Why is Helichrysum Essential Oil SO Expensive?

What is Helichrysum?

Some of the common names used for the essential oil Helichrysum italicum are immortelle, everlasting, strawflower, curry plant, and, simply, helichrysum. Helichrysum is a member of the Asteracea family; the second largest family of flowering plants (Elpel, 2004).  This essential oil is one of the more expensive oils averaging approximately $16/ml (“Helichrysum,” 2017; “Helichrysum, Corsican essential oil,” 2005; “Immortelle essential oil organic,” 2017; Ralston, n.d.).

The Greek language gives us the foundation for the word helichrysum; helios (meaning “sun”) and chrysos (meaning “gold”) are the root words for this plant that looks like blossoms of the sun (Battaglia, 2004).  This plant is native to Africa, but grows wild all over the earth, and is tolerant of poor soil.  Seeds and cuttings propagate the plant, and harvesting occurs as the blooms open in summer and fall (“Tips for growing Helichrysum,” 1998).

Some Oils Are More Expensive…

Some essential oils are costly because they have become rare and endangered due to  excessive collection, like Sandalwood (Santalum album).  Other essential oils are pricey because it takes copious amounts of plant matter to produce, like Rose (Rosa damascena).  In early aromatherapy books, helichrysum oil is not mentioned, implying the lack of use at the time of publication; before the 1980’s it was not listed in any essential oil catalog (Shutes, 2011).

Today, flooding the Internet are articles boasting of helichrysum’s antioxidant, vulnerary, and anti-inflammatory properties, but these sources fail to include any research or references to support their claims.  One journal article from the Asian Journal of Plant Sciences studied the chemical constituents of Helichrysum stoechas and provided the scientific proof to back up the claims made by so many others (Sobhy & El-Feky, 2007).

Tell Me a Little More…

There are currently over 600 different species of Helichrysum growing worldwide with a variety of subspecies (“Helichrysum Q & A,” n.d.), however, the same value is not ascribed to the chemical constituents of all of the species.

The plants bearing the subspecies italicum from France, Italy, Corsica, and Bosnia are sought for the healing components of their essential oil (Shutes, 2011).

Helichrysum italicum contains monoterpenes which provide an

  • antiseptic
  • bactericidal
  • analgesic
  • expectorant
  • stimulant action (Price & Price, 2012).

The essential oil also contains esters delivering anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti-spasmodic, and sedative properties (Petersen, 2016).  Sesquiterpenes within the plant are noted to supply additional antiseptic, bactericidal, anti-inflammatory, calming, and analgesic properties (Price & Price, 2012).

In traditional medicine, this plant has been used as an expectorant, anti-inflammatory, and as liver support.

Medicinal uses include treating bronchitis, asthma, whooping cough, burns, migraines, and allergies (Battaglia, 2004).

Dermatologically, helichrysum has skin regenerative properties, helps reduce pain, and overall aids in improving skin disorders (“Tips for growing Helichrysum,” 1998).

There are no cautions or contraindications, and this essential oil is non-toxic, non-irritating, non-sensitising, and is even safe for use on children (Battaglia, 2004).

As with all essential oils, proper dilution and consideration should be observed for all especially women who are pregnant or nursing.

A Personal Anecdote.

My son, who is in the Army, stopped for a visit on his way to his new duty station.  He received a straight razor from his mother-in-law for Christmas.  He decided to attempt shaving, for the first time, on his face instead of a balloon.  He emerged from the washroom with several nicks and one decisive slice near his jaw line.  I put one teaspoon of vitamin E oil in his hand with one drop of the helichrysum essential oil and he patted it all over the shaved area.

When he woke up the next morning, all of the nicks were clear, the slice was scabbed over and nearly imperceptible, and his wife commented that his skin had a more even tone.

The Question Still Remains…

Is Helichrysum expensive because it is unsustainable or because of the collection and distillation process?  Helichrysum can be both wildcrafted or cultivated, but the cultivated plant has a more consistent chemical constituency (“Helichrysum Q & A,” n.d.).

The life span of helichrysum is about four to six years, and the average essential oil yield per one ton of plant matter is one liter of essential oil (“Helichrysum Q & A,” n.d.).

Therefore, we can conclude that the number of sepals required to get a milliliter of essential oil is the reason for the cost.  Though this plant can be gathered in the wild, it is always prudent to take into account the sustainability of all natural products.

“In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation…” the Iroquois Nation’s Constitution proclaims (Sweeney, 2015). 

We would be wise to follow their example and study the careful cultivation of helichrysum to ensure that we will have this amazing plant and its healing properties for years to come.

Take Away Message

If you are purchasing essential oils, you need to be sure to understand the pricing behind them.  Some oils are going to be more expensive, while others are not.  Some companies inflate pricing on oils that should not be.  If you’re unsure if an oil is priced fairly, seek out the advice of a Certified Aromatherapist in your area.

As always, please take the time to find a Registered Aromatherapist near you to ensure you are not causing harm to you or your loved ones.

References

Battaglia, S. (2004). The complete guide to aromatherapy (2nd ed.). Brisbane, Qld: The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.

Elpel, T. J. (2004). Botany in a day: The patterns method of plant identification (6th ed.). Pony, MT, United States: HOPS Press.

Helichrysum. (2017). Retrieved January 28, 2017, from Appalachian Valley Natural Products, http://www.av-at.com/essential-oils/essential-oils-a-k/helichrysum-detail/?Itemid=130

Helichrysum, Corsican essential oil. (2005). Retrieved January 28, 2017, from Nature’s Gift, https://naturesgift.com/product/helichrysum-traditional-2ml/

Helichrysum Q & A. Retrieved January 22, 2017, from Treadshire Ltd.,         http://www.helichrysum-italicum.com/q–a-24-w.asp

Immortelle essential oil organic. (2017). Retrieved January 22, 2017, from Apothecary Shoppe, http://www.apothecary-shoppe.com/products/immortelle-aromatherapy-essential-oil-organic

Petersen, D. (2016). Aroma 101: Introduction to Aromatherapy. Portland, Oregon: American College of Healthcare Sciences.

Price, S., & Price, L. (2012). Aromatherapy for health professionals (4th ed.). Edinburgh:      Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.

Ralston, J. Helichrysum essential oil. Retrieved January 22, 2017, from Bulk Apothecary, http://www.bulkapothecary.com/essential-oils/helichrysum-oil/

Shutes, J. (2011, March 21). Advance your studies. Retrieved January 22, 2017, from The School for Aromatic Studies, https://aromaticstudies.com/helichrysum-helichrysum-italicum/

Sobhy, E. A., & El-Feky, S. S. (2007). Chemical constituents and Antimicrobial activity of       Helichrysum stoechas. Asian Journal of Plant Sciences6(4), 692–695.          doi:10.3923/ajps.2007.692.695

Sweeney, S. (2015, February 12). Exploring Native American and other Indigenous Wisdom for the Next Seven Generations. Retrieved January 26, 2017, from Native Insight, http://nativeinsight.blogspot.com/2012/11/seventh-generation.html

Tips for growing Helichrysum. (1998). Retrieved January 22, 2017, from Global Healing Center, http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/organic-herbs/growing-helichrysum