The helichrysum plant has been growing for centuries among the herbs of the Mediterranean scrub, challenging the arid soils and enveloping with its scent the most impervious and unwelcoming rocks. In Tuscany it is often called “licorice”, precisely because of the particular and intense fragrance that characterizes it, but its properties are even more surprising than its rustic and wild beauty.
Helichrysum, history and legends
The name helichrysum consists of two Greek words (helios and chrysos) meaning “golden sun” and it seems that in Ancient Greece and especially in Rome, its yellow flowers were intertwined, creating crowns that adorned the statues of Apollo and Athena.
According to legend, helichrysum is born from a nymph whose love for a god wasn’t shared. On her death, the gods took pity on her and turned her into this fragrant plant. For this reason, it is also considered a powerful lucky charm in love: according to popular beliefs, a bunch of helichrysum, left to dry all year round and then burned on the night of St. John, would allow to charm the loved one.
The beneficial properties of the helichrysum
Like many other medicinal plants, helichrysum also has many beneficial properties. Often an ingredient of natural lotions and creams, it has a decongestant, protective and anti-inflammatory action, calming the skin in case of burns, solar erythema, eczema. In antiquity it was also used as a disinfectant, aromatizer and effective remedy for asthma and bronchitis.
Helichrysum in the kitchen
Herbs can give a special touch to traditional dishes. Helichrysum is also used in the kitchen, not only as a decoction, but also dried to flavor fish, meat and vegetables. Its bitter aftertaste is perfect, for example, to counteract the sweet taste of the pumpkin in a tasty risotto or to highlight a delicate chickpeas soup.