with the body's absorption of nutrients, horseheal may work to both soothe and promote healing for convalescing individuals. Taken as a tonic, horseheal may stimulate appetite and improve digestion.
Prepared as a tea or tincture, horseheal root may be a beneficial treatment for respiratory conditions including hay fever, bronchitis, and asthma. When consumed on a regular basis, the tea may act to regulate digestion and stimulate proper liver function. A root decoction of horseheal may be utilized as a topical treatment for various skin conditions, including eczema.
Horseheal flowers may be prepared as either a decoction or syrup. As a decoction, the herb is used to treat various digestive issues. When combined with licorice root and ginger, horseheal flowers are used for treating abdominal bloating, gas, and nausea. Syrup derived from horseheal flowers may be used as a cough suppressant.
There are no known side effects associated with the use of inula helenium when taken as directed. Individuals who ingest excessive amounts of the herb may experience symptoms including vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea. Those who have an existing sensitivity to inulin should avoid using horseheal and products which contain it. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use horseheal.