Curry Plant

 

Batanical Name:Helichyrsum italicum.
Family: Asteraceae.
Synonyms: Helichrysum angustifolium – (Lam.)DC.
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Asterales
Genus: Helichrysum
Species: H. italicum
Parts used:Dried Flower,
Habitat :  It grows on dry, rocky or sandy ground around the Mediterranean, South Europe.

Common Name : Curry plant

Description:
It is a Perennial herb.Curry Plant looks very similar to a Lavender in its leaf stage. But, as the picture to the right shows, it looks totally different in bloom. Curry Plant likes it warm and dry. It is native to Turkey and thrives on sunny slopes.The stems are woody at the base and can reach 60cm or more in height. The clusters of yellow flowers are produced in Summer, they retain their colour after picking and are used in dried flower arrangements.
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The plant is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects

Related to the very popular dried Strawflower, Curry Plant proves once again that the useful plants in a genus don’t usually inherit the beauty genes.

While not very tasty, Curry Plant smells strongly like Curry spices. But, Curry Plant is not where Curry Seasoning comes from. Curry is actually a blend of many different herbs. The herbs used in real Curry vary from region to region.  When Curry Plant is mentioned with food, it is always used sparingly, a few leaves in a mayonnaise or a sprig tucked in a cavity of a chicken. The flavor is not Curry but is strong. It is also difficult to describe. However, trimming Curry Plant in the garden will leave you pleasantly reeking like an Indian restaurant the rest of the day.

Cultivation:
Requires a light well-drained soil in a sunny sheltered position. Intolerant of excessive moisture. Established plants are drought resistant. Plants have proved to be fairly wind tolerant in an exposed site in Cornwall. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to about -10°c. Plants can be pruned back to the old wood in spring in order to maintain the shape of the plant and promote lots of new growth. The whole plant smells of curry, especially after rain. The flowering stems are often dried and used as ‘everlasting flowers’. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.

Propagation:
Seed – sow February/March in a greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 2 – 3 weeks at 20°c. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5cm with a heel, June/July in a frame. Roots in 4 weeks. Good percentage.

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Edible Uses: Condiment; Tea.
Leaves – used as a flavouring in salads and cooked foods. They have a slight flavour of curry, though they do not impart this very well to other foods. An essential oil (from the leaves?) is used as a flavouring to enhance fruit flavours in sweets, ice cream, baked goods, soft drinks and chewing gum. A tea is made from the flower heads.

Additional Uses:
Oils in flowers appear to be useful as moisturizers according to one of the comments here and in reducing scarring as noted on A Healing Essence’s website.
The plant tolerates low water and is useful for xeriscaping.  It is also said to be deer resistant
Can be trimmed into a small hedge-like border at the edge of an herb garden.
Flowers can be dried for use in arrangements.
Propagation: methods include division, stem cuttings, and seeds.

Medicinal Uses:
The antioxidant activity of carbon dioxide extracts are under investigation. Preparations are used as anticoagulant, anasthetic, antispasmodic agents and for their antiviral and anti-fungal properties.

Essential oils distilled from flowers are used in aromatherapy. The antioxidant activity of carbon dioxide extracts are under investigation. Preparations are used as anticoagulant, anasthetic, antispasmodic agents and for their antiviral and anti-fungal properties.

The plant produces an oil from its blossoms which is used for medicinal purposes. It is anti-inflammatory, fungicidal, and astringent. It soothes burns and raw chapped skin. It is used as a fixative in perfumes, and has an intense fragrance.

It has been claimed on some gardening forums that the curry plant is as effective a cat deterrent as the “scaredy-cat” plant, Plectranthus caninus (also known as Coleus canina). This may be not so much a recommendation for Helichrysum italicum as a comment on the efficacy of Plectranthus caninus.

The Anada Apothecary has a detailed entry listing the properties and uses of the oil of the flowers.  Here the plant is also referred to as “Everlasting Oil” and is referred to as “one of the most important essential oils in aromatherapy because of its healing properties.  Of special note to me was mention of the oil in treating joint pain.  Additional aromatherapy uses can be found at Nature’s Gifts, A Healing Essence, and Lavender Notes.

A more simplified entry is provided by Rocky Mountain Oils, where 15ml of the oil costs $35.00, lists the uses and properties of helichrysum italicum as:
“This species is much less expensive. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiseptic used for cuts, wounds, bruises, ulcers, herpes, rheumatism, gingivitis, pyorrhea, gastritis, sore throat, and typhoid fever. Induces menstruation, aids painful menstruation and headaches, and induces milk formation.”

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.piam.com/mms_garden/plants.html
http://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com/heltalicum.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helichrysum_italicum
http://kaleidescopeliving.wordpress.com/2008/07/19/curry-plant-helichrysum-italicum/
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Helichrysum+italicum

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