Helichrysum odoratissimum

Imphepho - Helichrysum odoratissimum

Indigenous to South Africa, Imphepho is a plant with aromatic, soft, grey-green leaves and yellow flowers. Imphepho may help ease stress and promote relaxation when enjoyed as a tea. Infused (in milk or water) she may help ease coughs and colds, catarrh, headache/backache, fever, urinary tract infections, menstrual problems, stress, tension, cramps, insomnia, and nervous conditions.

For a tea, add 2-3 tsp of Imphepho to 1 cup of boiled water. Steep for 10 mins. Strain. Enjoy

Plant Uses & Benefits: aromatic, bedding, bees, butterflies, cosmetics, flower arranging, fragrance, incense, insect repellent, medicine, pot plant, potpourri, smoke, tea


Common names: imphepho, liquorice plant, everlasting (English); mphepho (Xhosa); mphepho (Zulu); phefo, towane (Sotho); kooigoed (Afrikaans). 
Botanical name: Helichrysum odoratissimum

Family: Asteraceae

• Etymology – Helichrysum from the Greek helios meaning ‘sun’ and chrysos meaning ‘gold’, referring to the flowers of the genus.
• Confusers –
• Other species in the genus
o about 244 species that are occurring in Southern Africa
o H. patulum – Latin patulum means ‘spreading’ or ‘wide open’.
o H. petiolare
o H. splendidum



Type: ground cover, scrambler
Vegetation type:  
Flower colour: yellow
Flowering season: Summer
Plant-animal interactions: bees, butterflies
Red list status: Least Concern

• Indigenous to South Africa, widespread, all the way to North Africa.
• Bushy perennial herb, up to 50cm high, sprawling habit, from dunes to mountain slopes.
• Coastal regions of South Africa. It has small hairy silvery green leaves with yellow cluster flowers
• Leaves – soft hairs, grey-green, leaf shape varies with species, aromatic
• Flowers – clusters of yellow flowers, October to February, honey-scented.
• Woody stems
• Pollinated by bees and other insects

• no conservation concerns, widespread, common garden plants

Use as Medicine

Herbal traditions: Cape Herbal Medicine, Khoi & San
Plant parts used: above ground parts, flowers, leaves, stems

• Khoi and San anointed their bodies for the fragrance and anti-microbial benefits.

Safety & Toxicity

Safety: no safety concerns

• No known safety concerns

Qualities & Phytochemistry

Plant qualities: aromatic, calming, cleansing, cooling, relaxing
Phytochemical constituents: caryophyllene, cineole, curcumene, flavonoids, humulene, limonene, menthone, pinene, pulegone

• aromatic, relaxing, calming, cleansing
• Phytochemistry varies with wide distribution geographically.137
• Inhalation of smoke calms the mind and connects one to the ancestors, ingesting tea is going to relax the body and facilitate sleep.
• Essential oil138,139
○ Fresh
■ Menthone – p-menthone
■ Pulegone
■ Cineole – 1, 8-cineole
○ Air-dried, sun-dried, oven-dried
■ Limonene
■ Caryophyllene – β-caryophyllene
■ Pinene – α-pinene
■ Humulene – α-humulene
■ Curcumene – α-curcumene
• Flavonoids
• Tannins – low if any

Actions & Pharmacology

Plant actions: analgesic / anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiplasmoidial, antiviral, anxiolytic / nervine-relaxant, febrifuge / anti-pyretic, insect repellent, magical, protection, ritual, sedative, spasmolytic / anti-spasmodic, testicular protectant, vulnerary

• In vitro study validated traditional use of H. odoratissimum as an ointment for pimples, due to ability to inhibit Cutibacterium acnes proliferation and various targets associated with bacterial virulence leading to acne progression.142

● Muscle relaxant
Relaxant, Sedative
• GABAergic
Analgesic, Anodyne
Insect repellent
Communing with Ancestors
Testicular protectant
• Study in male rats showed the H. odoratissimum protected the testicle structure, testosterone level, sperm count/motility/viability during treatment with cancer drug cyclophosphamide.143


Plant preparations: ash, balm, bath, compress, decoction, essential oil, fresh, fumigant, infusion - aqueous, infusion - milk, infusion - vegetable oil, nasal rinse, ointment, pillow, poultice, smoke, smudge, wash

Plant Parts Used
• Fresh
• Dried leaves
• Stems
• Flowers
• Fresh leaf
• Infusion – water
• Infusion – milk
• Infusion – oil
• Decoction – (can also be used as a nasal flush for calming)
• Volatile oil
• Wash
• Bath
• Poultice
• Compress
• Ash
• Balm
• Ointments
• Smoke
• Smudge
• Fumigant
• Pillow

First-Aid Indications

First-aid use: acne, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, backache, boils, burns, colds & 'flu, cough, fever, headache, hyperactive, indigestion, insomnia, menstrual cramps, scars, strains & sprains, stress, wounds 

• Wounds
• Acne
• Boils
• Scars
• Burns
• Digestive problems
• Coughs
• Cold and ‘flu
• Asthma
• Fever
• Trauma
• Backache
• Muscle tension
• Arthritis
• Menstrual cramps

• Stress
• Headache
• Anxiety
• Insomnia
• Over-excitement

Medical Indications

Medical use:  

• Diabetes
• Bronchitis
• Hypertension
• Urinary tract infections
• Heart conditions
• Protect testicular function when receiving cyclophosphamide in cancer treatment

Veterinary Indications

Medical use:  

• A study on alloxan induced diabetic mice showed that H. odoratissimum significantly lowered the blood glucose level.144
• In Kenya boiled H. odoratissimum leaves have traditionally been used to treat cattle with anaplasmosis.145



Review Articles
1. Akinyede KA, Cupido CN, Hughes GD, Oguntibeju OO, Ekpo OE. Medicinal Properties and In Vitro Biological Activities of Selected Helichrysum Species from South Africa: A Review. Plants (Basel). 2021 Jul 30;10(8):1566. doi: 10.3390/plants10081566. PMID: 34451611; PMCID: PMC8398148.
Clinical research
• Clinical Trials – none
• Randomised Controlled Trials – none
• Meta-Analyses – none
• Systematic Reviews – none

Other Uses

Uses & Benefits: aromatic, bedding, bees, butterflies, cosmetics, flower arranging, fragrance, incense, insect repellent, medicine, pot plant, potpourri, smoke, tea

• Ritual incense – used across different cultures of the country as an incense to evoke the goodwill of ancestors; invokes an ancestral connection; appease the ancestors
• Space Clearing – burnt inside houses to protect it from evil spirits, clear spaces of negative energy
• Fumigate – sick rooms
• Perfume
• Insect repellent
• Bedding – soft and repels bed bugs, lice, mosquitoes, and other insects, kooigoed from Afrikaans kooi meaning ‘bed’.

Cultivation & Harvest

Light-level: afternoon sun, full sun, morning sun, semi-shade
Soil type: well-composted, well-drained
Soil pH: Neutral
Propagation: cuttings, seed

• Soil – light, well-drained, well-composted, pH6-7
• Light – full sun, semi-shade
• Water – waterwise, hardy, adaptable
• Pruning – to keep tidy, replaced it every 2-3 years to keep looking good.
• Seeds
• Cuttings