by: Jade Shutes, B.A., Dipl. AT, Cert. Herbalist
Helichrysum: H. italicum (Roth) G. Don. syn. H. angustifolium subsp. italicum (Roth) Briq. & Cavill.
Other botanical synonyms: Gnaphalium angustifolium Lam., Gnaphalium italicum Roth (basionym), Helichrysum angustifolium (Lam.) DC., Helichrysum serotinum Boiss. [≡ Helichrysum italicum subsp. serotinum] (USDA GRIN, n/d)
Common names: Immortelle, Everlasting, Helichrysum
Botanical family: Asteraceae syn. Compositae
Country of Origin (E/O): France, Italy, Corsica (French Island), Bosnia
Plant Native to: South Africa, Northern Africa (Algeria, Morocco), Asia-temperate, Western Asia (Cyprus) and Southeastern Europe (Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia) and Southwestern Europe (France, Portugal, and Spain) (USDA GRIN)
Method of Extraction: Steam distilled: fresh flowering tops
Botanical info: There are over 600 species in the Helichrysum genus occurring in temperate regions throughout the world. The genus includes annuals, herbaceous perennials and shrubs. Helichrysum species thrives in sunshine, and enjoys growing in arid, sandy, stony areas and along mountainsides. Over 250 different species of helichrysum reside in South Africa. The name Helichrysum is derived from the Greek “helios” meaning sun and “chrysos” meaning gold, referring to the color of many of the flowers of species in this genus.
Helichrysum italicum is a small perennial shrubby herb with narrow, silver-hairy leaves and small, yellow dry (straw -like) flowers. The flowers are a cluster of golden yellow ball shaped blossoms, the leaves are delicate and oblong, which when crushed release a distinct aroma. It is a wonderful plant to grow in the garden, for both its curry aroma and simple beauty. The aroma of the essential oil has been exquisitely described by Holmes (n/d), as being: a deeply-saturated sweet, green floral scent. The name Immortelle or Everlasting comes about for this plant as it retains its yellow color even when dried.
NOTE: Although there are a number of subspecies of H. italicum, some suppliers and many research papers do not specify the subspecies of Helichrysum italicum. It would therefore be wise to verify with your supplier the exact species (and subspecies) they offer as well as to request a GC/MS spec sheet in order to clarify key chemical constituents found in the particular e/o you are purchasing. See chemical profile below for additional information. The subspecies include:
Helichrysum italicum ssp. italicum
Helichrysum italicum ssp. microphyllum
Helichrysum italicum ssp. serotinum
Historical info: Historical uses and writings on helichrysum are scant although it does appear to enjoy a history of traditional medicinal and culinary use in several cultures. Holmes (n/d) comments that “the plant has been used in herbal medicine since ancient Greece”. A couple of articles have been published recently on the use of Helichrysum in Italy to flavor sauces with a curry-like quality in various food dishes. The flavor is said to reminiscent of a more delicate rosemary. (Ghirardini, et.al., 2007 and Guarrera et al. 2006).
According to http://www.plantzafrica.com/planthij/helichrysumsplend.htm, “Helichrysums are well known and very popular as traditional medicine in South Africa, their uses are often linked to their distribution. Elsa Pooley mentions in the field guide to the Flora of the Drakensberg and Lesotho, that Helichrysum splendidum has been used to treat rheumatism and that it is a good fuel plant in the mountains. It is also used in potpourri and lasts well in a vase as a cut flower.
The Afrikaans common name, sewejaartjie is given to most of the helichrysums with papery, everlasting flowers, and is derived from the belief that the flower heads last for seven (sewe) years (jaar) when kept in the house. The prefix geel means yellow. Geelsewejaartjie.”
Helichrysum is a relative newcomer to the practice and industry of aromatherapy. According to Schnaubelt (1999) “The story of the essential oil of Helichrysum italicum is a perfect example of how a few individuals acting decisively can make a difference in the world. Essential oil catalogs prior to the early 1980’s do not list Helichrysum italicum. Today, Helichrysum essential oil is offered on virtually every ambitious aromatherapy list.” It could be said, that Kurt Schnaubelt popularized the work of Pierre Franchomme and Daniel Penoel through the aromatherapy courses at the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy as well as through his (Schnaubelts) earlier books: Advanced Aromatherapy and Medical Aromatherapy.
“Its effects are so convincing that it has never met with any kind of criticism despite the absence of data on its effectiveness. Helichrysum oil demonstrates that anecdotal evidence can create a reality without the help of industrially sponsored science. Helichrysum is more predictable in its action than almost any other oil and is produced and sold by small enterprises that understand the needs of the aromatherapy market.” (Schnaubelt, pg. 240)
Yield: The essential oil yield for Helichrysum is quite low at approximately: 0.2 – 0.3%. This would be a contributing factor to its cost. The average price at the time of writing for 5mls is $32-40. US.
Chemical profile: Many factors influence the chemical composition of helichrysum including environmental conditions (light, soil, temperature, moisture, climatic influence, and altitude) as well as country of origin/geographic area. The specific subspecies harvested and distilled will also exhibit chemical variations.
A general profile would include the following major constituents:
- Monoterpenes: a-pinene , b-pinene, d-limonene, g-curcumene,
- Sesquiterpene: b-carophyllene
- Alcohols: linalol, geraniol, nerol, furfurol
- Esters: neryl acetate, geranyl acetate
- Aldehydes: isovaleric
- Ketones: diones, italidone, other b-diketones
- Phenol: eugenol
Chemical Features to look for:
Diketone content: italidione
Ester content: specifically neryl acetate
Sesquiterpenes content: b-carophyllene and γ-curcumene
Specific companies list the following:
Original Swiss Aromatics (OSA) sells Helichrysum italicum serot. Also known as: Helichrysum serotinum (DC.) Boiss., syn. H. italicum subsp.serotinum (Boiss.) P. Fourn. According to the OSA website this helichrysum from Bosnia is rich in diketones and is used for its strong wound healing abilities. Anecdotal reports suggest that the diketones (containing two ketone groups), notably the italidiones found in
Helichrysum italicum (immortelle), possess anti-haematomal properties. (Bensouilah and Buck, 2006, p.24)
Aromatics International (n/d), for the same species essential oil, states “this particular batch from Bosnia is high in γ-curcumene, a component which is known for its tissue healing effect, known to reduce inflammation, and is especially good for healing for scars (new and old). The GC/MS spec sheet on her website reported: Monoterpenes: α-pinene (30.31%), limonene (2.53%), Sesquiterpenes: α-curcumene (3.61%), α-selinene (3.02%), α-trans-bergamotene (1.06%), β-caryophyllene (4.22%), β-selinene (5.29%), γ-curcumene (12.78%), italicene (3.13%), trans-4,7-selinadiene (1.47%):: Ketones: italidione i w=210 (3.72%), italidione ii mw=224 (2.73%) and italidione iii mw=238( 0.51%): Esters: neryl acetate (4.69%): Oxide: 1,8 cineole (1,74%). (Aromatic International, n/d.)
OSA also sells another Helichrysum listed as Helichrysum italicum. The website states that this particulary essential oil from Corsica is high in esters and is therefore indicated for regenerative skincare.
Butje (n/d) comments on the same e/o from Corsica, this particular batch has a strong anti-spasmodic quality, excellent to reducing pain and muscle spasms. The GC/MS spec. sheet for this species the key chemical constituents for this oil as: Esters: neryl acetate (43%); Monoterpenes: α-fenchene (0.33%), α-pinene (1.26%), β-myrcene (0.11%), β-pinene 0.36, γ-terpinene (0.26%), limonene (3.72%); Sesquiterpenes: α-curcumene (3.06%), β-caryophyllene (0.75%), γ-curcumene (11.18%), isoitalicene (0.70%), italicene (2.59%) and other Ketones: 3.56%.
Florihana (www.florihana.com) lists “Helichrysum Italian: Helichrysum italicum ssp italicum”. Country of origin: France. The associated GC/MS report shows the oil to be rich in neryl acetate (32%), italidione 1 and 2 (11%) and alpha terpineol and gamma curcumene at 11.49%. Other minor constituents include: neryl propionate, nerol, ar curcumene, italicene, and a-pinene.
Other variables in the chemistry have been noted by Butkiene (2006) “based upon the published data, β-caryophyllene was found to be among major constituents in other Helichrysum species: in H. italicum collected along Adriatic Coast in Croatia, from Tuscany (Italy) and Spain; in H. stoechas of Greek origin; in H. kraussii from South Africa; in H. cordifolium, H.faradifani and H. hypnides from Madagascar; in H. heldreichii from Greece; and in flower oil of H. litoreum collected in the Aeolian archipelago”. b-carophyllene shows anti-inflammatory activity. (Martin, et al., 2004)
A separate study on essential oils obtained from Helichrysum species in Greece found that “The essential oils obtained by steam distillation from the aerial parts of 104 specimens of eight Helichrysum species and distinct chemical profiles were analysed by GC-MS. H. italicum ssp microphyllum was characterised by b-selinene (17.2%) and γ-curcumene (13.7%), while…. H. amorginum and H. italicum contained geraniol (32.1% and 35.5%), geranyl acetate (20.7% and 14.7%) and neryl acetate (17.5% and 7.2%) as major contributors”(Tsoukatoui, et al., n/d).
Safety Information: None known. (Haas, 2004)
- Anti-inflammatory (Racine, 2003)
- Cell (and tissue) regenerative (Schanaublt, 1995 and Haas, 2004)
- Analgesic (Schnaubelt, 1995)
- First aid remedy for injuries, strains, sprains, tissue trauma (apply undiluted)
- Bruises, swellings, cuts, open wounds (Haas, 2004)
- Wound healing
- Scar reduction
- Joint pain, rheumatoid arthritis (Schnaubelt, 1995)
- Old or new scars resulting from surgery or injury, inflamed tissues, Hematoma, Allergic skin reactions, Hemorrhoids, Keloid scar tissue (to prevent or improve appearance), Stretch marks, Tendinitis, Wounds and Cuts. (Schnaubelt, 1999)
- Apply immediately undiluted after an injury, it prevents swelling and bruising. (Haas, 2004)
- Acute emotions (incl. acute anxiety, fear, anger, sorrow) (Holmes, n/d)
- Mental/Spiritual/Emotional trauma
- Acne, chronic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, scar tissue, burns, dermal inflammation, cuts and wounds, bruises, radiation burns
- Childhood dermatitis (Buck,P., 2005)
- Chronic asthma, viscous sputum in bronchitis, chronic cough (Holmes, n/d)
- Pain Relief (due to anti-inflammatory action) (Harris and Harris, 2002)
- Anal/Rectal fissures (Cristina, E., 2005)
- H. italicum has anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antiallergic activity and has been used to treat chronic chest ailments. (van Wyk and Wink, 2004)
- Dry, itchy skin with existing scratches and dermal irritation (Horrigan, 2004)
- Nurturing, calming, harmonizing and grounding, Helichchrysum will reduce apprehension, irritability and mental unrest. Helps untangle emotional knots and resolve past emotional trauma. (Holmes, n/d)
- Slow to heal wounds associated with significant tissue trauma (Harris, R., 2006)
- Same attributes as the essential oil: anti-inflammatory, Anti-haematomal, cell regenerative, compress for scar tissue, wound healing, sports rub for physical aches and pains, internally for liver support (Catty, 2001)
Sample Recipe for Post-surgical scar healing (after stitches have been removed)
Salve base: using Jojoba, Calendula, and Shea butter
**Can be made with Shea butter and Jojoba/Calendula only: without beeswax.
In salve, use a 25% dilution of:
Helichrysum italicum 20%
Daucus carota 25%
Rosmarinus officinalis ct. verbenon 30%
Lavandula x intermedia 15%
Salvia officinalis 10%
Sample Wound Healing Blend (designed by Rhiannon Harris, 2006)
25% essential dilution in base oil of Hypericum perforatum
Matricaria recutita 10%
Cistus ladaniferus 10%
Helichrysum italicum 10%
Thymus vulgaris ct. thujanol 40%
Lavandula latifolia 30%
Sample application of Helichrysum for Bruises
Immediately after injury has occurred, apply undiluted helichrysum. Apply 1-2 more times throughout the day.
Next day follow-up: Bruise Gel
Using Aloe vera Gelly (Lily of the Desert): this is a thicker aloe vera gel.
Place two ounces of the gelly in a glass bowl. Add Lavender and/or Helichrysum hydrosol (approx. 2-3 tbsps) and Arnica herbal oil (approx. ½ to 1 tbsp) to desired consistency. Then add in a 10% dilution of:
Matricaria recutita 50%
Helichrysum italicum 50%
Chemical features: Monoterpenes, Sesquiterpenes, Oxides. This unique species of helichrysum offers relief for muscle pain; reduces swelling and is a great respiratory oil for allergies, colds and flu. It is also know to reduce headaches and clear the mind. A great oil to add to menstrual pain blends to reduce the spasms. Combined with lavender you can address many of the daily issues that we use over the counter drugs to address. This is a great oil to add to your collection! http://www.aromaticsinternational.com/aromatherapy-essential-oil/helichrysum-odoratissimum
Helichrysum stoechas (L.) Monech
According to the GC/MS spec sheet from Liberty Natural, H. stoechas is rich in the monoterpenes, alpha-pinene (up to 75%) with other minor constituents of: b-carophyllene (1.72%), gamma curcumene (1.99%)
and a-curcumene (2.40%). Several companies offer this as an absolute.
Helichrysum splendidum, Flowers, South Africa
It is best described as being a combination of floral and mint. It is certainly a strong product, and one we expect to grow in popularity as more literature becomes available.http://www.newdirectionsaromatics.com/helichrysum-african-essential-oil-p-259.html
Helichrysum arenarium: this herb (not essential oil) is used for peptic discomfort, and has been used as a traditional diuretic tea. It is believed to have antibacterial, mild choleretic, and spasmolytic activity. (van Wyk and Wink, 2004)
According to Judzentiene, A. & Butkiene, R. (2006), “Most of the Helichrysum species have been studied for their essential oils or extracts (3-20), which possess potent pharmacological properties (13-20). The inflorescence of H. arenarium (Helichrysiflos) has long been know in European herbal medicine for its choleretic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, detoxifying and antiradical activities (21-25), bioactivity in many cases influenced by flavonoids, polyphenols, phenolic acids. Three subspecies of H. arenarium growing in Turkey were examined in regard to their flavonoids (26). In Lithuanian folk medicine the H. arenarium has been used internally as a remedy for digestive problems as well as in external medicine. Dried plants are used as a repellent against brown house moths”.
Helichrysum picardii, was shown to be effective against gram-positive bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, B. cereus, B. maegaterium, and gram-negative E. coli. Its antibacterial activity was thought to be less potent than clove and thyme (de la Puerta et al. 1993). Helichrysum is used as a tobacco flavorant. (Buckle, 2003, p.175).
Buck, P. (2005). The aromatherapeutic management of childhood dermatitis. International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy, 2/2, p.5-13.
Buckle, J. (2003). Clinical Aromatherapy. Philadelphia: Elsevier Science.
Aromatic International and A. Butje. Notes on Helichrysum italicum from website: http://www.aromaticsinternational.com/ retrieved on October 28, 2007.
Catty, S. (2001). Hydrosols – Therapeutic action in Aromatherapy. New Frontiers in Australian Aromatherapy conference notes. Aromatherapy Conference and Trade Show, May, 2001.
Christina, E. (2005). Anal fissure following childbirth: a case study. International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy, 2/1, p.40-41.
Ghirardini, M., Carli, M. del Vecchio, N., Rovati A., et al. (2007). The importance of a taste. A comparative study on wild food plant consumption in twenty-one local communities in Italy. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2007, 3:22doi:10.1186/1746-4269-3-22.
Guarrera, P.M., Salerno, G., and Caneva, G. (2006). Food, flavouring and feed plant traditions in the Tyrrhenian sector of Basilicata, Italy. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2006, 2:37doi:10.1186/1746-4269-2-37
The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at: http://www.ethnobiomed.com/content/2/1/37
Harris, B. & Harris, R. (2002). Aromatherapy for Pain Relief. Retrieved on October 28, 2007 from: http://www.positivehealth.com/article-view.php?articleid=76
Harris, R. (2006). Aromatic approaches to wound care. International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy, 3/2, p.9-18.
Haas, M. (2004). Quick Reference Guide for 114 Important Essential Oils. San Rafael, CA: Linda Scent and Image books.
Holmes, P. Helichrysum notes. Retrieved on October 23, 2007 from: http://www.snowlotus.org/html/oils/photos3.html
Holmes, P. (n/d). Clinical Aromatherapy: Using Essential Oils for Healing Body and Soul. Self-published.
Horrigan, C. (2004). The benefits and possibilities for the use of aromatherapy in palliative care. International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy, 1/2, p.23-27.
Judzentiene, A, Butkiene, R. (2006). Chemical Composition of the Essential Oils of Wild Helichrysum arenarium (L.) with Differently Colored Inflorescences from Eastern Lithuania. Journal of Essential Oil Research: JEOR, Jan/Feb 2006.
Martin S, Padilla E, Ocete MA, Galvez J, Jimenez J, and Zarzuelo A.(1993). Anti-inflammatory activity of the essential oil of Bupleurum fruticescens. Planta Med. 1993 Dec;59(6):533-6. PMID: 8302953
Original Swiss Aromatics, www.originalswissaromatics.com. Information retrieved on Everlasting, October 2007.
Racine, P. (2003). Inhibition of 5-Lipoxygenaxe by essential oils and other natural fragrant extracts. International Journal of Aromatherapy, 13.2/3, p. 138-142.
Schnaubelt, K. (1995). Advanced Aromatherapy. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
Schnaubelt, K. (1999). Medical Aromatherapy. Berkely, CA: Frog, Ltd.
Tsoukatoui, M., Petrakis, P., Chinou, I., Harvala, C., and Roussis, V. (n/d). Chemical Variability and Chemotaxonomic Studies on members of the Genus: Helichrysum growing in Greece. Retrieved on November 11, 2007 from: http://www.amapseec.org/cmapseec.1/papers/pap_op16.htm
USDA GRIN, n/d. (United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Area Germplasm Resources Information Network). Helichrysum italicum. Retrieved on November 11, 2007 from: http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?316298
Van Wyk, B., and Wink, M. (2004). Medicinal Plants of the World. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press.
** (Latin names source: http://ddd.uab.es/pub/orsis/02134039n21p59.pdf)