Helichrysum italicum

by Dr. Christoph Streicher and Sheryll Ryan

This plant, of the Umbelliferae family, entered the aromatherapy community relatively late. Helichrysum italicumessential oil was distilled for the first time in the 1970s and ever since has been highly valued by aromatherapists. Common names for Helichrysum are Everlasting and Immortelle, and both names are often applied to the many varieties of Helichrysum. The plant grows in the Alps and on the island of Corsica. The oil is of a bluish green color and is currently produced on Corsica.
Either the whole plant or just the blossom is distilled. Our personal experience has shown that the oil distilled from the blossom only is much more pleasant and effective. It contains pinene, limonene, curcumene, nerol, geraniol, linalol, and eugenol. A particular chemotype, serotinum, is available with elevated levels of nerol and neryl acetate. This gives the oil a unique floral topnote. The oil from this chemotype, if distilled from only the blossoms, has very profound emotional and spiritual effects. Like all Umbelliferae, this plant bestows a lot of moon and mother qualities. Its energetic effect centers around the heart and chest area; thus it is extremely useful in the treatment of heart palpitations, irregularities in heart beat and the risk of stroke. It may be used with other essential oils such as Ylang Ylang when addressing high blood pressure. It has a cooling effect. In Ayurvedic treatments, it may be used to reduce pitta, in particular sadaka pitta.

Not surprisingly, Helichrysum italicum has a profound effect on the emotional heart. However, it acts quite differently than other floral oils like Rose and Jasmine. While it may induce a feeling of serenity, it helps the person get in touch with unresolved feelings and emotions that may have been denied for a long time. It helps to restore memories of relevant experiences that may lie hidden deep in the past. This makes Helichrysum italicum an extremely helpful tool in psychotherapeutic processes. It helps the patient work through these emotions. However, the therapist must carefully monitor how willing the patient is to look at these emotions. The oil should not be used to confront the patient with hidden issues. A strong dislike of the oil from the patient's side may indicate that the patient isn't ready or willing to face certain unresolved or disowned feelings. When the patient is ready and willing to look at this disowned part of his or her heart, the fragrance of the oil can become profoundly meaningful and pleasant. It will help to release defense mechanisms and discover a tremendous potential for regeneration in the emotional arena. Helichrysum will offer great comfort in processing these emotional traumas.

The regenerating potency of the oil has its parallel in its physiological effects. The oil is quite effective in physical trauma. Helichrysum can be used as an emergency first aid treatment of injuries. It can be applied drop by drop to bleeding wounds, even large ones, if medical help is not available. It will reduce and even stop hemorrhage until medical treatment is available. It has been found to be extremely useful in severe burns and in the regeneration of tissue during wound healing. Healing occurs much faster and more completely, from the very first stage of treatment of a bleeding wound until the last stages of scar formation. As long as the wound is open, we recommend applycing the undiluted oil drop by drop.
In the case of a wide, bleeding wound, it is recommended to apply a compress with pressure to stop the bleeding and speed healing. As soon as the wound is closed, apply the Helichrysum diluted in a carrier oil. When you apply it regularly on a closed wound, almost any wound will heal without a visible scar. It is strongly recommended, therefore, as a treatment after surgery. Older scars can be regenerated to an invisible state when Helichrysum in a base of rosehip seed oil is applied every day over several months.
Studies conducted in France, as well as our own clinical experience, indicate that Helichrysum can safely be used over a prolonged period of several months, even though the oil is high in ketones. The ketone content may, in fact, provide anti-inflammatory properties that rival the effectiveness of German Chamomile for treating inflammation. Not only can musculoskeletal inflammation be addressed with Helichrysum, but couperose, rosacea and sensitive skin can be greatly improved and hematomas virtually eliminated. Again, the stimulating ketones account for the exceptional cell rejuvenating qualitites of this oil.
Helichrysum is a vital ingredient in any blend we create for bruising, scarring, wound healing and arthritis or other inflammations. We also include it in sensitive skin formulas. And there's more: Helichrysum's antispasmodic properties seem to equal that of Chamomile Roman. Certainly when these oils are used together, they create a powerful synergy that calms and reduces spasms.

As mentioned before, there are many varieties of Helichrysum. There is a similar species grown in Eastern Europe known as Helichrysum angustifolium. It has similar although lesser effects on the physiology. It is suitable to use with burns and injuries, although it does not have the same cell-rejuvenating properties of the italicum variety. It also does not have the profound emotional effects of the Helichrysum italicum. For maximum effectiveness, whether using Helichrysum or any other oil, it is wise to identify the species and chemotype you are using.

Published in Scentsitivity, Spring, 1998.