Intestinal antispasmodic effects of Helichrysum italicum (Roth) Don ssp. italicum and chemical identification of the active ingredients

J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Dec 12;150(3):901-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.09.034. Epub 2013 Oct 16.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: In the Mediterranean Area, the flowers of Helichrysum italicum ssp. italicum are a traditional remedy for the treatment of intestinal complaints and are used as herbal tea for curing digestive, stomachic and intestinal diseases. In order to find scientific evidence for the traditional utilization of this plant, the effect of an ethanolic extract of Helichrysum italicum was investigated by using in vivo and in vitro experimental models. Then, through bioassay-guided fractionation procedures, active component(s) were identified.

Material and methods: Contractility in vitro was evaluated by stimulating the isolated ileum, in an organ bath, with acetylcholine and barium chloride; motility in vivo was evaluated by measuring upper gastrointestinal transit, both in control mice and in mice with experimental intestinal inflammation induced by croton oil. Chromatographic separation techniques such as HPLC and silica gel columns have yielded the active principles of Helichrysum italicum.

Results: We found that the ethanolic extract of Helichrysum italicum ssp. italicum flowers elicited antispasmodic actions in the isolated mouse ileum and inhibited transit preferentially in the inflamed gut. A bioassay guided fractionation of the extract yielded the known compounds 12-acetoxytremetone (1) and 2,3-dihydro-2-[1-(hydroxymethyl)ethenyl]-5-benzofuranyl]-ethanone (2).

Conclusion: Present study supported the traditional use of Helichrysum italicum ssp. italicum flowers for intestinal complaints and through bioassay-guided fractionation procedures from the crude extract we showed that 12-acetoxytremetone (1) and 2,3-dihydro-2-[1-(hydroxymethyl)ethenyl]-5-benzofuranyl]-ethanone (2) acted in a synergistic way to produce an intestinal antispasmodic effect.

Keywords: Acetophenones; Antispasmodic drugs; Asteraceae; Helichrysum italicum ssp. italicum; Intestinal motility.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Croton Oil
  • Flowers / chemistry
  • Gastrointestinal Transit / drug effects
  • Helichrysum*
  • Ileum / drug effects*
  • Ileum / physiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Muscle Contraction / drug effects
  • Parasympatholytics / pharmacology*
  • Parasympatholytics / therapeutic use
  • Phytochemicals / isolation & purification
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology*
  • Phytochemicals / therapeutic use
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use


  • Parasympatholytics
  • Phytochemicals
  • Plant Extracts
  • Croton Oil