Inula helenium (Compositae) is a widely occurring perennial herb in Europe and East Asia. Its roots have been traditionally used as a diaphoresis and a diuretic expectorant agent in Europe, as a fragrance agent for home medicines in Japan, and as agents of tuberculotic enterorrhea, chronic enterogastritis and bronchitis and a preservative in China. Native Americans used infusion and decoctions of this roots to treat lung disorders and against tuberculosis. The investigation of the genus Inula has shown the sesquiterpene lactone and essential oil groups, and some phenolic acids and flavonoids were evaluated as other constituents of this genus. Many sesquiterpenes were isolated from Inula helenium. The principal ingredient, alantolactone has strong anthelmintic and antibacterial activities.
As part of our screening for antiproliferative constituents in natural resources, we examined the roots of I. helenium grown in Tibet. The MeOH extract of the roots of this plant showed antiproliferative activities against three tumor cell lines: human gastric adenocarcinoma cells (MK-1), human uterus carcinoma (HeLa) and mouse melanoma (B16F10) cells.