Inula: Inula graveolens essential oil

by Jade Shutes


Dittrichia graveolens (L.) W. Greuter syn.
Inula graveolens (L.) Desf.

Synonyms: Erigeron graveolens, Inula graveolens (L.) Desf., Solidago graveolens (L.) Lam., Paniopsis graveolens Raf., Cupularia graveolens (L.), Pulicaria graveolens (L.)

Botanical family: Asteraceae
Common names: Stinkwort, Cape Khakiweed, stinkweed, camphor inula

Habitat: A native of the Mediterranean area, Inula is an erect, bushy, aromatic annual herb with small yellow to yellow/white flowers that smell of camphor. D. graveolens is a nitrophilous (Thriving in a habitat rich in nitrogen) species, generally associated with disturbed, open (unshaded) habitats, such as cultivated land, abandoned fields, roadsides, ruderal places, overgrazed pastures and other open (cleared) habitats. D. graveolens is widespread in the Mediterranean region, extending marginally into the western Atlantic-European coast and Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, north-west India). It has naturalized in many temperate parts of the world, including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and California. It is also found in disturbed sites in England, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. It is considered to be an invasive weed.1

Chemical Composition

The chemical composition on Inula varies depending on country of origin. The most commonly found essential oil for Inula is from Corsica.  The main components found in the essential oils from Corsica include: bornyl acetate and borneol.2  Inula from Greece contains a high proportion of epi-a-cadinol (up to 30.2%) and bornyl acetate (25.4%) while Inula from Iran contains 1,8 Cineole (54.89%), p-cymene (16.2%), [beta]- pinene (6.94%) and borneol (5.44%).

From Corsica:
Monoterpenes: a-pinene (0.96%), b-pinene (1.3%), y-terpinene (0.09%), camphene (10.41%), d-limonene (1.34%), para-cymene (0.17%), terpinolene (0.05%)

Sesquiterpenes: a-muurolene (0.34%), b-caryophyllene (1.96%), delta-cadinene (0.22%), y-cadinene (0.56%), germacrene D (0.07%)

Monoterpenols: a-terpineol (1.48%), borneol (13.45%), lavandulol (0.18%), linalol (0.08%), terpinen-4-ol (0.10%)

Sesquiterpenols: t-cadinol (2.35%)

Ketones: camphor (0.08%), cis-jasmone (0.08%)

Esters: bornyl acetate (47.17%), camphene hydrate (0.31%), geranyl isobutyrate (0.4%), lavandulic ester (0.48%), lavandulyl acetate (0.34%), other esters (1.29%)

Oxides: 1,8 cineole (0.08%), 2,3-dehydro-1,8 cineole (3.82%), sesquiterpenic epoxide (0.25%)

Phenylpropanoids: methyl thymol (0.29%)

(Chemistry from:

Research on isolated components, Bornyl acetate and Borneol:

Bornyl acetate exhibits a wide range of activity including:

  • analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.3,4,5,6, & 7
  • relaxes the autonomic nervous system8
  • bactericidal, expectorant, sedative and spasmolytic activity.9

Borneol exhibits:

  • vasorelaxant effects.10
  • anticoagulant activity.11
  • sedative activity12 and may be useful in treating anxiety.
  • antimicrobial activity.13
  • anti-inflammatory activity.14 & 15

Research on Inula is challenging to find. The following are reports I found on Inula:

  • Inula graveolens contains upwards of 26.2% borneol. Inula exhibits antibacterial activity. Taken together, our findings suggest that the bactericidal activity of I. graveolens and S. corsica essential oils resides in their ability to detrimentally affect the integrity of the plasmic membrane and the cell wall of Staphylococcus aureus.16
  • Inula graveolens exhibits acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitory activity.17

inula-greenWhat makes the oil green?

When the plant material is distilled in a copper still, some trace components in this oil form complexes with copper and, voila, the essential oils turns out emerald green. When it is distilled in stainless steel, the oil is yellowish clear.18

Therapeutic Actions:  antibacterial, antifungal, antispasmodic, antitussive, bronchospamolytic, mucolytic

Core Therapeutic Applications:

The essential oil is known as the most effective oil for loosening mucous and deep congestion. It is also useful for acute and chronic respiratory conditions such as coughs, colds, sinusitis, laryngitis and bronchitis.19

Inula graveolens is widely used in aromatherapy for the treatment of asthma. It is reputed to have bronchospasmolytic and mucolytic activity.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, this oil would be indicated for access kapha, lethargy, and congestion.

How to use:

Aromatherapy Inhaler

  • 14 drops Inula graveolens
  • 12 drops Green myrtle (Myrtus communis)

Combine drops in small bowl, place organic cotton pad into bowl to soak up essential oils. Place cotton pad in inhaler tube, close tube with bottom. Use inhaler as needed throughout the day.

Quick remedy for coughs – Add 2 drops in a teaspoon of honey. Stir with a toothpick and then take internally.

Direct Palm Inhalation: Place 2-3 drops in palm of hand, rub hands together and then do a few deep inhalations with hands about 1-2 inches away from face.

My favorite supplier of Inula graveolens:

Original Swiss Aromatics


1 Csurhes S and Zhou Y. (2008). Pest plant risk assessment: Stinkwort Dittrichia graveolens.The state of Queensland. Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.

2 Blanc M C, Muselli A, Bradesi P, Casanova J. (2004). Chemical composition and variability of the essential oil of Inula graveolens from Corsica. Flavour and Fragrance Journal, Vol 19 (4), page 314.

3 Wu X, Li X, Xiao F, Zhang Z, Xu Z, Wang H. (2004). Studies on the analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect of bornyl acetate in volatile oil from Amomum villosum. Zhong Yao Cai. 2004 Jun;27(6):438-9. Chinese. PMID: 15524301 Retrieved on April 10, 2007 from

4 Wu X, Xiao F, Zhang Z, Li X, Xu Z.  Research on the analgesic effect and mechanism of bornyl acetate in volatile oil from amomum villosum. Zhong Yao Cai., 2005 Jun;28(6):505-7.

5 Tung Y-T, Chua M-T, Wang S-Y, Chang S-T. Anti-inflammation activities of essential oil and its constituents from indigenous cinnamon (Cinnamomum osmophloeum) twigs.  Bioresource Technology 99 (2008) 3908–3913

6 Wu X, Xiao F, Zhang Z, Li X, Xu Z.  [Research on the analgesic effect and mechanism of bornyl acetate in volatile oil from amomum villosum]. Zhong Yao Cai. 2005 Jun;28(6):505-7.

7 Tung Y-T, Chua M-T, Wang S-Y, Chang S-T. (2008)Anti-inflammation activities of essential oil and its constituents from indigenous cinnamon (Cinnamomum osmophloeum) twigs. Bioresource Technology 99, pp 3908–3913

8 Matsubara E, Fukagawa M, Okamoto T, Ohnuki K, Shimizu K, Kondo (2011) R.(-)-Bornyl acetate induces autonomic relaxation and reduces arousal level after visual display terminal work without any influences of task performance in low-dose condition.  Biomed Res., 32(2):151-7.

9 Petropoulou A, Tzakou O, Verykokidou E. (2004). Volatile Constituents of Dittrichia graveolens (L.) Greuter from Greece. J Essen Oil Res, 16, 400-401.

10 Silva-Filbo J C, Neylanne N, Oliveira P M, Arcanjo D D R, Quintans-Junior L J, Cavalcanti S C H, Santos M R V, Oliveira RdC M, Oliveira A P.  (2011) Investigation of Mechanisms Involved in (-)-Borneol-Induced Vasorelaxant Response on Rat Thoracic Aorta. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol.

11 Li YH, Sun XP, Zhang YQ, Wang NS. (2008) The antithrombotic effect of borneol related to its anticoagulant property.  Am J Chin Med. 36(4):719-27.

12 Granger RE, Campbell EL, Johnston GA.(2005)  (+)- And (-)-borneol: efficacious positive modulators of GABA action at human recombinant alpha1beta2gamma2L GABA(A) receptors. Biochem Pharmacol. 69(7):1101-11.

13 Tabanca N, Kirimer N, Demirci B, Demirci F, Baser KH. (2001) Composition and antimicrobial activity of the essential oils of Micromeria cristata subsp. phrygia and the enantiomeric distribution of borneol. J Agric Food Chem. 49(9):4300-3.

14 Tung Y-T, Chua M-T, Wang S-Y, Chang S-T. (2008) Anti-inflammation activities of essential oil and its constituents from indigenous cinnamon (Cinnamomum osmophloeum) twigs. Bioresource Technology 99, pp 3908–3913

15 Juhas S, Cikos S, Czikkova S, Vesela J, Il’Kova G, Hajek T, Domaracka K, Domaracky M, Bujnakova D, Rehak P, Koppel J. (2008) Effects of Borneol and Thymoquinone on TNBS-Induced Colitis in Mice. Folia Biologica (Praha) 54, 1-7

16 Guinoiseau E, Luciani A, Rossi P G, Quilichini Y, Ternengo S, Bradesi P, Berti L. (2010)Cellular effects induced by Inula graveolens and Santolina corsica essential oils on Staphylococcus aureus. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 29:873–879

17 Dohi S, Terasaki M, Makino M.  (2009) Acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activity and chemical composition of commercial essential oils. J Agric Food Chem.  57(10):4313-8.

18 Schnaubelt, K. (2011). The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

19  Aghel N, Mahmoudabadi A Z, Darvishi L. (2011). Volatile constituents and anti candida activity of the aerial parts essential oil of Dittrichia graveolens (L.) Greuter grown in Iran. African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology Vol. 5(6), pp. 772-775.

Photo: Svein Erik Larsen