Helichrysum, also referred to as the Everlasting or Immortal flower, and also variously as Imphepho, Immortelle, Cape Gold or ‘sewejaartjie’ in Afrikaans (the blooms are believed to last 7 years when kept in the house) is our deserving Oil Of The Week.
Helichrysum gets its name from the Greek words helios, meaning sun, and chrysos meaning gold, and this refers to the gold disk or halo shape of the petal arrangement. The leaves are silvery in colour, with a slightly camphorous aroma when rubbed between the fingers. You may recognise the pretty dried ‘everlastings’ from a potpourri or dried flower arrangement.
Helichrysum typically has a herbaceous, energising aroma, making it great as a massage oil to reinvigorate the body. The oil is extracted via steam distillation of the flower of the helichrysum plant, a perennial herb. It has been used since ancient Greek times, as well as for hundreds of years in traditional African medicine.
All Helichrysums belong to the Asteraceae or daisy family, one of the largest flower families. Over 240 species of Helichrysum are indigenous to South Africa but there are about 500+ members of the Helichrysum genus in total, and they grow all over the world. Because of their wide distribution, the helichrysums can differ quite a bit from species to species. We’ll talk about the most commonly known species here.
Helichrysum italicum is native to the Mediterranean and southern Europe. It has a chemical makeup that is quite different from the rest of the helichrysums and is sought after for its skin properties. The oil is unfortunately not commonly found in South Africa as it needs to be imported and is extremely costly.
H.splendidum or Cape Gold, is native to South Africa and is the helichrysum oil most commonly found here in SA. It is used in traditional African medicine to treat rheumatism, insomnia, infections and as an insect repellent. It is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti fungal properties, helping with joint and soft tissue pain and inflammation, as well as a treatment for respiratory tract issues. It is both an excellent oil for problem skin as well as for its medicinal benefits.
H.patulum or honey everlasting, is indigenous to Southern Africa and is used to treat a whole range of conditions from asthma and influenza, fatigue and stress hypertension, to gynaecological disorders and bladder infections. Traditionally, it is used to treat infections, breathed in to ward off headaches and evil spirits and also to treat asthma.
H.petiolare or silverbush everlasting, is a well known South African shrub, and has delicate velvety silver leaves and dainty yellow blooms. It is used to treat asthma, colds and chest ailments.
H.Odoratissimum or Immortelle / Imphepho (also kooigoed in Afrikaans) is probably the most strongly aromatic of the helichrysums. It is found all over Southern Africa. It is used in perfumery as well as insect repellents, as a sedative, for coughs and colds and also to fumigate sick rooms. It can also be used in skincare for pimples and acne. There have been medical studies on the efficacy of Imphepho for acne and it was found to be good as a treatment due to its antibacterial and anti inflammatory properties.
There are too many helichrysum species to mention in one blog, but the takeaway message is that these sweet little indigenous flowers produce an oil that is excellent for respiratory problems, infections, as well as skin problems, and make a very nice addition to your essential oils collection.
Helichrysum blends well with lavender, myrrh, frankincense and tea tree, as well as on its own or with other essential oils in a carrier oil to make a wonderful massage blend.
Helichrysum has similar properties to frankincense, wintergreen and eucalyptus which are all renewing oils. It is made up of esters, a chemical group, that are known to be calming, relaxing and mood balancing.
H.italicum is particularly known for its anti aging benefits, soothing and rejuvenating skin, and leaving a glowing complexion. It can be used to target age spots, wrinkles and promote cell regeneration. All helichrysums, however, can treat inflammation and irritation, redness, skin infections and problem skin due to their antimicrobial and anti inflammatory properties.
Antifungal, antiviral, anti inflammatory, anti-rheumatic and antiseptic.
6 drops helichrysum
5 drops ginger
2 drops wintergreen
Blend everything together and massage into sore muscles and joints.
A trauma oil is a carrier oil infused with botanical extracts and blended with essential oils that are good for bodily trauma such as bumps and bruises, pain, inflammation, neck tension and everyday maladies. You can easily make your own with this recipe.
12 drops lavender
6 drops helichrysum
Blend all the oils together and apply where necessary.
10ml tamanu oil
10ml baobab oil
1 drop Vitamin E oil
5 drops helichrysum
Blend all the oils together and add to a bottle, shake gently to incorporate and then use at night after showering.
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