encyclopedia

Sunflower Seed

Scientific Names:

Helianthus annuus L. [Fam. Asteraceae]

Forms:

Organic sunflower seed and seed meal (defatted seed); flower petal tea; leaf tea.

Traditional Usage:

– Acne (flower petals)

– Bites and wounds (flower petals)

– Breathing Problems (flower petals)

– Coughs (seeds and leaves)

– Diuretic (seeds and leaves)

– Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency (seeds/oil)

– Fever (flower petals)

– Low sperm count (seeds)

– Pain (seeds)

– Poultice (flower petals/seeds)

Overview:

The common sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) is an annual plant, native from Minnesota to Texas and California and also found in Central and South America. Aboriginal peoples cultivated the plant and found many uses for it. The flower petals were traditionally used as a tea for treating breathing problems, high fever and as a diuretic. The astringent tea was also used externally for treating acne, insect bites and other wounds. The main use of sunflower, however, is as a source of nutritious food. Sunflower seeds are extremely rich in the amino acid arginine (8.2% or 332mg/tbsp), which, according to Naturopaths, is important for countering low sperm counts. It is recommended that men get approximately 4 grams of arginine per day to boost low sperm counts. Sunflower seeds are also rich in phenylalanine (161mg/tbsp), shown in human studies to reduce pain perception. Human and animal studies show that phenylalanine makes acupuncture more effective at reducing pain. In laboratory animals, phenylalanine also enhanced the effect of morphine and made it last longer. Sunflower seeds are also very rich in glutamine (771 mg/tbsp) � an important amino acid precursor for glutathione, said by medical researchers to be the most important self-made antioxidant in the human body. Taking glutamine boosts blood levels of glutathione much better than taking glutathione directy because glutathione doesn’t get transported between cells whereas glutamine does. In one animal study, supplementing with glutamine caused a 40% increase in glutathione levels. In a study with humans suffering from inflammation, blood glutathione levels jumped 20% after subjects took 5-15 grams of glutamine daily. The normal recommendation for glutamine is 2 – 8 grams per day. Sunflower seed and meal is also rich in linoleic acid (omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids � polyunsaturates), oleic acid (omega-9 � monosaturates) and Vitamin E.

Active Ingredients:

Sunflower defatted meal contains: Water 0.3 g/tbsp; Protein 1.9 g/tbsp; Total lipid (fat) 0.06 g/tbsp; Carbohydrate, by difference 1.4 g/tbsp; Fibre 0.2 g/tbsp; Minerals including Calcium 4.6 mg/tbsp; Iron 0.26 mg/tbsp; Magnesium 13.8 mg/tbsp; Phosphorus 27.6 mg/tbsp; Potassium 2.6 mg/tbsp; Sodium 0.12 mg/tbsp; Zinc 0.2 mg/tbsp; Copper 0.07 mg/tbsp; Manganese 0.08 mg/tbsp; and Selenium 2.3 mg/tbsp. Vitamins including Vitamin C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Vitamin B-6; Folate and Vitamin A. Amino acids including: Tryptophan, Threonine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Cystine, Phenylalanine 99 mg/tbsp, Tyrosine, Valine, Arginine 203mg/tbsp, Histidine, Alanine, Glutamic acid 471 mg/tbsp, Glycine, Proline and Serine.

(1 tablespoon = 4 g) (Information taken from The National Agriculture Library’s USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference at http://www.nal.usda.gov).

Suggested Amount:

Take one to two tablespoons of sunflower seeds or seed meal per day or as needed based on nutrient requirements.

Drug Interactions:
None known.

Contraindications:
None known.

Side Effects:

Sunflower seeds, meal and oil, taken as a part of a well balanced diet, does not cause any side effects.

References:

Duke, J. 1997: The Green Pharmacy, The Ultimate Compendium of Natural Remedies from the World’s Foremost Authority on Healing and Herbs. pp. 342; 424. Rodale Press.

Carper J. 1995. Stop Aging Now. (Chapter on Glutathione (and glutamine)). Harper Collins Publishing, Inc., New York, NY, p. 124-137.

Erasmus, U. 1993: Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill. Published by Alive Books, Burnaby, B.C., Canada. pp. 1-456.

Foster S, and Duke JA. 1990. Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants. Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, NY, p. 132.

Kuhnlein, H. and N. Turner 1991: Traditional Plant Foods of Canadian Indigenous Peoples. Nutrition, Botany and Use. Gordon and Breach Scientific Publishers, 5301 Tacony Street, Drawer 330, Philadelphia, PE 19137. Pp. 134-136.