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
Common names: imphepho, liquorice plant, everlasting (English); mphepho (Xhosa); mphepho (Zulu); phefo, towane (Sotho); kooigoed (Afrikaans).
Botanical name: Helichrysum odoratissimum
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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
■ Menthone – p-menthone
■ Cineole – 1, 8-cineole
○ Air-dried, sun-dried, oven-dried
■ Caryophyllene – β-caryophyllene
■ Pinene – α-pinene
■ Humulene – α-humulene
■ Curcumene – α-curcumene
• 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
Communing with Ancestors
• 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
• Dried leaves
• Fresh leaf
• Infusion – water
• Infusion – milk
• Infusion – oil
• Decoction – (can also be used as a nasal flush for calming)
• Volatile oil
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
• Digestive problems
• Cold and ‘flu
• Muscle tension
• Menstrual cramps
• Urinary tract infections
• Heart conditions
• Protect testicular function when receiving cyclophosphamide in cancer treatment
• 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
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 Trials – none
• Randomised Controlled Trials – none
• Meta-Analyses – none
• Systematic Reviews – none
• 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
• Insect repellent
• Bedding – soft and repels bed bugs, lice, mosquitoes, and other insects, kooigoed from Afrikaans kooi meaning ‘bed’.
Cultivation & Harvest
• 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.