Ingredient Showcase: Helichrysum, the Regenerating, Scar-Fading Natural Oil
Have you heard of the helichrysum plant? It’s part of the sunflower family—you can see the resemblance—and includes about 600 species of flowers. Some are annual, some are perennial, but they’re all colorful and perfect for brightening up a bouquet.
Helichrysum is also used to make an essential oil that’s known by other names, including “everlasting” and “immortelle.” The oil has been used historically as an anti-coagulant (blood thinner) and anti-allergenic treatment, and for improving skin conditions while accelerating healing.
A Little Bit About the Ingredient Itself
The name “helichrysum” comes from the Greek word “helisso,” meaning, “to turn around,” and the word “chrysos,” which means “gold.” In fact, in historical times, the flowers of the plant were dried and offered to the Greek Gods.
Though there are many species of helichrysum, the one that’s typically used as an essential oil and natural remedy is the italicum species. This species is a small, perennial shrubby herb with narrow, silver-hairy leaves and small, yellow, straw-like flowers. When crushed, these flowers release a distinct, curry-like aroma. The names “everlasting” and “immortelle” come from the reputation of the flowers for retaining their brilliant color even when dried.
In aromatherapy, helichrysum is thought to open the heart and help soothe old emotional wounds, as well as to help deal with depression, stress, and mental exhaustion. The scent is also said to help one feel secure and safe.
Like most plants and flowers, helichrysum has long been used as a natural remedy for certain health conditions. It was used in tea, in poultices or as oil to treat respiratory conditions and to soothe bronchitis and coughing. Listed as non-toxic, non-irritating, and non-sensitizing, it also has a reputation for being an effective pain reliever because of its anti-inflammatory properties. The oil is used topically for those with joint pain and arthritic conditions, as well as to treat sprains and twisted ankles.
Helichrysum is also known as a detoxifier, supporting the liver in getting rid of toxins and waste in the body. Massaging the oil into the feet has been reported to help with detox efforts. Topical application elsewhere can help heal wounds and soothe numbness and tingling in nerve-related conditions.
Benefits to the Skin
The first well-known benefit of helichrysum is it’s wound-healing properties. It’s appropriate as a first-aid oil, and can be applied to wounds to reduce swelling, disinfect and promote healing through tissue regeneration. Studies have shown that the oil has strong antibacterial properties, active against all types of bacteria tested, including Staphylococcus. This property can also help those with acne-prone skin to reduce breakouts.
In addition to helping heal wounds, helichrysum also helps to fade scars, heal stretch marks, and reduce the appearance of surgical scars and skin blemishes. It’s one of the few essential oils that contain “diketones,” which help reduce scar tissue and stimulate the growth of new skin tissue. In fact, a study published in 2001 found that helichrysum oil was exceptionally high in tissue-regenerating diketones that help stimulate regrowth.
Helichrysum is touted as the perfect addition to skin care formulations for those with sensitive skin, since it’s so calming and soothing. Those with rosacea and dermatitis can use this oil without worry, as it won’t exacerbate the condition, but will help fade redness and soothe dryness. It’s so gentle that it’s even recommended for children suffering from inflammation and dermatitis. In fact, it’s often compared to chamomile because of these properties.
Of course, like most oils, helichrysum is moisturizing, and will help prevent dryness and cracking of the skin.
One of the most exciting newer discoveries with this oil, however, is its anti-aging property. Because it helps to regenerate skin tissue and relieve inflammation at the same time—say nothing of its antioxidant properties which protect the skin from damaging free radicals—it’s perfect for helping to make skin look more firm, youthful, and vibrant. In fact, according to one study published in 2002, helichrysum has multiple effects that occur at the same time—inhibiting inflammatory enzymes, scavenging free radicals, and a third effect that resembles how corticosteroids work in taming inflammation. That’s a three-pronged approach in helping to calm, protect, and heal skin that is inflamed, damaged, or stressed.
Helichrysum may not be one of the more popular oils, but I think it should be. So many benefits in one ingredient! Try it in my Radiant Skin Silk Body Lotion and see what you think. I’d love to hear about your experience.
Do you use helichrysum in your skin care or in other areas of your life? Please share your tips.
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Sala A, et al., “Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of Helichrysum italicum,” J Pharm Pharmacol, 2002 Mar;54(3):365-71, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11902802.
Ange Bianchini, et al., “Composition of Helichrysum italicum (Roth) G. Don Fil. Subsp. Italicum essential oils from Corsica (France),” Flavour and Fragrance Journal, January/February 2001, Volume 16, Issue I: 30-34, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/1099-1026(200101/02)16:1%3C30::AID-FFJ941%3E3.0.CO;2-F/abstract.