I’ve had a love affair with Helichrysum that began back in 2004…and that’s not just the oil, it’s the plant as well.
This bulletin is the fourth in my Helichrysum series, and I’m not only going to share with you the extraordinary emotional effects of Helichrysum oil – I’d also like to take you on a very special adventure across France, Italy and Corsica in search of Helichrysum.
If you haven’t yet read my last 3 bulletins in the Helichrysum series (about Young Living’s Dalmatian farm), you can read them on my website. For part 1 click here, for part 2 click here and for part 3 click here.
The name “Helichrysum” is derived from the Greek words ἑλίσσω (helisso, to turn around) and χρῡσός (chrysos, gold). Hmmm….do you have anything in your life you’d want to transform, and bring to the light? If so, we’ve just opened a pandora’s box with this one powerful oil!!!
Helichrysum oil comes from the Everlasting Daisy, so it’s also sometimes called “Everlasting” or “Immortelle”. Why everlasting? Why immortal? There are two reasons for this:
Reason # 1:
Historically, Helichrysum was used by women of all ages to turn back the hands of time
….or at least to slow down the visible signs of aging, and reduce the appearance of redness on the skin. For this reason, it’s a fantastic oil to use in your daily skin routine. Simply add a drop or two into a dollop of moisturiser or base oil, and massage into your skin.
Reason # 2:
There is another reason that Helichrysum is called “Immortelle”, and that’s because the plant and its flowers just “keep on going”, having been used in ancient times both as a herbal tea, and also to provide straw in mattresses and bedding. I’m suspecting this is why it was also commonly known as the “Italian straw flower”.
To say that it’s a powerful oil is an understatement. Helichrysum is the Masters of oils!!!
That’s why it’s contained in at least 16 of Young Living’s specially formulated blends, including Panaway and JuvaCleanse. And it’s why I always carry a bottle whenever I travel overseas. It’s there, just in case I ever need it.
Why? Well, as you probably know, we can’t make therapeutic claims about the Young Living oils, so this is something you’re going to need to research yourself. Google is your best friend, so do your own research online and through a good reference book – you will be blown away by its diverse actions.
One of my “go-to” books is Gabriel Mojay’s “Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit”. I reference his book for the emotional and spiritual aspects of an oil.
He says about Helichrysum oil that it has the power to “break thorough the deepest, most “stuck” of negative emotions….[such as] enduring resentment, half-conscious anger, bitterness of spirit, and a stubbornly negative attitude.”
This applies to people who are so deeply blocked – often from childhood emotional trauma – that they won’t even admit to themselves how hurt they are. Because of this, they can’t express their internal anger or despair. They live in a world of denial and rigidity, judging the people around them who are free spirits, the people who live life openly and spontaneously.
Gabriel Mojay goes on to say:
“At its most transformative, everlasting [Helichrysum] oil can loosen the very hardest of knots lying deep within the psyche, restoring to the Ethereal Soul (Hun) its ultimate capacity for compassion – not only for others, but first and foremost for oneself.”
A Love Affair with Helichrysum
My journey with Helichrysum is a really special one, and it has been one of the most extraordinary travel adventures of my life. I’d like to take you on this journey so you feel like you are there with me…..
When I first met Helichrysum (the plant), it was a very powerful experience. The year was 2004, and Noel and I were on our 10 week honeymoon.
Our whole honeymoon had been a Young Living adventure from start to finish. We’d begun in Hawaii, attending a Firewalk and Emotional Clearing class with Gary Young, the founder of Young Living. I still remember the joy of having 3 of our team members with us (Cath, Rebecca and Connie) as we explored the beautiful island of Maui.
From there, we’d flown North to visit Young Living’s St. Marie’s farm in Idaho – Gary’s very first farm. We were surprised and delighted to find Gary and his wife Mary (and their son Jacob) visiting there at the same time, celebrating Mary’s birthday. True to their Spirit of hospitality, they welcomed us to join them on a day of white water rafting and family fun, and made us feel part of their family.
Discovering the heart of Provence
From there, we travelled halfway around the world to beautiful Provence in the South of France. We were in search of Young Living’s French Lavender farm, and its farm manager and close friend of Gary’s, Jean-Noel Landel (pictured below with Gary). You may have heard of Nicolas Landel? He’s Jean-Noel’s son, and took over the role of Farm Manager after his father retired.
2004 was so different to Young Living today, with our millions of members and our strong farm culture. In those days, Young Living was only just starting up some farm events at the US farms, so we were well ahead of our times in wanting to visit the French farm.
Our instructions were simple…..we were to take a fast train from Paris to Avignon in the South of France, hire a car, and drive to Simiane la Rotonde via “Rustrel and Apt”.
We’d had minimal communication with Jean-Noel prior to arriving, other than to say we were heading to the farm. So when we actually rocked up, I think a feather would have blown him over. We were pretty proud of ourselves too, for having found our way there!!! The Google map below gives you an idea of where it is in relation to Avignon. Fortunately the local chambre d’hotes (guest house) had one room available, and we spent a beautiful few nights there.
But we were not there as visitors only. We wanted to work on the farm, to truly have the experience of it.
We were there for 2 days only, and it was a little too early for harvesting lavender, so Jean-Noel decided to involve us in an experiment – collecting and distilling French Helichrysum.
He explained to us that in his opinion, the very best Helichrysum came from Corsica, a country off the coast of Italy, which is presently part of France.
Remember – this was before Croatian helichrysum really came on the scene. The Corsican variety was Helichrysum italicum, and Jean-Noel wanted to distil the French Helichrysum to understand how its chemistry compared with the Corsican Helichrysum.
Our job was to climb like goats along the steep slopes on either side of the windy road that led to the Rotonde (round castle) of Simiane la Rotonde.
I remember being in awe of anyone crazy enough to harvest helichrysum.
We were risking our necks climbing 2 metres up near-vertical cliffs to try and grasp a handful of helichrysum stalks and flowers.
After 2 hours in the searing heat, we’d managed between us to collect one laundry basket full of helichrysum. That was enough to make less than 1ml of oil.
Wow – was I now in awe of Helichrysum, and understanding why it is such an expensive oil!!! It has such a low yield (ie. LOTS of plant matter to make very little oil), and is so labour intensive to produce.
I never did find out the outcome of the experiment, although because Young Living never did produce a French Helichrysum, it tells me the oil didn’t have the amazing qualities of the Corsican variety.
A Tuscan Adventure
The next part of our honeymoon was 10 beautiful days in Tuscany. There we were, wandering the countryside, and we found Helichrysum growing on the hills surrounding the local fortresses!!! Wow – that just made so much sense!
Helichrysum is such a powerful oil – if I was going into battle, I sure would want it on hand!I can’t say any more than this – so please do your own research online and through a good reference book.
Noel is a passionate inventor with an inquisitive mind. He was so excited at the discovery of Helichrysum plants around the fortresses, that he immediately wanted to try distilling it. We searched high and low (using an English-Italian dictionary) to try and buy a distiller, but with no luck.
In the end, we created our own with a double pot steamer. The plant matter went into the top of the steamer, the boiling water in the bottle, and Noel had found a plastic tube to run the steam and oil into a glass container where it could be cooled and (hopefully) separate. At least, that was the theory.
From reading my previous bulletins in this series, you’ll already know that essential oil is a different weight to water (usually lighter), so after the steam is cooled back to liquid, normally the essential oil will separate from the water and float on top, and it can then be siphoned off.
Although we were VERY proud to have been pioneers in creating our very first make-shift cooking pot-come-helichrysum distiller, all that we managed to extract was some floral water.
The helichrysum oil remained dispersed through the water – it didn’t separate for us. I’ve long wondered why, and the only answer I was able to find was that we didn’t have enough plant matter. We only had one large cooking pot’s worth….and so we probably created less than one drop of oil from all of that! Nevertheless, it was a really fun experiment, and gave us a sense of adventure in Tuscany.
Into the Wilds of Corsica
Fortunately, in planning our honeymoon we had left 4 days unscheduled….so we could go wherever the winds blew us. And where were we drawn to go? Well, Corsica of course! We wanted to continue our love affair and adventure with beautiful Helichrysum….
Jean-Noel had kept Young Living’s Helichrysum supplier a top secret. We only knew that it was in Corsica. So here we were, taking a ferry over to Corsica, with no idea of where the Helichrysum distillers were, and absolutely no language skills (other than Noel’s long-ago high school French).
I remember thinking on the way over how crazy we were….yet love is an adventure, and our shared passion for oils was burning away inside of us, compelling us into so many crazy adventures together.
The power of manifestation is absolutely awesome!!! We arrived in Bastia, and while Noel sorted out a hire car for us, I wandered along the main street in search of clues. Eventually I stumbled into a shop selling herbal concoctions…and the owner (who spoke limited English) knew of the 7 or 8 Helichrysum distilleries in Corsica due to using Helichrysum oil in their concoctions, and marked them on a map for me!!!
So we set off in the direction of our first distillery. I was still wondering how we were going to achieve anything given that we didn’t speak French (and very few people in Corsica in those days were willing to speak in English). As we were approaching our destination, we reached our first obstacle. The entire road was closed due to an accident. We looked at the map, and found a small, windy track through the mountains that looked like it would take us to our destination. Not only was it breathtakingly beautiful….it also was extremely eerie.
As we drove the narrow roads, admiring the thick forest on one side and stunning views down to the coastline on the other, we saw multiple heads and hides of wild boar hung to dry.
I felt like I had one foot in present time, and one foot in an ancient and very primal world.
We noticed on the drive some homes displaying a flag showing a man wearing a bandana (true Corsican style – just like this picture here on the right), only the man was holding a machine gun. We enquired about it, and were told that this was the revolutionary’s flag. Although Corsica was under French rule, there was a strong and powerful element who wanted their independence as a country, and were willing to fight for it.
Finally, after 1.5 hours of driving along these windy tracks, we came to our next obstacle. We were driving through a village, and they were preparing for some sort of special event that evening. The local restaurant had its tables and chairs sitting in the middle of the road – and no cars were allowed through!
We were left with no option but to turn the car around, and drive back the way we’d come. Fortunately, once we reached the main coastal road, the accident had been cleared, and we had a quick run through to our first distillery destination.
In fact, the distillery was really well sign posted….and as we walked into the property, we were greeted by a lovely woman. We explained in English that we were hoping to see their distillery – and she responded back in perfect English. In fact, she was a German woman who had lived for 2 years in Brisbane, where Noel and I were both born, and she was in charge of the Helichrysum distillations!
We had struck Gold in our adventure, and spent a wonderful few hours with her, learning all about their distillation processes.
She acknowledged that it can be very difficult to get the Helichrysum oil to separate out from the water (which was our experience with our make-shift Italian distillery), so she was using multiple Florentine flasks, each one flowing into another one, in order to achieve a proper separation.
(In case you don’t remember what a florentine flask is – it’s the bright silver flask in this pic above, which the oil and water runs into after being extracted from the plant).
We gave her a smell of Young Living’s helichrysum oil, and she commented that it smelled like the helichrysum that came from the high mountains of Corsica (not the coastal distilleries). She showed us on the map where one such distillery was found. It was in the township of Corte.
So after spending a glorious night at the beach (with water as crystal clear as this picture), our next day involved driving up winding roads, with gorges on one side and towering mountains on the other.
We reached Corte early afternoon (see below), and drove around the town fully expecting the distillery to be well signposted (as it had been at the coast). But there was nothing! No signs.
Disappointed, we continued driving along the windy mountain roads until we were 30 minutes or more out of Corte. We found a lovely place to stay, and as we were checking in, we asked the owner if she knew of a Helichrysum distillery in Corte. She didn’t, but assured us that she was going to find out. Meanwhile, she encouraged us to drive even higher into the mountains where she was sure there would be fields of Helichrysum for us to enjoy….and sure enough, there was.
We were delighted to see huge, flourishing Helichrysum plants. We ran our hands over the leaves of the plant and it was dripping with Helichrysum oil.
I’m sure that’s when I fell in love with the smell of Helichrysum. It always reminds me of this amazing adventure, and the wild, free mountains of Corsica.
Very sadly, when we returned to Corsica a few years later and visited this exact same area, virtually all of the beautiful helichrysum plants we’d seen in 2004 had disappeared. Someone told us it was because the area was now being grazed by cattle instead of goats….I’m not sure whether that was the reason for the decline in Helichrysum, or whether it was because of the way it was being wild-harvested.
In Corsica in 2004, the helichrysum was all wild-crafted, meaning that people were employed to go into the fields and pick the flowers and stems from the wild plants.They were paid by the weight of their load, so oftentimes they were cutting too much from the plant, which could cause the plant to die.
But there was another issue – the landowners would issue a license for a picker to come onto their land. But Helichrysum was in such demand that some of the picking crews were trespassing onto land where they didn’t hold licenses, and harvesting the plants before the legitimate license-holders could get there.
I remember thinking about what an amazing novel could be written – a murder mystery set in Corsica amidst the cut-throat helichrysum industry.
Interestingly, when we returned to Corsica a few years later, the coastal distillery had done something very pioneering – they had set up the first-ever cultivation of Helichrysum on Corsica….so instead of relying only on wild-crafting, they were now planting fields of helichrysum (similar to what Young Living is doing on their Dalmatian Farm, except that Young Living’scultivation is on a much larger scale).
The commencement of cultivation is really significant. I remember hearing about the frustrations of companies trying to source Helichrysum oil from the Croatian suppliers. They’d order a certain quantity, and be given one tenth of what they’d ordered. The suppliers were spreading their small supply across as many companies as they could, so no one had enough to meet their needs.
When you add in the damage that was done to the plants during wild crafting, you understand why Helichrysum ended up reaching endangered status.
After this wonderful afternoon of touching, discovering and falling even deeper in love with Helichrysum, we returned to our accommodation. The hotel owner was beaming from ear to ear. She had found the distillery in Corte, and organised for us to have lunch with the owner the next day!!!!
What-the??????? WOW!!!!! Not just a visit to the distillery, but lunch with the owner????? OMG!!!
Stepping back in time
I have to say, that day is still etched in my mind, almost 15 years later. Noel and I arrived at the distillery, and the owner came over to greet us. His name was Antoine Valentini. As luck would have it, he’d spent years in English speaking countries, so his English was near-perfect.
He had originally been a shepherd and a cheese-maker, but could see the potential of the Helichrysum industry, and had purchased a large distiller so he could distill not only Helichrysum oil, but also other aromatic plants of Corsica.
In fact, he was working with one of the local Universities and supplying them with oil from one of the little-known aromatic plants of Corsica, so they could study the constituents and benefits of this oil.
He was fiercely loyal to Corsica and its plants, and explained to us that many people took Helichrysum seed away from Corsica, intending to cultivate it elsewhere, however the plant would never flourish. Whilst I now suspect it’s to do with the limestone and rock content of the soil, to him it was a statement of the loyalty of the Helichrysum plant to Corsica. It rebelled against being taken away from its homeland.
A beautiful Corsican lunch was served, and we joined him and his wife. He insisted we try some of the beautiful Myrtle Liqueur that he had in his collection – and yes, it actually tasted like Myrtle! It was really delicious.
Sadly, when we returned to Corsica a few years later and tried to find Antoine, we were told he had passed away. His distillery was still operating, but the whole energy had changed.
We managed one more distillery the next day, this one being French-speaking so we didn’t get much joy there. It was a nice drive to the coast, but we didn’t glean any additional information about Helichrysum from this third distillery.
I’m sure that Noel and I left part of our hearts in Corsica, with the Helichrysum plants. We always talked about returning and spending more time in Corsica, and we made sure this happened a few years later. We revisited the 2 main distilleries from our 2004 trip, and managed to visit another few distilleries that we hadn’t seen the first time.
We never did find Gary Young’s Helichrysum supplier from those early days….no doubt, that secret will remain in Young Living’s vaults.
But I discovered the joy of having a Young Living adventure. If we are willing to travel, there are now so many farms to visit, to learn about the Seed to Seal process. .
Each farm is unique, just as each plant is. If you’re thinking “aromatic adventure”, it’s time to start planning. You have a lot of farms, and a lot of different parts of the world awaiting you!