It is a large plant, with long, wrinkled leaves, that are serrated; of a pale green colour above, and hoary underneath: the flowers are yellow, of a discous kind, and followed by oblong seeds, winged with down; the roots are short and thick, unctuous to the touch; brown or blackish on the outside, and whitish within. It is perennial, grows wild in moist rich soils, and flowers in. June.
The fresh roots have a weak but not very grateful smell; when perfectly dried, they are more pleasing; when chewed, they discover at the first a kind of rancid glutinous taste, quickly succeeded by an aromatic bitterness, which by degrees becomes more pungent. They are diaphoretic, diuretic, and stomachic; if taken freely . they arc gently laxative; powerfully attenuate viscid humours, and assist expectoration in coughs and humoral asthmas. The ancients had a high opinion of their virtues, and from their sensible and chemical qualities they promise to be a medicine of some efficacy. Elecampane is now chiefly recommended where the digestion is impaired; in pulmonic affections, and uterine obstructions; sometimes as an anthelmintic, and in mucous discharges from the rectum: but Dr. Cullen, notwithstanding its allowed qualities, says, still he is at a loss to determine what are its peculiar virtues. We have not extensively used this remedy, but have chiefly found it as a warm expectorant, and have employed it with most success in those cases of hectics where the bronchial glands were considerably weakened, and the discharge was copious and watery.
The spirituous extract is the most active preparation; but the watery is more abundant, and scarcely inferior to the former. Neumann obtained from one ounce of the dry root, by means of water,six drachms and a half of extract; but with spirit, only two drachms and a half. Much of the aromatic warmth and bitterness of these roots reside in the less volatile parts, which are, therefore, preserved in the watery extract. In distillation with water an essential oil arises which concretes into white flakes, and partly into an unctuous mass, like soft wax. Thirty ounces of roots afford about a drachm of this oil. The younger Geoffroy observes, that this oil resides in the exterior part of the root, near the bark. When this concrete oil is newly distilled, it strongly possesses the flavour of elecampane; but soon loses its smell by keeping.
Extractum Enulae Campestris.- Boil elecampane roots in water; press and strain the decoction. When settled, pour off' the clear liquor, and boil it to a consistence of pills, taking care to prevent its burning towards the end of the operation. The dose may be from Э i. to 3 i in a lax state of the fibres of the stomach, and in some disorders of the breast.
The dose of the root may be two scruples: in infusion, one drachm; and from 3 ij to ss. in decoction.