Helichrysum Italicum

Author: Fabio Maradei
Date: 13/01/2016


Helichrysum Italicum is a flowering plant of the family of Asteraceae. It has a strong and persisting smell and for that reason is very used in parfums and cosmetics. It grows all around the Mediterranean sea on sandy and dry grounds. The stems are woody at the base and can reach 60 cm or more in height. The flowers are produced in summer and the essential oil is extracted from blossoms and leaves and it is used for medical purpose.

Helichrysum Italicum can be divided into six subspecies which are distributed in different regions of the Mediterranean basin. The most studied subspecies are Helichrysum Italicum Italicum and Helichrysum Italicum Microphyllum because their components are more interesting and in major quantity.

H. Italicum has been used for its medical properties for a long time, and even nowadays it continues playing an important role in traditional medicine of Mediterranean countries.

Composition of essential oil

The essential oil extracted from H. Italicum contains various families of substances such as:

- Oxygenated Monoterpenes : such as Neryl acetate , Neryl propionate and ╬▒-pinene.
- Sesquiterpenes : such as Curcumene and Selinene.
- Flavonoids : such as Tiliroside, Gnaphaliin, Kaempferol, Narigenin.
- Acetophenones : such as 4-hydroxy-3-(2-hydroxy-3-isopentenyl)-acetophenone, 4-hydroxy-3-(3-methyl-2-butenyl)acetophenone.
- Phloroglucinol ­ŁŤ╝-pyrones: such as Arzanol.

Biochemical Characterization of Helichrysum italicum (Roth)G.Don subsp.italicum (Asteraceae) from Montenegro: Phytochemical Screening,Chemotaxonomy, and Antioxidant Properties, 2015

Arzanol, a Potent mPGES-1 Inhibitor: Novel Anti-Inflammatory Agent, 2013


Helichrysum Italicum has been used as a traditional herbal medicine for inflammatory and infectious processes, gastrointestinal disturbances, sun protection and dermatologic disorders. Until today it is verified that Helichrysum Italicum presents significant anti inflammatory, anti oxidant, anti viral, antimicrobic and anti hyperglycemic effects. It also provides sun protection.

Anti inflammatory effects.

Different substances contained in essential oil of Helichrysum Italicum had shown interesting and strong anti inflammatory effects, such as Acetophenones, Flavonoids and Arzanol.

*Reduce the production of leukotriene B 4
*Inhibit Ciclo Oxigenase 1 (COX1), 5-lipooxigenase, phospholipase A 2

Flavonoids like Tiliroside and Gnaphaliin:
*Reduce the production of leukotriene B 4
*They are strong anti oxidant with high scavenging activity against free radicals.
*Inhibit Phospholipase A 2

Arzanol is only detectable in Helichrysum Italicum subsp. Microphyllum. It has displayed a strong anti inflammatory effect with many target actions:
Inhibitory effect on NF-kB activity. This aspect is very important because NF-kB is involved in activation of large number of genes in response to infections, inflammations and other stressful situations requiring rapid reprogramming of gene expression. Inhibition of NF-kB determines a significant reduction of production of pro-inflammatory components like IL1B, IL6, IL8, TNF-╬▒.
Inhibitory effect on mPGES-1. This enzyme plays an important role in conversion of PGH 2 to PGE 2 . These are the main mediators of inflammation and blocking the conversion mean a significant reduction of the inflammation state.
Inhibitory effect on 5-LO: 5-Lipooxigenase is involved in the production of leukotrienes , eicosanoid inflammatory mediators that regulate immune responses.

Arzanol, a Potent mPGES-1 Inhibitor: Novel Anti-Inflammatory Agent, 2013

Arzanol, a prenylated heterodimeric phloroglucinyl pyrone, inhibits eicosanoid biosynthesis and exhibits anti-inflammatory efficacy in vivo. 2011

Helichrysum italicum: from traditional use to scientific data, 2014

Antimicrobial activity

Several extract of Helichrysum Italicum exhibited an inhibitory effect on Gram positive bacteria growth and virulence factor. The essential oil can inhibit Staphylococcus Aureus, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and also the activity of some S. Aureus enzymes such as DNAase, lipase, thermonuclease, coaugulase and the production of enterotoxines B and C.

Effects of Helichrysum italicum extract on growth and enzymatic activity of Staphylococcus aureus, 2001

Helichrysum italicum extract interferes with the production of enterotoxins by Staphylococcus aureus, 2002

These actions might be due to the terpenoid and flavonoid fraction of the essential oil.

Helichrysum Italicum essential oil is also effective against Candida Albicans, an important patogen in immunocompromised patient in which causes infections of both oral tract and uro-genital tract. This action is due to the terpenoid fraction and its oxygen-containing compounds.

Composition and antimicrobial activity of Helichrysum italicum essential oil and its terpene and terpenoid fractions, 2005

Arzanol inhibits theTNF╬▒-induced HIV-1-LTR transactivation in a T cell lin. The HIV-1 promoter is highly responsive to TNF-╬▒ induced by NF-kB pathway. Arzanol inhibits the activation of NF-kB and consequently the LTR transactivation of T cell.

Arzanol, an Anti-inflammatory and Anti-HIV-1 Phloroglucinol r-Pyrone from Helichrysum italicum ssp. microphyllum, 2006

Gastrointestinal effects

Extract of Helichrysum Italicum has potential anti hyperglicemic properties by acting on carbohydrate-digestive enzymes (such as ╬▒-amylase and ╬▒-glucosidase inhibition) and inhibition of SLGT-1 , a transporter of glucose more active when in the lumen of the bowel is present a low concentration of glucose. Kaempferol-3-O-glicoside and Narigenin-7-O-glucoside are the glycosidic flavonoids responsable of that action.

Helichrysum and grapefruit extracts inhibit carbohydrate digestion and absorption, improving postprandial glucose levels and hyperinsulinemia in rats, 2013

In traditional medicine essential oil of Helichrysum Italicum is commonly used in spastic affection of the abdomen. In fact, 12-acetoxytremetone and 2,3-dihydro-2-[1-(hydroxymethyl)ethenyl]-5-benzofuranyl]-ethanone acted in a synergistic way to produce an intestinal antispasmodic effect.

Intestinal antispasmodic effects of Helichrysum italicum (Roth) Don ssp. italicum and chemical identification of the active ingredients, 2013

Sun Protection

Essential oil of Helichrysum Italicum sun protection has been used for many years in traditional medicine. The crude extract completely prevented the onset of the erythematous response. When tested in humans, it provided a protection factor of approximately 5. It also prevents the onset of erythematous response after the exposition at UVB rays. Flavonoids are the main responsibles of these actions, they prevent the formation of PGE 2 (luteolin), the release of histamine and they have scavenging activity against oxydant intermediates (apigenin).

Helichrysum italicum: from traditional use to scientific data, 2014


Essential oil, crude extract, infusion and decotion of Helichrysum Italicum have not shown toxicity at common doses. However the flavonoid component tiliroside is a strong inhibitor of cytochromes p450, especially the CYP3A4 - CYP2C9 subtypes, that are involved in the metabolism of several clinical drugs (Benzodiazepines, Opioids, Antipsicotic, SSRI, chemoterapeutic, NSAIDs). It is very important in order to prevent onset of drug-herb interaction with serious consequences.

Reversible inhibition of three important human liver cytochrome p450 enzymes by tiliroside, 2010


Essential oil of Helichrysum Italicum has anti inflammatory and gastrointestinal effects, antimicrobial and antiviral action and provides sun protection. The anti inflammatory effects are the most relevant and the most studied. Many components of the essential oil have shown interesting effects, such as Arzanol, Kaempferol, Acetophenones, tiliroside, but more studies are necessary to validate the traditional use with certain scientific data.

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