Helichrysum, the golden symbol of the Mediterranean scrub
A wild plant that in color and scent recalls the hot summer days of the sea coasts. Discovering the history, properties and benefits of Mediterranean gold.
Helichrysum: botanical anatomy
The Helichrysum italicum is a spontaneous and perennial species that belongs to the Compositae or Asteraceae family. Its look and characteristic are the typical ones of suffruticose, this means that it develops with a woody branching at the base and a herbaceous consistency at the tip. It has a very branched bushy habit, but hardly grows more than 70 cm in height.
Its small stems are very particular, identified by an arched shape with a gray-ashy color, covered with a silvery fuzz. But the most recognizable part of the plant are certainly its bright yellow flowers, gathered in hermaphrodite inflorescences with a corolla that ends with 5 triangular lobes. Starting in June and throughout the summer, these flowers release an unmistakable characteristic aroma.
Helichrysum: origin and habitat
The name of this plant immediately describes the color and shape of its flower heads: it comes from the Greek words helios (sun) and chrysos (gold). Its origins come from the Mediterranean region of southern Europe and northwestern Africa. In Italy we often find it in the South and on the islands, very rarely in the North.
The Helichrysum is particularly suited to those areas that are difficult to cultivate, such as rocky slopes, coastal dunes and stony ground. But, given its multiple properties, it was impossible not to research a way to grow it and today it is no longer just a wild species. Even if, with its poor resistance to frost and its high need for light to bloom, its cultivation can only occur in areas with mild and sunny temperatures.
Helichrysum: properties and benefits
This plant has been used in folk medicine since ancient times, starting with the Egyptians and the Greeks. Its multiple properties are concentrated above all in the inflorescences but can also be obtained from the precious essential oil extracted from the flowers. Thanks to a high content of polyphenols, flavonoids and coumarins, its main action is antioxidants. The Helichrysum also serves to stimulate the secretion of bile, gastric and pancreatic ones as well as offering diuretic, spasmolytic, hypocholesterolemic and anti-inflammatory properties. Which makes it immediately evident why we couldn’t overlook it for the recipe of one of our herbal teas.
Helichrysum is one of the ingredients you’ll find in our Remedium n. 7 – Detox, the herbal tea with purifying properties with a mix that combines, among others, fenugreek, nettle and artichoke in a harmonious and balanced blend in bitter and balsamic notes, slightly astringent but with a hint of sweetness for a detoxifying effect for the organism.
Helichrysum: how to use it
The flowers and leaves of Helichrysum are reminiscent of a mix of licorice and chamomile in taste, it might even remind you of a delicate curry, which is why it is used for savory recipes or as a condiment in sauces.
But even more than in cooking, Helichrysum flowers are used for their cosmetic properties that make them a powerful ally for the skin. Thanks to antibacterial, soothing and refreshing properties, Helichrysum is a precious natural remedy that can help counteract herpes, sunburn, redness, itching and minor burns or simply to make the skin more toned.
Helichrysum: fun facts
- It is said that its intense scent allowed Napoleon to recognize Corsica, his native island, when he was still at sea and out of sight of its coasts where the helichrysum still grows particularly abundantly today. By the way, did you know that in French the helichrysum is called immortelle because even after picking it, its flower does not wither.
- In some Italian regions the Helichrysum is called breath herb for its balsamic properties that make it a natural remedy against cough.
- In Sardinia, with the alcoholic maceration of its flowering tops, is traditionally made a liqueur with an intense aroma, rich in aromas that delicately fade from curry to licorice.
- Léa Maupetit, Fiori di stagione. L’ippocampo, 2021
- Renata Bruni, Mirabilia. La botanica nascosta nell’arte. Codice, 2018
- Anna Fontebuoni, Flora. Le piante viste da vicino. Gribaudo, 2019