Sunflower (Xiang Ri Kui)

Botanical Name: Helianthus annuus

While the Chinese cultivate sunflowers for food, they do not typically use them medicinally, but it is in the West. The seeds are highly nutritious and sunflower oil is said to be the closest alternative to olive oil and can be used as an olive oil substitute.

Watch a short video, from Ann Christensen, Founder and Creator of White Rabbit Institute of Healing™ – Using All Parts Of The Sunflower.

Below is an overview of Sunflower, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of sunflower.

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Western Name: Sunflower

Also Known As: Marigold of Peru, Sola Indianus, Chrysanthemum Peruvianum

Organs/Systems: Respiratory, Skin, Nutrition

Key Actions: Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Anticancer, Boost Immunity. Seeds and Oil – Diuretic, Expectorant, Moistening, LubricantLeaves – Astringent, Diuretic, Expectorant

Medicinal Uses: Coughs, dry lungs and skin, sore throat, nutritious, urinary retention, edema, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, constipation, minor burns.


Pin Yin: Xiang Ri Kui

Also Known As: N/A

Meridians: Lungs, Spleen

Key Actions: Clears Heat, Stops Cough, Expels Damp, Moistens Skin and Intestines

Medicinal Uses: Coughs, bronchitis, whooping cough, colds, phlegmy coughs, gently lubricates dry cracked skin due to aging or dry conditions, eczema, lowers blood pressure, constipation, nutritious.

Basic Habitat / Botany:

Sunflowers are an annual plant, with about 50 species with hairy stems that grow between three and twelve feet high. They have broad, coarsely toothed, rough leaves and circular head flowers. The flower heads are made up many small tubular flowers arranged compactly on a flattish disk.

Mainly native to Mexico, Peru, and the California Rocky Mountains.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Seed, Oil, Leaf

Flavors/Temps: Sweet, Salty, Warm

Caution: Considered safe

Key Constituents: Hyperforin, Essential Oil, Tannins, Saponins, Flavonoids, Resins, Glycosides, Carotenes, Pectin, Hyperoside, Protein, Vitamin E, Linoleic acid, Oleic acid, Sesamol, Fiber, Selenium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Calcium, Sodium, Chloride, Iron, Copper, Chromium, Zinc, Manganese

History/Folklore: The name “Helianthus” derives from the word “helios,” meaning the sun, and “anthos” meaning flower. It is believed that the size of the flower, its color, and the fact that the blossoms follow the path of the sun throughout the day, always turning to receive the sun’s direct rays, led to the naming of this plant.

In Peru, the sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani) was revered by the Aztecs. Priestesses were crowned with the flowers while carrying them in their hands during ceremonies in their temples of the sun. The temples held numerous representations of Sunflowers wrought in pure gold and their seeds were found as sacred offerings within temples in Mexico. The literal translation of their Aztec name is “Shield Flower” and they were often depicted on the shields of the God of War, the God of Rain and fertility, and the God of Hunting and Fishing They were identified with the cycles of life from birth to death and placed on shields

Sunflowers were introduced to Europe in the 16th century and have become a common garden plant. Sunflowers are the national flower and symbol of Ukraine, which has become one of the world’s largest producers of sunflowers.

Every part of the sunflower is used for some purpose besides food and medicine. The leaves form cattle food and are also liked by rabbits and horses, the stems contain fiber used to make paper, the flowers are used to create a yellow and purple dye, and the seeds are rich in oil.

Sunflower oil is a crop for Russia, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Egypt, India, Manchuria and Japan. The oil is mainly produced in Russia. Sunflower oil is used as a drying oil for mixing paint, in WWII it was used in the making of munitions, it is unrivaled as a lubricant, you can make soap with it and it is used in candle-making.

Besides their nutritional and medicinal properties, the seeds are a healthy addition to chicken feed. Feeding bruised sunflower seeds to chickens is known to increase their laying power. Roasted like coffee, the seeds also make a warm drink and, when crushed, a nutritious bread.

The leaves added to tinctures or teas help to lower fevers, they are astringent, diuretic, and have expectorant properties. Made into a poultice, they can help treat sores, snake bites, and spider bites. The Cherokee used an infusion of sunflower leaves to treat kidney issues. The Dakota used the leaves to treat chest pain and pulmonary conditions. The leaves can also be enjoyed in salads.

Sunflower oil has moisturizing properties. It is non-comedogenic and highly absorbent. It can be used on all skin types and helps reinforce its natural moisture, especially in cases of eczema. It can also help relieve minor burns and skin irritation. High in vitamin E, it helps protect the skin from sun damage and reduces wrinkles caused by premature aging.
Sunflower seeds are full of nutritional value, including protein and fiber, collectively the nutrients help support heart health, prevent cancer, and improve digestion.

Farmers say the best way to grow the plants is in rows running north and south, with seeds placed nine inches apart, in rows thirty inches apart. Sunflower assimilates large amounts of potash and shouldn’t be planted in the same soil the second year. Sunflowers are most common after fires.

When the stalks are dry they are as hard as wood and make excellent firewood, however, burning them in the field is a better reclaiming of the potash back into the soil where potatoes and other root vegetables can then be planted.

The Native American Shasta people burned the roots to purify the house after someone died as well as to counter stuck emotional problems and resolve any false ideas about actions needing to be taken in life.

The leaves are utilized in herb tobaccos.

It is said that the Chinese blend sunflower fiber into their silks.

Sunflowers are also a classic example of sacred geometry as the seeds naturally arrange themselves in a spiral spinning outward and inward in the mathematical equation described by the Fibonacci Sequence. It starts with zero and one, with each following new number in the sequence being the sum of the two before it. This pattern of ratios can be found throughout nature in conch shells, pine cones, fruit, weather systems, star systems, and leaves on stems, to name a few examples. The ratio it creates is known as the golden ratio, golden number, or the God number, with the ratio between any two numbers approximately equaling 1.618 and commonly written with the Greek letter phi.

The Fibonacci Sequence is found throughout nature and used in many sacred designs. It is a pattern that symbolizes balance, harmony, and perfection. It represents the infinite and interconnected nature of all things, symbolizing the beauty and efficiency of creation. Sunflower seeds exhibit this pattern and provide nutrition, help boost the immune system, support heart health, and cleanse the soils in your garden. They are a true gift of nature.

Did you know?

Most Like Olive Oil

Sunflower seed oil is said to be the oil that is most like olive oil, and can be used as an olive oil substitute.


Lightest Substance Known

The pith of sunflower stalks is the lightest known substance, with a specific gravity of only 0.028.

Fun fact!

Help Whooping Cough

The seeds can be browned in the oven and made into an infusion to help treat whooping cough.

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