Sunflower, a plant whose botanical name is Helianthus is an herbaceous plant of the Aster family. Sunflowers are planted all over the world mostly in tropical countries. They grow well in places with lots of sunshine.
Originally sunflowers were domiciled in the great North American prairies. Before white settlers came to America, Native Americans cultivated sunflower crops southwest of the Mississippi River for its medicinal, oil and nutritional properties. Currently, it’s grown in most parts of the world.
The sunflower plant can grow up to a height of 3 meters. It produces a flower head of about 30 cm wide, the flower head produces petals called florets that grow on the outer and inner part of the flower.
The outer petal bearing florets are sterile florets and are mostly yellow. The inner florets, called disc florets, mature into edible seeds that produce sunflower oil. The flower’s clusters grow in a spiral pattern that faces the sun. The sunflower’s stem is hardy and strong enough to carry the weight of the flower head.
According to Wikipedia “The flower petals within the cluster are always in a spiral pattern, generally, each floret is oriented toward the next by approximately 137.5 degrees, producing a pattern of interconnecting spirals, where the number for the left spirals and the number of right spirals are successive Fibonacci numbers. Typically, there are 34 spirals in one direction and 55 in the other”. These numbers increase in successive Fibonacci numbers.
Sunflowers are resilient plants that are drought-resistant and can grow in many types of soils but prefer deep well-drained soils that aren’t waterlogged and are slightly acidic with a PH of between 6.0 and 7.5. They have a tough root system that inhibits the growth of other plants and are excellent weed suppressants.
Sunflower leaves are egg-shaped and measures about 30cm long. They are rough with a hairy surface. The upper surface of the leaf is dull green and has a sandpaper-like texture. They have light green petioles which are also covered with short stiff hairs.
Sunflowers are mostly known for their seeds and oil production. But did you know that the leaves have many other uses and have been proven to cure diseases, satisfy hunger both in humans and livestock and are excellent environmental managers? Here are some of the uses that sunflower leaves have:
1. Malarial fever
Sunflower leaves have therapeutic properties for curing malarial fever. Malaria fever is extremely dangerous and can make one feel very sick. It comes with shakes and chills and can easily kill if left untreated.
A tincture of sunflower leaves is prepared and covered in a moist towel, the patient is wrapped in the towel which helps them to perspire. The perspiration produced helps reduce the fever and abate the illness.
Arthritis is a disease that affects mostly older people. The joints of hand, feet, elbow and ankle joints swell and become stiff. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Both types of arthritis get worse as the patient grows older.
A poultice is prepared from Sunflower leaves and applied directly on the joints. This helps reduce swelling and curb pain. Drinking made tea from Sunflower leaves can also prevent arthritis.
A sudden burst of diarrhea accompanied by vomiting or sometimes without especially in young children may be as a result of gastroenteritis infection. Gastroenteritis is caused by a range of pathogens, bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.
Sunflower leaves are a good relief for gastroenteritis. The leaves are boiled in water and the resultant tea drank giving almost an immediate relief.
4. Gastrointestinal tract
Drinking tea made from sunflower leaves will also help relieve the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract caused by bacterial toxins.
5. Pulmonary Pneumonia
Pulmonary pneumonia is a lung disease caused by an infection of bacteria, fungi, and viruses to the lungs. The symptoms are usually a cough, fever, and chills and prickly pain like needles in the chest. Drinking tea made from Sunflower leaves helps soothe the chest pain and heal pneumonia.
6. Respiratory Tract
The nasal passage, paranasal sinuses the pharynx and the larynx slightly above the vocal cords trachea, bronchi and bronchioles are part of the respiratory tract. When infected they affect the patient’s breathing ability. Sunflower leaves are used to treat the respiratory tract. Make a tea from the leaves and drink while hot.
7. Plasmodium bacteria
Plasmodium bacteria is a protozoan parasite the affect humans when introduced in the bloodstream, drinking sunflower leaves tea helps kill this bacteria
8. Vivax bacteria
Plasmodium vivax is widely distributed in the world, causing recurring malaria. Sunflower leaves make a healing balm that kills these pathogens when consumed as a tea.
9. Wound dressing
Sunflower leaves have a health benefit as wound and ulcer dressings. A poultice made from crushed sunflower leaves is applied on the wound and left to dry and heal the wound. The antibacterial properties in the leaves then go to work. After two to three days the wound is usually dry and on its way to complete healing.
10. Swellings and inflammation
Sunflower leaves have excellent anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce swelling and inflammation. They are used as a crushed poultice applied as a constriction on the affected part acting as astringents.
The tender leaf petioles when eaten or brewed as tea helps treat the pain associated with the inflammation.
11. Insect Bites
Insect bites cause excruciating pain and inflammation, they might be itchy and may take time to heal, crushed leaves of the sunflower plant have wonderful therapeutic properties that work against insect bite poisons, bringing instant relief.
12. Snake Bites
Dried Sunflower leaves mixed with other plant herbs, barks, and sunflower petals are crushed to make a powder that is applied on snakebite wounds The potency of these herbs helps neutralize the snake venom.
13. Spider Bites
Spider bites are not just painful, but in some instances highly venomous. Dried sunflower leaves crushed and mixed with other herbs are used to create a powdery substance that neutralizes the spider’s venom and brings instant healing.
14. Bronchial Coughs
A tincture of sunflower leaves, flowers, and other herbs is used with balsamic to heal bronchial coughs
15. Whooping cough
Whooping cough is a respiratory infection that is highly contagious affecting many people in different parts of the world. Medicinal properties in Sunflower leaves can help heal pulmonary infections like whooping cough and common colds.
A tincture is prepared of sunflower leaves and balsamic and used in combination with other herbs to treat the cough.
Sunflower leaves can help heal pulmonary infections like the common cold and other bronchial and respiratory infections including the common cold.
A tincture is prepared of sunflower leaves and balsamic and used in combination with other herbs to treat the cough.
17. Ague and fevers
Tea made from sunflower leaves has antipyretic properties that are used for the treatment of high fevers and Ague chills and pains that come with malarial infection
Crushed sunflower leaves are used to make a paste that is applied on the forehead in case of a headache, it helps heal the headache and bring relief almost instantly.
19. Rheumatic aches
Rheumatic pains are caused by a condition that affects the joints and connective tissues causing chronic pain. A decoction of sunflower leaves and other herbs is used in rheumatic patients to bring instant relief.
20. Diuretic effects
Sunflower leaves have diuretic properties that help increase urine excretion for patients with bladder disorders.
21. Emollient effect
Sunflower leaves make a balm that has soothing and softening effects. When applied on an irritated skin the affected are caused allergies or skin rashes is quickly healed.
Sunflower leaves tea is also a stimulant, that raises physiological levels and increases nervous activities in the body.
23. Herb Tobacco
The red Indians smoked sunflower leaves as herbal tobacco to get the therapeutic properties locked up in the plant. It is still smoked today to help in respiratory illnesses and for its stimulating properties. Smoking the leaves has the usual dangerous side effects that accompany smoking.
24. Antioxidant against cancer
Sunflower leaves contain Vitamin E and selenium which is a strong antioxidant that helps neutralize many free radicals consumed in food or inhaled in the air. Tea from sunflower leaves helps to protect the body against cancer and other diseases.
25. Antioxidant against Cardiovascular diseases
Sunflower leaves contain Vitamin E and selenium a strong antioxidant that helps neutralize many free radicals consumed in food or inhaled in the air. Tea from sunflower leaves helps to protect the body against cardiovascular diseases.
26. Sore Throat
The tea produced from sunflower leaves and petals is an effective remedy for sore throat and helps reduce inflammation of the windpipe. It also helps protect against new infections.
Tonsillitis is a disease that affects the tonsils at the back of the throat. The signs of an infection are swollen tonsils, a sore throat, and difficulty in breathing. Drinking sunflower leaves tea helps cure tonsillitis, reduce the swelling and restore normal respiratory functions.
A tincture of Sunflower leaves and sunflower oil is used as a deobstruent that helps remove obstructions and to clear natural ducts of the fluids and secretion’s openings in the body.
Sunflower leaves are mixed with other herbs to make an expectorant that helps promote the secretion of sputum and to clear air passages.
30. Livestock Fodder
Sunflower leaves make excellent livestock fodder that is both nutritional and valuable easy to cultivate resources. When mixed with sunflower seeds it gets a high protein content, That help keeps livestock healthy and strong.
Silage is made from chopped crop residues in a controlled anaerobic condition that allows fermentation with high moisture content, that helps preserve nutritional content while converting plant sugars into acidic acids.
Chopped Sunflower leaves are used as a silage crop and can be used as a double crop mixed with other grains and crops to make highly nutritional silage. Since sunflower grows in hardy conditions, it can be used as an alternative to corn.
Nutritional quality of sunflower silage is higher than most of the other silage crops, alfalfa and corn included, crude protein in the sunflower leaf decreases and the lignin increases after the flowering stage so it’s better to use younger plants that have not flowered.
32. Bee Keeping
Sunflowers attract insects, especially bees that help pollinate the crops. The large sunflower leaves help bees find resting patches as they collect nectar from the flowers and pollinate the plants. The hairy follicles on the leaves help in the cleaning pollen from the bee.
33. Dairy Cows
Dairy cows need a balanced and highly nutritious feed that will increase milk production. Sunflower leaves mixed with fodder and sunflower seeds make a rich feed that is a rich source of protein, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin B. The good quality feed increases milk production.
34. Chicken Farming
The protein content of sunflower meal ranges from 28% to 42 % of DE hulled seeds, when these seeds are mixed with sunflower leaves, they create a wholesome meal that will increase eggs and meat production in poultry besides being a healthy diet for the chicken.
35. Pig Rearing
Pigs need fiber matter in their feeds to help their digestion process, crushed sunflower leaves aren’t just food but will also keep pigs healthy due to their therapeutic properties, that heal and help keep at bay many diseases.
36. Rabbit Farming
Rabbit feed is 100% vegetable matter, young sunflower leaves have a high concentration of protein that in addition to the nutritional value in the plant, are rich in other minerals and will keep rabbits both healthy and strong, protecting them against diseases and infections.
37. A source of Calcium
The lowermost leaves of the sunflower plant have a high concentration of calcium an essential mineral in strengthening and forming bones.
38. A source of Vitamin B
Sunflower sprouts are a rich source of vitamin B mostly folate which produces folic acid. Vitamin B is a necessary requirement during pregnancy as it helps in the development of the baby’s nervous system. It also aids the mother in stress relief and blood circulation.
39. Sprouted Seed
The tender shoots of the germinated sunflower seed, when blended with water and left to ferment, produces a sprout that can be eaten raw and is rich in calcium and phosphorus
40. Paint Manufacture
Sunflower plants have many other uses amongst them making body paints. And ornamental decorations.
41. Cosmetics Manufacturer
Sunflower leaves are also mixed with the seeds to make skin protective remedy that cures and heals skin rashes and helps in itches.
The sunflower plant has a deep root system that soaks up water. The leaves have a wide surface that helps release excessive water into the atmosphere during photosynthesis, which helps to regulate water in the wetlands.
43. Weed Control
The sunflowers root system and leaves produce toxins that are harmful to other plants, they are natural herbicides that help suppress weed growth without the need for chemicals and herbicides.
44. Soil Fixing
Contaminated soils that have been polluted by chemical spillages, radioactive substances or oil spillages can be cleaned naturally by the sunflower plant, the roots absorb the harmful substances and the leaves release or store them up converting them to use substances.
45. Microscopic slide
The stem of the sunflower plant has one of the lightest substances known to man, it’s pith. It has a gravity of 0.028 and is light enough to be used as a raw material for the manufacture of microscopic slides.
The dried stems of the sunflower plant make very good kindling when making a fire, it’s an excellent source of fuel.
47. Making paper
The sunflower stem is also used for making paper. The pith can be crushed and processed to release the lignin and processed to release fiber that can be processed into paper.
48. Making Clothes
The sunflower stem can also be used for making paper. The pith can be crushed and processed to release the lignin and processed to release fiber that is processed into fabric.
49. Woven Tablemats
The sunflower stalk is extremely tall and can be harvested and woven into beautifully handcrafted table mats.
50. Tobacco Herbs
The leaves are soaked dried and smoked as an herbal cure.
Sunflower leaves have several uses that make the sunflower plant an important crop whose benefits go beyond seed oil to medicine and manufacturing.