Helichrysum italicum is a flowering plant of the daisy family Asteraceae. It is sometimes called the curry plant because of the strong smell of its leaves. It grows on dry, rocky or sandy ground around the Mediterranean. The stems are woody at the base and can reach 60 cm 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.
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 plant is sometimes used as a spice. Although called “curry plant” and smelling like curry powder, it has nothing whatsoever to do with this mixture of spices, nor with the curry tree (Murraya koenigii), and is not used as masala for curry dishes either. Rather, it has a resinous, somewhat bitter aroma reminiscent of sage or wormwood and is used like these: the young shoots and leaves are stewed in Mediterranean meat, fish or vegetable dishes til they have imparted their flavor, and removed before serving.