Not all helichrysums are created equal – today we compare the three species that are most commonly used for essential oil production.
The best known and most sought-after species is Helichrysum italicum. Also known as Immortelle or curry plant, this tiny shrub grows in the Mediterranean (Italy, France, Croatia, Slovenia). Its two chemotypes are rich in either neryl acetate or alpha-pinene, and it also contains gamma-curcumene – a spicy constituent that is sometimes confused with curcumin (they are not the same). Italicum oil also contains italidiones, constituents that are not found in any other essential oil, nor are they found in other species of helichrysum. The italidiones are considered to be mainly responsible for its therapeutic properties. Neryl acetate is also not found in the other two helichrysums featured here.
These are H. splendidum, native to South Africa, and H. gymnocephalum from Madagascar. H. splendidum is rich in beta-phellandrene and grows much more abundantly than H. italicum. H. gymnocephalum contains a large percentage of 1,8-cineole, which is also the major constituent of Eucalyptus globulus.
Both H. spledidum and H. gymnocephalum possess therapeutic properties, but the great differences in chemistry tell us that these will also be very different. If you’re looking for something with similar effects to Eucalyptus globulus, then H. gymnocephalum would be a good choice. But if you’re looking for “Helichrysum oil” because you’ve heard good things about its effects on the skin, then you want H. italicum.
They may sound similar, but these species of helicrysum oil could not be more different.