Elecampane tincture is used by herbalists to as a natural cough remedy, and it’s one of my favorite herbal cough remedies. The root is tinctured for respiratory support, and it’s commonly used for chest congestion, cold/flu, bronchitis and asthma. It’s also been shown to have antimicrobial benefits, and it’s used topically to treat yeast infections and athletes foot.
Elecampane is one of those herbal remedies that’s been around (and commonly used) for millennia. Supposedly, Helen of Troy was out gathering elecampane when she was taken, sparking the Trojan war. The woman whose beauty launched a thousand ships thought it important enough to gather elecampane from a hillside herself, and I can only imagine the sick friend of relative she valued waiting back in a sick bed in ancient Greece.
Not just an ancient remedy, elecampane is my go to remedy for cough and congestion, and we mix elecampane tincture with raw honey to make an incredibly effective cough syrup.
It’s one of the herbal remedies that is ALWAYS in my herbal medicine cabinet, and it’s used more than almost any remedy in my herbal first aid kit.
Elecampane grows wild on our land, and it has fluffy airborne seeds similar to dandelion, so it sprouts up all over the place. The plants are 6 to 10 feet tall, with bright yellow daisy like flowers that are hard to miss. The root is what’s used medicinally, and it grows a spicy, aromatic taproot with a wonderful warming flavor.
If you don’t grow elecampane (or forage it in the wild) you can buy dried elecampane root online, or ready made elecampane tincture. It’s also a common ingredient in chest care tinctures and lung care tinctures. This is the basic process for making elecampane, but if you’re looking for more details, I’d recommend the Herbal Academy’s Tincture Making Course which covers everything you could ever want to know about making more than 100 different herbal tinctures, as well as half a dozen tincturing methods.
(Always consult your doctor or a clinical herbalist before trying any new herbal remedy, as there’s always the possibility of unintended consequences, allergic reaction, or interactions with other medication. If you’re harvesting wild plant material, make sure you’re 100% confident in your identification and consult multiple sources for your ID. The following is based on my research and experience, but I don’t claim to have any certifications that would qualify me to advise you on your health. Please do your own research and always verify with multiple reputable sources.)
Benefits of Elecampane Tincture
Elecampane is a medicinal herb that is known for its ability to relieve symptoms of lung diseases such as asthma, whooping cough, and bronchitis. Elecampane offers a multi-pronged attack against these illnesses, acting as a cough preventative as well as an expectorant that helps clear the lungs of excess phlegm.
Elecampane tincture is considered both warming and drying, which means its most effective when used to combat wet coughs or mucus that has hardened in the lungs.
Research on the chemical compounds found in elecampane has shown the plant has a wide variety of medicinal properties including antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antimicrobial benefits.
Elecampane tincture can also be applied externally for its anti-candida (yeast) properties and can be used to soothe fungal infections such as athlete’s foot.
How to Make Elecampane Tincture
To make elecampane tincture, you’ll need the following ingredients and equipment:
- Elecampane, either dried or fresh
- Vodka* (or any other palatable alcohol that’s at least 80 proof/40 percent — there’s no need to splurge here, I always use Smirnoff because it’s inexpensive and has a neutral taste)**
- One-pint mason jar with lid (amber glass is ideal, but as long as you keep the tincture away from light at all times, it won’t make a difference)
- Fine mesh sieve
- Amber glass tincture bottles (with dropper)
*The Herbal Academy’s tincture making course specifically recommends using 40% alcohol when working with elecampane (though they recommend as low as 25% for mucilaginous herbs, and up to 95% when working with plant resins. Elecampane just happens to fall right in the middle, since it has both alcohol soluble and water soluble constituents).
**Never use isopropyl/rubbing alcohol for tinctures (or any other remedy you plan on ingesting). Even in small amounts, this type of alcohol is toxic and meant for external applications only. If you’re avoiding alcohol for any reason, consider making a herbal glycerite instead. Herbal vinegars are also a good choice, and work well with elecampane.
To make the tincture, add fill a jar about 3/4 of the way full with fresh elecampane (or about halfway full with dried elecampane).
Cover the elecampane with vodka, or whichever alcohol you’ve chosen, and seal the jar with its lid.
Keep the developing tincture in a cool, dark place and give the jar a gentle shake every few days. (If you remember, every day is better, but at least once a week will do.)
After about 4 to 6 weeks, it’s time to decant the tincture.
To do this, you’ll need to line a funnel with a few layers of cheesecloth. Carefully strain the tincture into small amber glass tincture bottles, squeezing the elecampane to make sure all the liquid is expelled.
Once the tincture has been decanted, label the tincture bottles with the date and suggested dosages (I use a small piece of masking tape and a marker, it peels off easily when I’m ready to use the bottle for something else).
For more information on the general process, I’d suggest reading this guide to making herbal tinctures at home.
I know 4-6 weeks can be a long time to wait if you’re desperately needing relief now. There’s nothing wrong with buying a bottle of ready made elecampane tincture to use while your homemade tincture infuses. Purchased tinctures are a lot more expensive than DIY homemade ones, but they have the benefit of being ready when you need them, like now.
Elecampane Tincture Dosage
For an exact dosage specific to your body and needs, I’d suggest consulting a clinical herbalist.
Generally, the dosage for elecampane tincture is 1 to 2 droppers full, taken 2 to 3 times per day, or as needed. This herb is generally considered safe for use, even at higher doses, and we tend to mix elecampane tincture with raw honey in a 1:1 ratio, making an effective herbal cough syrup that I take every few hours as needed when I’m suffering from a particularly bad cough.
It’s even more effective, I find, when you make it with thyme tincture and elecampane tincture together.
Elecampane is commonly paired with other herbs for respiratory support, such as Usnea, Licorice and Thyme.
If you’re interested in the science behind combining herbs to enhance their effectiveness, I’d recommend taking this online course in Mastering Herbal Formulations from the Herbal Academy. It covers the science of blending herbs into homemade formulations in detail.
Elecampane tincture is a homemade herbal remedy that's easy to make with just a few ingredients.
- Dried Elecampane Root
- Neutral Spirit (such as vodka)*
- Pint mason jar (or any other jar with a tight-fitting lid)
- Cheesecloth (or fine mesh strainer)
- Dark amber dropper bottles
- Adhesive label or masking tape (for labelling tincture)
- Fill a clean, empty mason jar 3/4 full of fresh elecampane, or 1/2 full of dried elecampane. (Dried elecampane is often available from herbal supply shops.)
- Cover the fresh or dried elecampane with alcohol, making sure the contents of the jar are completely covered.
- Screw the lid on tightly and gently shake the contents of the jar. Place in a cool, dry location away from light, allowing the extraction to occur over the next 6 to 8 weeks.
- Give the contents of the jar a gentle shake every couple of days.
- Keep an eye on the alcohol level, adding more alcohol to cover the plant material if needed.
- Once the tincture is ready to be decanted, line a funnel with cheesecloth and place the tip of the funnel into the neck of a dark amber glass bottle. Pour the solvent and the **name into the cheesecloth-lined funnel, pressing to make sure all of the liquid makes it into the bottle.
- Label the tincture with its contents, date of production, recommended dosages, and suggested usages. Store in a cool, dry area away from light.
*Tinctures are usually made with vodka as a neutral spirit, but you can also use brandy, whisky or any other high-proof alcohol. Finished tinctures need to be at least 25% alcohol for preservation, and fresh herbs contribute some moisture to the mix. Be sure you use something that's 60-proof or higher.
Never use denatured alcohol or isopropyl alcohol to make tinctures, as it's unsafe for consumption.
To make an alcohol-free glycerite tincture (glycerite): cover dried plant material completely with a preparation of 3 parts glycerin to 1 part distilled water (instead of alcohol). Dried elecampane is available from herbal supply stores, and is often used in place of fresh. If using fresh elecampane, use all glycerine and skip the water. As the glycerite tincture develops, it will need to be shaken every day. Proceed following the same directions as if making an alcohol-based tincture.
The yield varies, but if you're using fresh plant material, you should expect to pull out ever so slightly more tincture than the vodka you add. If using dried plant material, the dried herbs will absorb some and you'll get slightly less than the alcohol added. The amount of vodka will vary based on how tightly you pack the jar, but you should need about 2-3 cups of vodka for a quart jar, or about 1 to 1 1/2 cups vodka per pint. Be sure the plant material remains submerged during infusion.
Disclaimer on Homemade Herbal Remedies
I’ve been foraging wild medicines and treating my family with herbal remedies for the past 20 years, but I’m self-taught. Be aware that I am not a clinical herbalist, and this is based on my own research and personal experience using medicinal plants. I do not claim to have the experience that’d qualify me to advise you on your health, and I’m only providing this as a reference to encourage a broader interest in medicinal plants.
Please use this as a jumping-off point, but always do your own research and verify anything you read with multiple sources.
It’s always possible to have an adverse reaction to any medicinal herb, and plenty of people are allergic to even gentle herbs like chamomile. Always consult your doctor or a certified herbalist before trying any new medicinal plant. Often, they can have unintended reactions in combination with other herbs and supplements, and many herbs have side effects even when they are effective for their intended purpose.
If you are seriously interested in herbal medicine, I’d suggest investing in a course in herbal medicine, and I’d recommend any of the online courses put out by the Herbal Academy of New England. Specifically, the introduction to herbal medicine course and the family herbalist group of courses.
Interested in making other homemade herbal tinctures?
- Yarrow Tincture
- Chickweed Tincture
- Elderberry Tincture
- Dandelion Tincture
- Burdock Tincture
- Echinacea Tincture
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