Helichrysum is the Latin name for a flowering plant meaning "immortal" or "everlasting." It grows wild in the Mediterranean region of southern Europe.
Famous for its exotic, spicy scent, many perfume makers use helichrysum in their products. The flowers and leaves of helichrysum plants have additional uses in traditional medicine in Europe, particularly Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In this article, learn more about helichrysum essential oil, including the possible benefits and how to use it.
Essential oils are liquids that people extract from plants for use in herbal medicine. By extracting the oils, practitioners ensure the key ingredients of the plant are very concentrated.
For example, the National Cancer Institute report that it takes 220 pounds of lavender flowers to make a single pound of lavender essential oil.
Helichrysum essential oil comes from steam distillation, the most common way to process essential oils.
Manufacturers place fresh helichrysum flowers in a chamber and then pump steam in, which prompts the release of essential oils.
The steam and oils then move to a condenser, where cooling transforms the steam into water and separates the essential oil.
Proponents of using essential oils believe that helichrysum essential oil may help treat a variety of medical conditions, from infections to insomnia.
Researchers are beginning to use scientific testing to evaluate the claims made for helichrysum.
In many cases, however, the research samples are small, and so scientists need to do more investigative work to establish conclusive evidence.
The possible benefits of helichrysum include:
1. Preventing infections
Researchers who looked at existing evidence about helichrysum found that it has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. These mean it may help kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can cause infections.
The anti-inflammatory properties of helichrysum could reduce symptoms related to an infection, such as swelling, pain, and redness.
Studies identified by the researchers found helichrysum to be effective against the following specific microorganisms:
- Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, a common bacteria that can cause skin infections, abscesses, and pneumonia.
- Candida albicans, a common form of fungal infection known as a yeast infection when it develops in the vagina or thrush when it develops in the mouth or throat.
- Streptococcus mutans, a bacteria in the mouth that can cause cavities and gum infections.
2. Fighting malaria
Research into the uses of Helichrysum gymnocephalum essential oil, which comes from one type of helichrysum plant, found antimalarial activity.
This means that in a test tube, at least, it could help fight the parasite that causes malaria.
More research is necessary to determine what protective effects it could have in people.
3. Reducing burnout and exhaustion
In 2013, researchers did a small study on whether a combination of essential oils could help reduce feelings of mental exhaustion and burnout.
They used a mixture of basil, peppermint, and helichrysum essential oils.
The study gave one group of participants the essential oil combination while the other had a placebo.
Both groups experienced a reduction in perceived mental exhaustion and burnout, but the essential oils group had more significant results.
4. Preventing weight gain
In a small animal study, researchers looked at the impact of a helichrysum extract on overweight, insulin-resistant rats.
5. Healing wounds
Some herbalists say helichrysum essential oil can be a key ingredient in a "holistic first aid kit," because they believe the oil is a useful treatment for:
- ear infections
- inflammation of the kidneys
These claims come from traditional use, and scientific evidence may not be supportive.
Essential oils are part of aromatherapy, and people are meant to inhale them. They can inhale helichrysum essential oil or use it topically.
To inhale helichrysum essential oil, place drops of the oil in a bowl of hot water and then lean over the bowl and breathe in.
People can also put drops of the essential oil in a diffuser to disperse the scent.
To use it topically, people must mix the essential oil with a carrier oil, such as coconut or almond oil, before applying it to the skin.
There are hundreds of different species of helichrysum. While people may associate the plant with several different health benefits, not all species will deliver the same desirable effects.
Before selecting helichrysum essential oil, make sure the manufacturer has produced it using the correct plant for the specific health condition that is of concern.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), helichrysum essential oil is "generally recognized as safe." However, people should still use caution when using it on the skin.
Essential oils can irritate the skin, so it is best to mix each one with a carrier oil and do a test patch a day before applying it more generously.
If the test patch shows any signs of irritation, such as itchiness or redness, people must not continue using the mixture.
It is never safe to ingest essential oils. It is also a good idea to keep them out of reach of children and pets.
Helichrysum essential oil has a history of use in traditional medicine in some places in Southern Europe, where the plant grows abundantly.
While some small studies and preliminary results seem promising, more research on humans is necessary to validate any health benefits.
People should use caution when trying helichrysum essential oil and make sure to report and discuss all their healthcare practices with a doctor.
Helichrysum essential oil is available to purchase in health food stores and online.