IMMORTELLE: the 'anti-aging' ally with psycho-spiritual benefits

IMMORTELLE: the 'anti-aging' ally with psycho-spiritual benefits

In its intelligence and compassion, the earth provides a multitude of solutions to the pain and suffering that are part of life. The aromatic herb Helichrysum is so unobtrusive and humble that it could easily be overlooked, yet it contains remarkable healing powers that make it superior among the vast selection of natural medicines. This botanical emissary brings us compassion in the form of its fragrant essence.

Derived from the Greek words Helios—the personification of the Sun—and chrysos, meaning golden, helichrysum is a plant whose flowers persist throughout the winter months. For this reason, it is also referred to as “immortelle”. This common yet highly beneficial plant grows profusely in many parts of the world, preferring open and sunny hillsides. There are about 600 species of helichrysum, many of which are grown as garden ornamentals. Although the unknowing passerby might not even notice this small shrub, immortelle gives us one of the most potent, safe, effective, and versatile of all the therapeutic oils.

Some growers, harvesters, and distillers of Corsican immortelle describe having a deeply spiritual relationship with the plant. In the world of distillation this is not unique to helichrysum, but the characteristics of the plant described by these people are intriguing. The description given by those who have done contemplative experimentation is that immortelle is a psychoactive oil capable of stimulating healing dreams that resolve past traumas, leading to a sense of liberation from painful memories and activation of greater potential to live a fully creative life.

Harvesters also describe entering a euphoric dreamlike state while working intimately with the aromatic plant. These effects are attributed specifically to the essential oil from wild plants growing at higher altitudes, which appear to be more psychoactive than those plants that are growing at a lower altitude or in cultivation. The reports about this aspect of helichrysum are reminiscent of other plants that have been used historically in ceremony and ritual for their psychotherapeutic benefits, including jatamansi, palo santo, agarwood and others; these plants have long been regarded as having beneficent powers that remove negativity and obstacles and attract blessings and good fortune.

Helichrysum is also excellent for calming stress and anxiety and reducing nervousness. It is soothing, with mood-uplifting effects. More than having just simple relaxing effects, however, helichrysum can induce euphoria, support mental and emotional clarity, give peace of mind, and promote emotional balance. In some cases, used in a diffuser, it can calm hyperactive children and improve their mental concentration. Helichrysum cools anger and can play a supportive role in emotional wound healing. 

Offering its aromatic oils, helichrysum helps to ease the pain of trauma, reduce inflammation, speed the healing of wounds, and calm emotional disturbances. Likewise, helichrysum is a great ally for those on the path of yoga, as it is one of the foremost remedies for treating injuries from exuberant effort in asana practice. When we consider how the simplest and most unassuming garden species offers a virtual pharmacy to alleviate suffering, we begin to appreciate how we are surrounded by nurturing compassion, growing prolifically throughout the plant realm.

Various species of helichrysum are used in traditional ethnobotanical medicine around the world for a wide range of health problems. All parts of the plant from the roots to the flowers are utilized, for symptoms from headaches to heart disorders. References can be found to the use of Helichrysum italicum in old European herbology for pain and blood stagnation; in Corsica the plant was used by shepherds as a poultice for bone fractures of their animals. 

Helichrysum has been found to contain several compounds with antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal properties. This confirms the traditional use of the plant, which is applied topically for skin infections. For those suffering from herpes outbreaks, researchers have confirmed that helichrysum possesses strong yet nontoxic antiviral powers. 

Helichrysum oil is probably the most important of all essential oils for athletes and those who practice strenuous yoga. It is a superior wound-healing agent with pronounced bruise-resolving, pain-reducing, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, and anti-arthritic properties. These healing powers are thought to be produced by antioxidant compounds present in the leaves and flowers, substances which are now being studied for potential new drug products. Here are some additional therapeutic uses of immortelle:


One of the primary uses of helichrysum oil is topical applications to support skin healing. Helichrysum is highly compatible with the skin and can be applied undiluted, but it is also very effective in dilution. Incorporate helichrysum essential oil in skin creams, lotions and ointments.

Helichrysum is cosmetically and therapeutically unparalleled in its ability to support cell regeneration and tissue healing. The go-to oil for skin beautifying and restorative serums, helichrysum is potent, safe, and exceptionally effective.  The oil is mild on the skin, and highly compatible with all skin types. It excels at supporting supple skin health.

Helichrysum has excellent anti-inflammatory, cell regenerating and tissue healing properties, which can be explained by the same physiological activities that heal scars. As an antioxidant with collagen-increasing virtues it is renowned for restoring aging and wrinkled skin. It has purifying, cleansing, and antiseptic functions on the skin, and is attributed with hydrating and rejuvenating powers for cells of the stratum corneum. 

A vital component of cosmetic skin care formulations, regular use reduces broken capillaries, stretch marks, and age spots. Other skin conditions including burns, acne, skin allergies, dermatitis, eczema, rosacea, impetigo, inflammation, rashes and warts may be improved by application of this oil.  


One of Helichrysum italicum’s most valuable and consistently cited benefits is for treatment of bruising and swelling from soft tissue injuries. Its anticoagulant and blood-vitalizing powers minimize tissue reactions to contusions such as constriction of blood flow and subsequent damage to cells. The oil has pronounced antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory effects, which in turn produce pain-relieving analgesic benefits. In this sense the oil could be compared to arnica, although I would personally rate helichrysum as more effective. 

Corsican aromatherapy also considers treating old or recent hematomas and traumas one of the most important uses of the oil. For this purpose, it can be applied undiluted and frequently without concern of dermatotoxicity, or combined with arnica-infused oil or added in a small percentage to another carrier such as argan, jojoba, or rosehip seed oils.

The oil is safe for application on open wounds, as it has cicatrizant properties. Unlike many oils, helichrysum does not have significant antiseptic powers.

Scar Tissue

Helichrysum rates among the best essential oils for both cicatrizant purposes of closing a wound as well as resolving scar tissue. The mechanisms for this appear to be the oil’s ability to increase cutaneous microcirculation, a high level of antioxidant activity, its support of increased collagen production, and enhancement of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF); the latter is a signal protein produced by cells that stimulates vasculogenesis and angiogenesis that is part of the system which restores oxygen supply to tissues when blood circulation is inadequate.  

For resolving old scars, the use of helichrysum oil can be very effective, especially if it is used in conjunction with frankincense oil. The oils can be applied directly or in a 5% - 10% dilution in a carrier oil, and combined with massage and acupuncture on the tissue, which will gradually increase vascularization and circulation.


Lavender oil for burns has been popularized based on a story from the early 1900s about the chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse, who plunged his burned hand into a vat of the oil and discovered remarkable healing powers. While helichrysum oil lacks this reputation, it would be natural to consider it a prime oil for burns as well, based on its skin regenerating and scar tissue resolving properties. 

Anecdotally, Albrecht Von Keyserlingk, the pioneer of Corsican helichrysum distillation, has described an almost identical experience, where both his arms were badly burned in a laboratory explosion, yet healed miraculously after submerging them in helichrysum oil.


Because of its blood vitalizing properties, helichrysum oil can be used for circulatory conditions involving stagnation such as varicose veins and Reynaud’s syndrome. For these types of disorders the oil can be applied topically; while it is safe to apply undiluted, it is typically added at about 2% dilution to a carrier oil.


The oil of Helichrysum italicum can be inhaled directly from the palms, with steam, or used in a diffuser for its antimicrobial benefits in the respiratory system. It is mucolytic and expectorant and decongestant. 

Helichrysum helps in respiratory and ear, nose and throat infections, soothes sore throat, aids in airway decongestion; for earaches and ear infections, 2 drops can be applied to a cotton ball which can be put in the outer ear.


Aromatherapists consider helichrysum to have tonifying and anti-inflammatory effects on the nervous system when used in diffusers or direct palm inhalation. It can be applied topically to relieve shingles pain.

Musculoskeletal Anti-Inflammatory

Along with its ability to reduce pain and speed healing of injuries, helichrysum has significant anti-inflammatory powers. It is specifically useful for application to arthritic joints, both undiluted and in a carrier oil; it mixes well with essential oils of conifers for this purpose.

Helichrysum oil relieves muscle and joint pains, aids in rheumatism, relieves neuralgias, soothes sore muscles, aids in carpal tunnel and restless leg syndrome. Use a couple drops diluted in a carrier oil to massage on sore muscles, bruises and joints to reduce inflammation, alleviate pain and support the healing process.


Corsican aromatherapy suggests using a dilution of helichrysum oil in a carrier to massage around the ears for tinnitus. I have also recommended applying a few drops to a cotton ball and putting in the ear, which has given positive results in some cases.

***Caution: Pregnant women should avoid using helichrysum essential oil, especially undiluted.

The healing powers of essential oils include antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. With the ability to lift spirits, reduce anxiety, and help prepare your space for healthier, more mindful living, we hope this quick guide will inspire you to explore using essential oils for the well-being of yourself and your family. Here are seven ways you can use essential oils to help support better sleep, ease pain, address skin conditions, and even for first aid.

1. Inhalations

Use essential oils on a hot compress, in diffusers, or in hot water for inhalation.

Standard Dose: 10 drops

Benefits: Respiratory and sinus problems, headaches

Caution: Prolonged inhalation of concentrated essential oils can cause headaches, vertigo, dizziness, nausea, and lethargy.

2. Baths

The best way to use essential oils in the bath is to mix them first with salts or an emulsifier like milk or sesame oil. Aromatic bath salts disperse the oils safely into the water, while milk and sesame oil emulsify the essential oil so it disperses. Without salts or an emulsifier, drops of essential oils will float on the water and then get directly on the skin. Combined with the heat of the water, this can cause dermatotoxicity, especially if the oils are of a heating nature.

Standard Dose: 5-10 drops, mixed with ½ to 1 cup of salt or emulsifier

Benefits: Skin, circulatory and respiratory problems, stress and nervous tension, muscular discomfort, menstrual pain

Caution: Use only mild, non-irritating oils (i.e. lavender and clary sage)

3. Compresses

Often overlooked, wet cloth compresses soaked in essential oils and water can provide comfort and relief from a myriad of health concerns.

Standard Dose: 10 drops in 4 oz. of hot water. Soak the cloth and wrap.

Benefits: Bruises, wounds, muscular aches and pains, dysmenorrhea, skin problems

4. Facial Steam

Using these powerfully concentrated plant medicines in a face steam is a simple yet effective ritual for self-care, healthier skin, and opening the sinuses, among other benefits.

Standard Dose: Combine 1-5 drops of oil with hot water in a pot. Then, cover your head with a towel to steam your face.

Benefits: Opening sinuses, headaches, skin treatment

5. Massage

Pure essential oils are about 70 times more concentrated than the plant itself. Dilutions are typically 2% - 10%. A 2.5% dilution is most often recommended for adults. For children under 12, 1% is generally safe. A 2.5% blend for a 1 ounce bottle of carrier oil is 15 drops of essential oil.

1% blend = 6 drops per oz

2% blend = 12 drops per oz

3% blend = 18 drops per oz

5% blend = 30 drops per oz

10% blend = 60 drops per oz

Benefits: Learn more and try these 8 easy steps for a lymph drainage self-massage.

6. Direct Palm Inhalation

Caution: This method of use should only be done with oils that can be safely applied to the skin (read more about toxicology and safety here). Apply 1-2 drops of oil to the palms, rub together gently, and inhale deeply. This method is excellent for a quick and easy exposure to the anti-microbial properties and other therapeutic uses of essential oils.

7. Diffusers


Usually a heat-resistant vessel for water and essential oils, and a heat resistant platform that holds the vessel over a small candle.

Advantages: Very simple to use; provides light background fragrancing.

Disadvantages: Does not produce strong concentration for therapeutic benefits.


Small absorbent pads are placed inside of a heating chamber with ventilation that allows the aromatic compounds to evaporate into the surrounding air.

Advantages: Easy to use; minimal maintenance; can diffuse thicker oils.

Disadvantages: Heat damages some aromatic compounds.


A system that uses air pressure generated by a compressing unit to vaporize the essential oils. A glass nebulizing bulb serves as a condenser, allowing only the finest particles of the essential oil to escape into the air.

Advantages: Strong diffusion maximizes therapeutic benefits in respiratory conditions.

Disadvantages: Diffusers need to be cleaned regularly. More viscous oils cannot be diffused (such as sandalwood oil or ylang-ylang oil).

Electric heat and cool air nebulizers can be purchased with timers to produce intermittent diffusion. This reduces the amount of oil consumed, and prevents over-saturation in a room.


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