Helichrysum is often referred to as “strawflowers.” Where I spend summers in northern Wisconsin, I see Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis nubigena) growing along the roadside. They make lovely winter nosegays, because, when dried, they will last the winter. There are never enough to create essential oils, but they may well contain essential oils useful for medicinal purposes. They are not, however, in the genus Helichrysum, which is the genus that is most commonly cited when discussing ‘strawflowers’ as a source of essential oils.
The Helichrysum used most often to produce essential oils for skin care grows in the Mediterranean area. It is a grey-blue bush that thrives in the arid conditions found there. The essential oil seems to calm the skin and reduce outbreaks of acne and eczema. It is probably the antibacterial activity of the essential oil that is most responsible for good outcomes in skin care.
Helichrysum italicum is referred to as “Immortelle,” or “Everlasting” and the essential oils are marketed to nonscientists as “Immortelle.” It is often used in perfumes because of its long lasting base note fragrance.
Helichrysum italicum harvested in Croatia varies significantly from Helichrysum italicum harvested in Africa. and it was the Croatian variety that was studied by Mastelic, Politeo and Jerkovic.(1). In addition to the components a-Pinene, Methyl Cyclohexyl pentanoate, neryl acetate and di-epi-a-cedreme, they also found 27 Esters. They also discussed the possibility that a component of Helichrysum called geraniol may improve anti-bacterial activity.
While Helichrysum italicum is found in the Mediterranean, Helichrysum cymosum, as well as 244 other Helichrysum species, are found in South Africa. Essential oil from African Helichrysum splendidum, for instance, has different constituents from essential oil from Helichrysum italicum according to New Directions Aromatics. The combination of terpenes and esters found in Helichrysums makes them significant anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agents that can be harnessed to promote health In the face of some very significant bacterial infections such as Escherichia coli. E. Coli is now considered a major cause of diarrhea and becomes dangerous in new babies, the elderly and others with weakened immune defenses.(2).
Helichrysum italicum essential oil is a base note used frequently in treating health conditions. It is described here for its anti-bacterial qualities, but it is also used to treat circulatory issues, digestive issues, parasites, cystitis, menstrual issues, and respiratory issues. (3)
At Singing Flower Studio we use Helichrysum italicum essential oil primarily for its ability to regenerate and heal skin tissues. That is why it is an ingredient in our Nighttime Facial Moisturizer and in our Rose blush. It is unequalled in its ability to heal aging or wounded skin. Its antibacterial action reduces germs and its other constituents rejuvenate all skin types. It is one of our favorite essential oils for skin care.
(1). Mastelic, J, Jerkovic, Politeo and I., “Contribution to the Analysis of the Essential Oil of Helichrysum italicum (roth) G.Don – Determination of Ester Bonded Acids and Phenols Molecules” 2008, 13 (4), p. 795-803. Wikipedia.
(2). Rai, Mahendra and Kon, Kateryna, Fighting Multidrug Resistance. Article by Abad, Maria Jose, Bedoya, Luis Miguel and Bermejo , Paulina, “Essential Oils from the Asteraceae Family Active against Multidrug-Resistant Bacteria,” Elsevier Press, London, 2013, p. 205-221.
(3). New Directions Aromatics list of essential oils. www.newdirectionsaromatics.com
(4). Dechen, Shanti, Clinical Aromatherapy Level 1 Text, Therapeutic Blending Index, 2017, p.103-126.1