Cannabinoids in Woolly Umbrella Helichrysum

Written by Derek Johnson

Cannabis sativa produces a wealth of cannabinoids but is not necessarily the only plant to produce cannabinoid-like molecules. Cannabinoids may have many sources in the plant kingdom, such as Helichrysum umbraculigerum, aka woolly umbrella helichrysum. That said, C. sativa is the most prolific producer of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, whereas many other sources in nature produce other phytocannabinoids. [1]

Woolly umbrella helichrysum has been widely used in ceremonies and rituals as an inebriating fumigant. However, only non-scheduled cannabinoids had been extracted from this South African plant—thus, an Italian research team decided to further investigate. [1]

The team collected its samples of H. umbraculigerum from the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in Johannesburg. The leaves and flowers of the plant were dried and powdered, yielding 110 grams of material. At room temperature, acetone was used to produce 10.2 grams of extract. This was dissolved in methanol at 40º C and then vacuum-filtered over silica gel on sintered glass. After methanol elution and then evaporation, a greenish gum (5.1 g) was produced that was subsequently fractionated by gravity column chromatography.

Upon analysis, the team found that H. umbraculigerum did not contain alkyl cannabinoids (e.g., THC) but did contain the phenethyl analogue of cannabigerol (CBG) (the neutral form of cannabigerolic acid, which is the precursor of many cannabinoids), known as “heli-CBG.” They also noted CBG’s methyl ester (ester of fatty acid). Furthermore, the researchers isolated two “novel amorfrutin-type phytocannabinoids.”

Even though there was absence of alkyl phytocannabinoids, the researchers state:

“…given the high variability of the secondary metabolism of plants from the Helichrysum species, we cannot rule out that the profligacy of these plants to couple the polyketide and the isoprenoid pathways could result in the production of [intoxicating] phytocannabinoids, and/or, of powerful lingands of TRPV3.”

This assertion along with the documentation of H. umbraculigerum’s use as an inebriant can reasonably lead to the conclusion that the plant may indeed contain phytocannabinoids that act as intoxicants. [1]

Image Source:

Didier B (Sam67fr), Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5


  1. Pollastro F, et al. Amorfrutin-type phytocannabinoids from Helichrysum umbraculigerum. 2018;126:35-39. [Impact Factor: 2.527; Times Cited: 9 (Semantic Scholar)]

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Derek Johnson

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