The Chemistry of Helichrysum Essential Oil
Helichrysum is one of our favorite essential oils, as it has such immediate, profound pain relieving and healing effects for most folks who use it. The particular species of Helichrysum italicum, also known as Everlasting or Immortelle, is the most broadly therapeutic of the 500 Helichrysum species -- and the sub species (spp) of serotinum is considered particularly special. The reason has to do with the chemistry of the oil, and here we'll have a look at the special natural chemistry of the Helichrysum italicum species.
Helichrysum has the properties of being anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and regenerative all in the same oil. The anti-inflammatory effects can be attributed to the curcumenes present in the oil. Curcumenes have recently been very prominent in the field of natural nutrition, as the extract of the spice Tumeric, called 'curcumin' has become popular as an anti-inflammatory supplement. The supplement is considered helpful not only for joint inflammation and pain, but as an all-around anti-aging supplement as well. Many Helichrysum italicum species contain a significant quantity of 'gamma' curcumene, providing an excellent anti-inflammatory effect.
Anti-Spasmodic / Muscle Relaxant
The first place where the 'serotinum' sub species shines is in the area of relieving tight muscles. Much back and neck pain, for example, is the result of the muscles being chronically cramped. Helicrysum contains a natural chemical called 'neryl acetate' which acts to relax these cramped muscles. Many Helichryum italicum essential oils contain in the range of 5% to 15% neryl acetate. The essential oil of the serotinum sub species contains in the range of 25% to 50% neryl acetate, with any amount over 30% being considered a very high-quality oil.
The serotinum sub species is found almost exclusively to be grown on the French island of Corsica. There's something about the soft coastal air that produces some of the finest Helichrysum plants in the world. There have been producers of this sub species in the United States, though the total quantities of essential oil produced have been relatively small. Helichrysum italicum is also grown in Italy, Serbia-Montenegro, Bosnia and elsewhere in South-Eastern Europe. These locations produce excellent oils, though they do not have the same balance of neryl acetate, and the regenerative constituents explained next...
The third unique aspect of the essential oil is due to the regenerative nature of the 'di-ketones' found almost exclusively in Helichrysum. The di-ketones are thought to signal tissues of the body to regenerate, and Helichrysum italicum is included in many formulas for wound healing and scar reduction. The di-ketone level is especially high again in the serotinum sub species grown on the island of Corsica. Levels of these di-ketones can exceed 11% of the total makeup of the essential oil.
Helichrysum essential oil is considered exceptionally safe, being one of the only oils indicated for topical application at 100% strength for acute conditions. It is also considered important aromatically, having an uplifting, emotionally-stabilizing effect. Interestingly, Helichrysum oil does not have a wonderful aroma when first distilled, and needs to 'air-out' for some time after distillation to evolve into a wonderful aromatic. The change in aroma does not have an effect on the physically-healing properties of the oil -- but at first, some folks find the aroma not all that interesting, then once it has aged, it can be very deeply complex and pleasant.