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Indian Herbs

Curry Plant (Helichrysum Italicum)

Earlier this season I looked at but did not buy a curry plant.  When I stopped at the nursery and the herbs were had been reduced for clearance, I could not resist the smell of the last one they had.  Of course, I have no idea what to do with said curry plant other than smell it and dream of Indian food but a few finger strokes and the world wide web provided me with ideas.

General Information:

First the plant is a perennial though not hardy here in zone 5.  In zones 8-11 it could overwinter.  According to the Mountain Valley Growers website it likes it warm and dry and thrives on sunny slopes. Information over on Henriette’s Herbal Homepage suggests that it does not tolerate humidity well. The plant has yellow flowers in the midsummer to early fall. Flowers are born on 12 - 18 inch plants that resemble something between lavender and/or rosemary.

Culinary Uses:
The folks at Mountain Valley Growers do not seem impressed with the taste of the curry plant. They say: 

“With Curry Plant the million dollar question is, “What does it taste like?” Why do you think we gave you the medicinal value first? 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.”

Comments over on the Garden Web are even more dismissive of the uses for the curry plant.  A commenter here describes the culinary use of the plant as:

“It is edible, but it tastes nothing like it smells: it’s grassy with a bitter aftertaste (or sometimes just bitter), and in my opinion it’s best used for flavoring meats before roasting. I have also seen it recommended for salads, sandwiches (especially with cream cheese), and for boiling with vegetables or rice. I wouldn’t consider it valuable as a herb; it’s mainly grown as an ornamental. In other words, it isn’t grown because it’s used as a herb; it’s used as a herb because people are growing it anyway.”

Medicinal Uses:

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.”


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