Asthmatics can find some relief with chewing a few seeds when their chests feel tight.

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.” – Helen Keller.

SunflowersThe sunflower was dedicated to two gods in ancient times. In Peru, it was the emblem of the Sun God, Inti, and in Greece it was dedicated to their Greek Sun God, Helios. And for us modern folk, perhaps we should have as the symbol of summer. It is such a cheerful flower it could surely bring brightness to the gloomiest of person!

It was first cultivated over 3000 years ago by the American Indians and introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century by Spanish explorers. The first people to cultivate it in vast quantities were the Russians who realised it was an easy crop to grow and the oil extracted from the seeds was extremely versatile.

All parts of the plant can be used, and it isn’t limited to cooking. Sunflowers have the ability to absorb water without any damage to the plant and have been used to reclaim marshy land in the Netherlands. It can be used in homes if you have a problem with rising damp. Plant it close to the affected walls and you have a pretty solution. You can use arum lilies and angelica in exactly the same way.

Sunflower is one of the most commonly used cooking oil in the world, and most margarines are made with it. but if you want any health benefits you need a cold pressed oil, which for some reason, isn’t so easy to come by.

Cultivation: Easy! Throw a few seeds on the ground and they will grow.  Cover them with a layer of soil, or the birds will eat them.  I have big pigeons who scratch around to dig them up, so I lay a piece of chicken wire over them until they have the first two leaves. There are lots of colours and sizes available, and Jerusalem Artichokes are a member of the sunflower family.

House & Garden: An ideal windbreak for tender flowers or vegetables. Plant to absorb dampness. Use the dried plants for fire kindling. The ash is a good potash fertilizer. The fibrous pith is used for textiles and paper making. It is also used for making lifebelts because it is so light. Boil the flowers for a yellow dye. Give the seed to chickens to increase egg yield. It is a good companion plant for mielies. Use it in oil lamps instead of the fancy oils that are sold for the purpose. Add a few drops of citronella oil to chase away mosquitoes.

Sunflower syrupMedicinal: Chew seeds or add to a syrup to ease asthma and relieve coughs. If you have children who tend to have asthma attacks when they are stressed, give them some as a snack.  They won’t realise they are having a medicine, and it will ease the tightness of the chest.  Sunflower cough syrup is excellent, but it doesn’t keep for more than a month, so make it as needed. If you have asthmatics in the family you may want to keep a bottle on hand all of the time.  Seeds are also used to heal kidney infections.
A tincture of the plant has been used to treat malaria, but I have no idea how effective it is, and cannot verify this.  The dried leaves can be used as a tobacco to replace nicotine.


Sunflower squaresCulinary: Seeds are roasted, used in breads, biscuits, stir fries, stuffing etc. The seeds sprout easily but become bitter after two days, so eat them quickly.  Here is a really nice recipe for Sunflower squares

Cosmetic: Use cold pressed sunflower oil as a base oil for massage, or add to body creams

Botanical name: Helianthus annuus

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