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The root has an aromatic camphor-like taste, due to the presence of a crystalline substance called Helenin, allied in chemical constitution to Kreosote. It also contains a quantity of starchy material, called Inulin, which differs from ordinary starch in being colored yellow by Iodine.
Constituents---The substance most abundantly contained in Elecampane root is Inulin, discovered by Valentine Rose, of Berlin in 1804, who named it Alantin (the German name of the plant is Alantwurzel; French, Aunée), but the title, Inulin proposed by Thompson, has been generally adopted. It has the same composition as starch, but stands to a certain extent in opposition to that substance, which it replaces in the rootsystem of Compositae. In living plants, Inulin is dissolved in the watery juice, and on drying, is deposited within the cells in amorphous masses, which in polarized light are inactive. It resembles starch in appearance, but differs from it in giving a yellow instead of a blue colour with iodine, in being soluble in boiling water without forming a paste, and in being deposited unchanged from the hot aqueous solution when it cools. With nitric acid, Inula affords no explosive compound as starch does. By prolonged heat or the action of dilute acids, it is changed first to inulin then to levulin, and finally to levulose. It is only slightly changed to sugar by ferments.
Sachs showed in 1864 that by immersing the roots of Elecampane or Dahlia variabilis in alcohol and glycerine, Inulin may be precipitated in globular aggregations of needleshaped crystalline form.
Elecampane is the richest source of inulin.
The amount of Inulin varies according to the season, but is more abundant in the autumn. Dragendorff, who in 1870 made it the subject of a very exhaustive treatise, obtained from the root in October not less than 44 per cent, but in spring only 19 per cent, its place being taken by levulin, mucilage, sugar and several glucosides. Inulin is widely distributed in the perennial roots of Compositae, and has been met with in the natural orders Campanulacae, Goodeniaceae, Lobeliaceae, Stylidiaceae, and in the root of the White Ipecacuanha of Brazil, belonging to the order Violaceae.
Inulin is closely associated in Elecampane with Inulenin, obtainable in microscopical needles, slightly soluble in cold water and weak alcohol, and pseudo-inulin, which occurs in irregular granules, very soluble in hot water and weak, hot alcohol, but insoluble in cold alcohol.
It was observed by Le Febre as early as 1660 that when the root of Elecampane is subjected to distillation with water, a crystallizable substance collects in the head of the receiver, and similar crystals may be observed after carefully heating a thin slice of the root, and are often found as a natural efflorescence on the surface of roots that have been long kept. This was considered as a distinct body called Helenin, or Elecampane camphor, but the researches of Kallen in 1874 showed that it was resolvable into two crystallizable substances, which he named Helenin, a body without taste or colour, and Alantcamphor, with a peppermint odour and taste. As a result of further research, it is considered that the crystalline mass yielded by Elecampane root on distillation with water in the proportion of 1 to 2 per cent, and associated with about 1 per cent volatile oil, consists of Alantolactone, iso-alantolactone and Alantolic acid, all of which are crystalline, nearly colourless, and have but slight odour and taste. The oily portion, Alantol, found in the distillate, a colourless liquid, has a peppermint-like odour.
COMPOSIZIONE E PROPRIETA'
Il principale costituente attivo dell'enula è l'elenina, un miscuglio di olii essenziali, dotata di un'attivita antitussigena, antisettica,diuretica e leggermente colagoga ed emmenagoga.
- Affezioni delle prime vie aeree, tracheobronchiti,bronchite cronica,influenza, asma bronchiale, pertosse.
- Ipertensione arteriosa ed insufficienza renale iniziale con iperazotemia ed oliguria.
- Calcolosi delle vie biliari.
- Amenorrea ed irregolarità mestruali.
- Reumatismo dismetabolico (artritismo).
_ Herpes labialis (uso interno e topico).