Plants and the chemicals they make: Will the “everlasting” flower extend your life or make your skin younger?

The flowers of Helichrysum italicum are so tempting for marketing. Immortelle (in French), everlasting (in English), siempreviva (in Spanish). Words are powerful, and together with our brains, always looking for magic in a world that does not offer it, is a great combination that can be used to sell you, the potential customer, anything. It seems obvious that the essential oil of this flower has nothing to do with extending human life, it is just that the clusters of yellow flowers retain their color after picking and are used in dry flower arrangements. Another name for this pant is “curry plant” but you could not sell a product with that name for skin care, could you?

This does not mean that an extract of immortelle has no pharmacological activity, but it is not that special, it contains some chemicals present in many other plants that have antimicrobial activity. Plants are also exposed to attack by bacteria, virus and fungi, all the time. They also make lots of antioxidant chemicals because they are exposed to reactive oxygen species (ROS*) all the time. But that does not make a particular extract better than another, and some plants, including Helichrysum italicum,  can be allergenic.

What chemicals are in there? Flavonoids and terpenes effective against bacteria, its acetophenones, phloroglucinols and terpenoids displayed antifungal action against Candida albicans and its flavonoids and phloroglucinols inhibited some viruses. Acetophenones, flavonoids and phloroglucinols displayed inhibitory action in different pathways of pro-inflammatory mediators. Flavonoids are probably responsible for anti-erythematous and photoprotective activities shown in animals and humans.

But no, the extract of this plant will not make you younger. On the other hand, if you like curry, it is the fragrance to use.

Antunes Viegas, D., Palmeira-de-Oliveira, A., Salgueiro, L., Martinez-de-Oliveira, J., & Palmeira-de-Oliveira, R. (2014). Helichrysum italicum: From traditional use to scientific data. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 151(1), 54–65. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.11.005

DISCLAIMER: These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.

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