HELICHRYSUM, the Essential Oil
The Helichrysum species are difficult to tell apart and contain a rare therapeutic essential oil that is used to reduce pain (analgesic) and reduce bruising.
By Jeanne Rose ~ 5-12-22
Common Name/Latin Binomial ~ Helichrysum angustifolium DC. often called Everlasting and Immortal. The four species that are most used in medicine and aromatherapy in the genus Helichrysum are. Helichrysum bracteiferum (Madagascar), Helichrysum gymnocephalum (from several countries), Helichrysum italicum (Corsica), and Helichrysum odoratissimum (South Africa).
Other Common Name/Naming Information ~ The various species of Helichrysum are often hard to tell apart as they are polymorphic, that is, appearing in several different forms. They have common names such as Immortal and strawflower and some kinds are grown as everlastings, that is, they retain their shape and color when dried. Helichrysum is derived from the Greek name for sun and gold.
Family ~ Asteraceae
Countries of Origins Helichrysum ~ Helichrysum italicum (H. angustifolium) Italian everlasting, Immortelle. The genus Helichrysum includes around 500 species from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. They grow wild in many Mediterranean countries.
Endangered or Not ~ Some species of Helichrysum are listed as endangered.
Historical & Interesting ~ Most Italian oils are orange-colored. The finest and most therapeutic Helichrysum comes from Sicily – it is greenish-colored, and honey-scented and contains the anti-hematomic (stops bruising) diketones called italidone. American and Croatian grown oil has been found to contain neryl acetate for skincare but rarely contain italidone. The finest Helichrysum essential oil is a result of its terroir and point of origin, the parts of the plant used, and harvest time.
General description of Plant habitat and growth ~ Etymology (the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.) – The composite flowers of Helichrysums are surrounded by desiccated, colored, membranous sepals, remaining unchanged when the plant is dried – whence the name ‘everlasting’. Helichrysums can be perennials or annuals or shrubs.
Portion of plant used in distillation, how distilled, extraction methods, and yields ~ Helichrysum oil is produced on a limited scale by steam distillation or solvent extraction of the flowering tops of Italian everlasting, H. italicum, and closely related species. Harvest must be done by the hand of the flowering tops and leaves. They should be wild grown. Distilling must be done as soon as possible after harvest. If the plants are kept longer that 24 hours, the plant material will start to fade and to ferment and the oil will be of poor quality. Helichrysum can be solvent extracted to an absolute.
Yield ~ the plants contain as little as 0.2-0.5% essential oil
Helichrysum – Organoleptic Characteristics of the Essential oil
The oils of Helichrysum are very different colors depending upon where they are grown, from an orange color to yellow and some of the most interesting are green in color.
Color – usually yellow
Clarity – clear
Viscosity – non-viscous
Intensity of odor – soft intensity, about 4-5
Tenacity – a tenacious scent that can be recognized within a blend
Odor Description/ Aroma Assessment ~ It has a rich, honeyed, herbaceous, sweet hay aroma and has been used for special effects in perfumery but is mostly used in blends for pain relief.
GENERAL PROPERTIES & Uses of Helichrysum
Properties and Uses ~ Several studies have confirmed that Helichrysum italicum (*H. italicum (Roth) G. Don) essential oil from Algeria exhibits interesting antimicrobial activity that seems to be due to the large diversity of its chemical contents. Therefore, the essential oil of H. italicum (Roth) G. Don might be used as a therapeutic agent and these compounds can be applied to medicinal and pharmaceutical purposes.1
Physical Uses ~ Some Helichrysum oil from Corsica contains diketones, which are anti-hematomic, that is, the use reduces the effects of bruising. The oil is also analgesic (reduces pain) and can be used in a compress to areas that have been banged and bumped and to older injuries and aches and pains.
Other Physical Uses include Helichrysum has important anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and sedative properties. It can be used as an external application for Dupuytren’s contracture, (another possible use is for Peyronie Syndrome), arthritis, and trigger finger. It has regenerative properties and is used to resolve old scar tissue, treat burns, and taken in a tincture or carrier as an internal use for ulcers or stomach lining or mouth wash for inflammation of the gums. In France, it is used by ingestion to regulate cholesterol (I do not know how or how much) It also has detoxifying properties and can be used on herpes, acne, and by inhalation to help one to cease smoking.
No-Smoking/Heal Damage done by Drugs
Use by Inhalation & Application
3 parts Lemon – cleanser and astringent
2 parts Rose Geranium – adrenal tonic
1 part Helichrysum – healing, antihematomic
Morton’s Neuroma Formula. A Helichrysum-based product can be effective. Helichrysum is more anti-inflammatory than German Chamomile, and often more tissue regenerating than Comfrey or Lavender and is both anti-inflammatory and analgesic. It is said to have corticoid-like effects.
|Helichrysum Salve or Oil A 10-15% essential oil formula in Calophyllum oil and Calendula infused oil, thickened with beeswax. The formula of oils is to use 15% EO to 85% carrier |
35% Helichrysum – soothing/healing
25% Rosemary cineol – stimulating/healing
20% Basil analgesic/warming/healing essential oil
20% Lavender aromatic/healing essential oil
Add 15% EO to 85% Carrier of Calophyllum & Calendula
You can change the ingredients around for different results.
Application & Skincare ~ Regarding essential oils for the recovery of scars and keloids, here is a wonderful formula using Helichrysum. Supplementary information can be read in my book, “375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols” and get a copy of this book as it will help you with education and information.
Scar Care Formula & EO
20% Rosehip Seed oil20% Calophyllum inophyllum50% Calendula infused oil
10% essential oils:
3% Lavender – high altitude
3% Blue Chamomile
Mix everything and apply as often as possible, several times per day.
Inhalation ~ Use inhalation of the mixture to help one to stop smoking. Inhale as often as necessary to repel your use of cigarettes. [see formula above]
Diffusion – This is such a special and expensive essential oil; I do not recommend its use via a diffuser.
Emotional/Energetic Use ~ Often used to inhale to release trauma and for peace and a quiet mind.
Short List of Helichrysum Uses from Rivendell Aromatics
Helichrysum/Immortelle: Helichrysum italicum
Arthritis Pain – anti-inflammatory
Emotional – Heals emotional scars, connects body and spirit, and opens inner spiritual life.
Face & skin – Clear Acne, Rosacea, Age spots & Scars
Infections – bacterial & fungal
Mouthwash – heal gingivitis & sores
Respiratory – Inhale mist for asthma, bronchitis, cough
Surgery – helps heal incisions and needle wounds, helps to detoxify the liver of anesthetic & drugs
Wounds –: Reduce swelling of bruises, bumps, nosebleeds,
Personal use – Strong anti-inflammatory – has worked well for my aging mother as she was able to stop taking prescription pain medication for her arthritis, and she noticed that her ‘age spots’ faded.
Strong effective remedy for hematoma bruises and aches and pains from trauma or overworking a muscle. And I have also used Helichrysum hydrosol plus Bay hydrosol as a mouth wash for serious gum problems.
Herbal & Hydrosol Use ~ I have found that the best use for Helichrysum flowers is in flower arrangements as they are very dry and thus last quite a while. Other than this, hydrosol is the most efficient and best use of this hard-to-distill plant. The hydrosol can be used directly as a facial tonic, as an ingredient in any skincare product, and as a direct spray for calming and cooling.
The average yield is 1 lb. of plant material and 1-2 lbs. (2 cups to 1 quart) of hydrosol out. (One gallon of distilled water weighs approx. 8.32 lbs.)
Key Use: Oil for delicate skin care.
Chemistry and Comparison of Main Components ~ The major ingredient of typical Helichrysum oil is neryl acetate (up to 40 %). Moreover, a number of unusual beta-diketones are present in some samples in significant amounts, e.g., 4,6,9-trimethyldec-8-en-3,5-dione. One of the components of the EO from Corsica is italidone, a double-bonded ketone that is an anti-hematomic i.e., it helps reduce bruising. Other species contain neral acetate, an important ester used for soothing and healing and for skincare.
Chemistry of Helichrysum (the Essential Oil Certificate of Analysis) by Arthur Tucker – 10/22/03
A Story of HYDROSOL ~ Helichrysum, Helichrysum angustifolia dc.,
called Everlasting and Immortal among other names
DISTILLATION TIDBITS • the various species of Helichrysum are hard to tell apart, they are polymorphic (have many shapes). They grow wild in many Mediterranean countries. Most Italian oils are orange-colored. The finest and most therapeutic Helichrysum comes from Sicily – it is greenish-colored, and honey-scented and contains the anti-hematomic (stops bruising) diketones called italidone. To date, no American or Croatian grown oil has been found to contain italidone. This oil can be taken internally for liver problems and is used externally as a regenerative and to resolve scar tissue. See page 88-89 in 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Hydrosol is used to bathe fresh wounds, it is healing and soothing. It is not yet known what the USA-grown hydrosol will do in actual practice.
Specific gravity is .0.89-.92 ± .002 and the plants contain as little as 0.2-0.5% essential oil.
Harvest must be done by the hand of the flowering tops and leaves. They should be wild grown. Distilling must be done as soon as possible after harvest. If the plants are kept longer than 24 hours, the plant material will start to fade and to ferment and the oil will be of poor quality.——2001
Distillation of California grown Helichrysum September 23, 2003. On 9/23/03, I received 5 lbs. plus of Helichrysum flowering tops grown and harvested by Sandy Messori in California and distilled it in a 25-liter copper still. The information is as follows: Latin binomial and variety. Helichrysum italicum. The grower did not know the variety or chemotype.
Terroir (where and how grown). The area is near Carpentaria, CA and the field is located in a protected canyon called Casitas Pass, 4 miles from the Pacific Ocean. It is at about 900 feet elevation, in an area that was once an oak forest and is now an avocado orchard. The area was cleared by a landslide about 7 years ago and the soil that was ‘unearthed’ by the slide, the ‘virgin’ soil, was allowed to be fallow, never planted with trees or crops. The soil is heavy clay, but the slope allows plenty of drainage for these drought-tolerant plants that are native to the southern part of Europe bordering the Mediterranean Ocean (Italian Riviera, Dalmatian Islands, and French Riviera. The plants have similar needs to Lavender.
These plants were grown on clay soil on a gentle 20-30% W – NW facing slope. The plants were not watered as in June there had been a light rain. The springtime weather was very cool and gloomy well into the summer (July). Then it was bright and sunny the rest of the summer. The soil around the plants is covered with a dark-colored weed cloth that helps keep the soil warm and conserves moisture. There is full sun exposure all day long.
Harvest. The plants were harvested on 9/22/03 between noon and 12:30 pm. It was a clear and sunny day with a slight mist down by the ocean, which gives the growing area some slight humidity. The temperature was 74° F with a slight breeze from the west at noon. The morning dew had dried off the plants. The nighttime temperatures had been 55-60° F. The tops were cut 3-6 inches in length with immature flower heads, some mature flowers as well, 5 lbs. were laid lengthwise in a box and shipped by Fed Ex to arrive by 10 am the following day in San Francisco.
Distillation occurred on September 23, Autumn Equinox, 2003. On Tuesday, I received the FedEx package at 10:30 a.m. and immediately set up the 25-liter copper stovetop still. The plants picked weighed 5 lbs. and were placed in the pot on a copper grid to keep the plants out of the water. The still was put together at 11:08 a.m., it was 75° F in the kitchen. Three gallons of 60° F. spring water were added to the pot, the heat turned on, the rest of the connections were made, and 2 gallons of warm water added to the condenser. There was heat at the head at 11:20 a.m., at the gooseneck at 11:30 a.m., and at the condenser at 11:35 a.m. The connections were secure, and the distillate started at 11:42 a.m. The heads (first plant aroma) were strongly herbaceous and with floral back notes. During the distillation, the scent stayed strongly honeyed, herbal, and floral. pH stayed at 4.2 ± .1 throughout the distillation that lasted 3 hours. At 12:15 p.m. the scent or body note was flattening out, but the odor could still be characterized as herbal, honey and floral. The distillation was slowed by turning down the heat during the middle of the time which seemed to improve the odor as well as slow the distillate into the receiver. At 3:42 p.m. after 3 hours of distillation, 6 quarts of hydrosol had been collected and a vegetative back note was creeping into the scent. Distillation was stopped at this evidence of a tail note.
5 pounds of cut tops with mature and immature flower heads yielded 6 quarts of hydrosol and 1 ml. of essential oil. The essential oil was sent for analysis and this information is added.
When Sandy Messori, the grower, distilled on her glass still, she got much less hydrosol but more of the essential oil. “Jeanne, so much hydrosol with just 5 pounds of material. It has a nice honey/toast scent. The hydrosol I get has a stronger, more pungent scent since I am using a smaller still and get only about 2 liters during a 3-hour distillation. And from 8 pounds of material, I get about 8 -10 MLS. of essential oil.” Sandy Messori of Rivendell Aromatics •
PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil, or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh.
This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.
Patch Test: If applying a new essential oil to your skin always perform a patch test on the inner arm (after you have diluted the EO in a vegetable carrier oil). —Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose band-aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas.—The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations, p. 64
Do not Ingest essential oils, please.
DISCLAIMER: This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor. The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©
Guenther, The Essential Oils
Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose & Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, http://www.bojensen.net/EssentialOilsEng/EssentialOils13A/EssentialOils13A.htm
Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999
Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations. San Francisco, California: