Elecampane root comes from the plant known to botanists as inula helenium. Native to England, where it was used with other medicinal herbs for centuries, it grows from southern Sweden to northwestern India and in North America from Nova Scotia to Missouri.
The Elecampane Root plant is quite large and attractive, growing as much as five feet, and featuring brilliant yellow, dandelion-like flowers. However, it is the elecampane root that has been traditionally used for medicinal purposes.
Elecampane root is actually a root, and therefore not technically an herb; however, inula helenium or powdered elecampane root can be boiled to product a tea or broth. In is a rich source of inulin, a bio-chemical believed to have some beneficial effect on respiratory ailments (powdered elecampane root is frequently an ingredient in commercial cough drops).
Scientific research performed in the late 19th century demonstrated that elecampane root indeed has some powerful antibacterial properties; very little of the herb is required for this purpose (as little 1 part per 10,000 will kill most household germs).
More recent research suggests that the extract may address the symptoms of certain respiratory illnesses; you should consult with a qualified herbalist or naturopath for more information before taking wholesale elecampane root for this purpose.