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  • Helianthus annuus L.
  • Compositae
  • Composite family

Common Names

herbsHsiang-jih-k'uei (Chinese name)
herbsSunflower seeds

Parts Usually Used

Whole plant, especially the seeds

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Sunflower is an annual plant growing 6-10 feet high; leaves mostly alternate, rough-hairy, broadly heart or spade-shaped. The flowers are orange-yellow; disk flat, flowers from July to October. The wild parent of the domesticated sunflower.

Where Found

Found on prairies, roadsides. Minnesota to Texas; escaped from cultivation elsewhere. A North American native plant.

Medicinal Properties

Diuretic, expectorant

Biochemical Information

The seeds are exceptionally rich in polyunsaturates (approx. 80%) and high quality plant protein, plus natural vitamins and minerals. (thiamine (B1), niacin, potassium, iron, phosphorus, calcium, iodine, fluorine, magnesium, sodium, vitamins D and E).

Legends, Myths and Stories

The wild ancestor of the common Sunflower has smaller blooms than the cultivated plants.

Competitions are organized to see who can grow the largest sunflower. The present record is 25 feet tall; the largest blossom ever found was over 32 inches across. (Cultivated plants; (H. giganteus))

There are many good varieties of sunflower available; some are best for seed production, and others for ornamental value.

In 1835 a practical gardener in the Ukraine cultivated the first commercial sunflower plantation. Fifteen or twenty years later, the waste areas of central Russia, Ukraine, south Russia and many parts of Siberia were covered with the plants.

Native Americans used the seeds as a source of meal; the Spanish conquerors of South and Central America discovered the sunflower and its uses, carrying the seeds to the Old World spreading the plant across Europe. The Incas of Peru made the sunflower a part of religious practices.

The Chinese cultivate sunflower and use it for food, the fruits are fed to fowls, the leaves are made fodder for cattle, and the stalks and roots are used as fuel. No medical qualities have been found ascribed to this plant by the Chinese.


Native Americans used the tea of the flowers for lung ailments, malaria. Leaf tea used for high fevers; poultice of roots on snakebites and spider bites. Seeds and leaves are diuretic and expectorant. Seeds contain all the important nutrients that benefit the eyes and relieve constipation. Useful against dysentery, inflammations of the bladder and kidney. The leaves are astringent and used in herbal tobaccos.

Formulas or Dosages

Make sure the seeds are fresh.

Decoction: 2 oz. of seeds to 1 quart of water: boil down to 12 oz. and strain. Add 6 oz. of Holland gin and 6 oz. of honey. The dose is 1-2 tsp. 3 or 4 times a day.

Oil: unrefined oil has similar properties to the seeds. Take 10-15 drops or more, 2-3 times a day.

Nutrient Content

Protein, thiamine (B1), niacin, potassium, iron, vegetable fats, phosphorus, calcium, iodine, fluorine, magnesium, sodium, vitamins D and E.

How Sold

Most of the sunflower oil commercially offered has been refined. It is still relatively valuable but does not have the value of unrefined oil with its full content of highly unsaturated fatty acids. Also, the sunflower seeds need not be cooked or roasted, as commercially offered. Fresh sunflower seeds are best for nutritional value.


Pollen or plant extracts may cause allergic reactions.

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