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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - September 14, 2006

From: New York, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Medicinal Plants
Title: Skin care uses of sunflower seed oil
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Just wondering what, if any, were the traditional uses of sunflower in skincare? I thought I read somewhere that the seeds were crushed up into an oil and used on the skin for sun protection? Is there anything out there that corroborates this? Please advise. Many thanks.

ANSWER:

I haven't been able to find any reference (in print or over the internet) to sun protection for the sunflower, but I have found several references to other uses on the skin and hair. The seeds of the Common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) were crushed and the oil used for a dressing for the hair. The University of Michigan-Dearborn Native American Ethnobotany database lists several skin-related uses for H. annuus:

"Oil from seeds used 'to lubricate or paint the face or body'"-Mandan Indian;
"Juice applied to cuts"-Jemez Indians; and
"Petals dried, ground, mixed with yellow corn meal and used as a face powder in women's basket dance"-Hopi Indians.

For the Sawtooth sunflower (Helianthus grossesserratus), a "Poultice of blossoms used for burns"-Meskwaki Indians.

The National Sunflower Association says the oil of the seed was used by Native Americans on their skin and hair, but nothing about sun protection. You might contact them to see if they know of other references for traditional uses of the plant and its seeds.

 

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