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Cultivated primarily for the seeds which yield the world's second most important source of edible oil. Sunflower oil is used for cooking, margarine, salad dressings, lubrication, soaps, and illumination. A semi-drying oil, it is used with linseed and other drying oils in paints and varnishes. Decorticated press-cake is used as a high protein food for livestock. Kernels eaten by humans raw, roasted and salted, or made into flour. Poultry and cage birds are fond of raw kernels. Flowers yield a yellow dye. Plants used for fodder, silage and green-manure crop. Hulls provide filler in livestock feeds and bedding.
Medicinally, seeds are diuretic, expectorant, and used for colds, coughs, throat, and lung ailments. According to Hartwell (1967–1971), the flowers and seeds are used in folk remedies for cancer in Venezuela, often incorporated in white wine. Reported to be anodyne, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, bactericidal, deobstruent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, insecticidal, malaria preventative, sunflower is a folk remedy for aftosa, blindness, bronchiectasis, bronchitis, carbuncles, catarrh, cold, colic, cough, diarrhea, dysentery, dysuria, epistaxis, eyes, fever, flu, fractures, inflammations, laryngitis, lungs, malaria, menorrhagia, pleuritis, rheumatism, scorpion stings, snakebite, splenitis, urogenital ailments, whitlow, and wounds (Duke and Wain, 1981).
Native Americans used the seeds for food. The ate the seeds raw, roasted, boiled, made them into gravy, gruel and breads. There are numerous accounts of braves taking a carefully wrapped cake or ball made from the seeds to eat when they became fatigued to provide quick stimulation. In addition to eating the seeds they produced oil from them, although the wild plants may have been preferred to the cultivated ones for oil production. Various tribes ascribed various medical and magical powers to the plant and it played a role in ceremony in some tribes as well.
Environ Pollut. 2004 Sep;131(1):147-54. Related Articles, Links
The effect of EDTA and citric acid on phytoremediation of Cd, Cr, and Ni from soil using Helianthus annuus.
Turgut C, Katie Pepe M, Cutright TJ.
Adnan Menderes University, Faculty of Agriculture, 09100 Aydin, Turkey.
The possibility to clean heavy metal contaminated soils with hyperaccumulator plants has shown great potential. One of the most recently studied species used in phytoremediation applications are sunflowers. In this study, two cultivars of Helianthus annuus were used in conjunction with ethylene diamine tetracetic acid (EDTA) and citric acid (CA) as chelators. Two different concentrations of the chelators were studied for enhancing the uptake and translocation of Cd, Cr, and Ni from a silty-clay loam soil. When 1.0 g/kg CA was used, the highest total metal uptake was only 0.65 mg. Increasing the CA concentration posed a severe phytotoxicity to both cultivars as evidenced by stunted growth and diminished uptake rates. Decreasing the CA concentration to 0.1 and 0.3 g/kg yielded results that were not statistically different from the control. EDTA at a concentration of 0.1 g/kg yielded the best results for both cultivars achieving a total metal uptake of approximately 0.73 mg compared to approximately 0.40 mg when EDTA was present at 0.3 g/kg.