The genus Helichrysum (pronounced hel-i-CRY-sum, or hee-li-CRY-sum) consists of an estimated 600 species, in the sunflower family (Asteraceae). The type species is Helichrysum orientale.
The name is derived from the Greek words helisso (to turn around) and chrysos (gold). Common names include strawflower and everlasting.
Helichrysum italicum or "Helichrysum angustifolium" is a flowering plant of the daisy family Asteraceae. It is sometimes called the curry plant because of the strong smell of its leaves. It grows on dry, rocky or sandy ground around the Mediterranean. The stems are woody at the base and can reach 60 cm or more in height. The clusters of yellow flowers are produced in Summer, they retain their color after picking and are used in dried flower arrangements.
The plant produces an oil from its blossoms which is used for medicinal purposes. It is anti-inflammatory, fungicidal, and astringent. It soothes burns and raw chapped skin. It is used as a fixative in perfumes, and has an intense fragrance.
Helichrysum is an expectorant, diuretic, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic agent. It has been used traditionally for bronchitis, asthma, burns, rheumatism, headache, migraines, allergies and liver ailments. Although the essential oil came on the scene a relatively short time ago, it is highly valued by aromatherapists. It is antispasmodic and helps to regulate both the physical and emotional hearts. It has exceptional cell-rejuvenating qualities and is used to heal burns, wounds, inflammation, bruises and scars.
Although called "curry plant" it has nothing whatsoever to do with the mixture of spices used in Indian cooking, nor with the curry tree (Murraya koenigii).
It occurs in Africa (with 244 species in South Africa), Madagascar, Australasia and Eurasia. The plants may be annuals, herbaceous perennials or shrubs, growing to a height of 60-90 cm.
Their leaves are oblong to lanceolate. They are flat and pubescent on both sides. The bristles of the pappus are scabrous, barbellate, or plumose.
The receptacle (base of the flower head) is often smooth, with a fringed margin, or honey-combed, and resemble daisies. They may be in almost all colors, except blue. There are many capitula and generally flat-topped corymbs or panicles. The corolla lobes show glandular hairs at the abaxial surface.
Several species are grown as ornamental plants, and for dried flowers. When cut young and dried, the open flowers and stalks preserve their color and shape for long periods.
Helichrysum augustifolium is steam distilled to produce a yellow-reddish essential oil popular in fragrance for its unique scent, best described as a mixture of burnt sugar and ham.