GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A large perennial herb up to 2 metres high with a stout hollow stem and dense ornamental foliage. It has a thick fleshy root and greenish-yellow flowers. The whole plant has a strong aromatic scent.
DISTRIBUTION: Native to southern Europe and western Asia; naturalised in North America. It is cultivated in central and southern Europe, especially in France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Germany.
HERBAL/FOLK TRADITION: A herb of ancient medical repute, used mainly for digestive complaints, oedema, skin problems, menstrual irregularities and fever. It was also believed to be good for the sight. The leaf stalks used to be blanched and used as a vegetable or in salads. The root is current in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia as a specific for flatulent dyspepsia and anorexia.
ACTIONS: Antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, carminative, depurative, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, stimulant (digestive), stomachic.
EXTRACTIONS: Essential oil by steam distillation from the fresh roots. An amber or olive-brown liquid with a rich, spicy-warm, root-like odour.
PRINCIPAL CONSTITUENTS: Mainly phthalides (up to 70 per cents) such as butylidene, dihydrobutylidene, butylphthalides and lingystilides, with lesser amounts of terpenoids, volatile acids, coumarins and furocoumarins.
SAFETY DATA: Non-toxic, non-irritant, possible sensitization/phototoxic effects. Use with care. Avoid during pregnancy.
AROMATHERAPY/HOME USE: Circulation, muscles, and joints: Accumulation of toxic, congestion, gout, oedema, poor circulation, rheumatism, water retention. Digestive system: Anaemia, flatulance, indigestion, spasm. Genito-urinary system: Amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, cystitis.
OTHER USES: It is used as a fragrance component in soaps, cosmetics and perfumes. The oils and extracts are used as savoury flavouring agents and in liqueurs and tobacco.