They're aromatic, then bitter, then tingly.
Elecampane (Inula helenium) is a very nice plant for those coughs and sinusitises where you have a profuse discharge of mucus. If your cough is dry look elsewhere. If it isn't, try some elecampane syrup; it's one of the best herbs for that.
It's also been used for tuberculosis and a host of other things. The eclectics were using it for pretty much everything under the sun.
I've been digging up 4-5 year old plants, and I've mainly dug them in July.
Pic: Young elecampane plant, dug up. It's September now, and I just dug up a 2 year old plant.
I've been wondering about that "mildly bitter" that describes elecampane root in herb books. It's intensely bitter, there's nothing mild about that taste.
Except that this young-plant-september root is actually mildly bitter. Must be that 44 % inulin peaking (highest in fall) and therefore peeking through that bitterness, eh? (And nobody better tell me that inulin is good for diabetics. I'll do a inulin vs. insulin post soonish.)
Pic: Young elecampane root. It's a weird plant, really. It's very strongly aromatic at first. Then, after a minute or so, it's intensely bitter. Then, after a minute or so, your sense of taste is covered in the same tingle that you get from good Echinacea root, while underlying you still have the aromatics and the bitterness.
That goes for both fresh root and for good quality dried root: I know, cos I have both. I just tried some of my 2003 dried elecampane root, and it's still excellent. Good show!
Because I use elecampane for lung grunges I usually make it into a syrup. A few years ago one lady who had excessive mucus discharge from both sinuses and lungs simply loved my elecampane syrup. She moved elsewhere before I could really get a handle on the cause of her troubles; her symptoms were much better while she was taking my herbs, though.
Anyway, try it next time you have a productive (as in, not dry) cough.
Related entry: Cough syrup - Yellow herbs: Elecampane