Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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


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.


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.


More Medicinal Plants Questions

Identification of a vine in El Paso, Texas
November 23, 2012 - I live in Del Rio Texas - Zone 8/9 and I have a vine which can't be identified. It looks like a morning glory white flower with crimson throat, but the leaf pattern is like a 5-7 fingered hand with d...
view the full question and answer

Fiber and dye plants at the Wildflower Center from Round Rock TX
May 24, 2012 - When I visited the Wildflower Center recently I noticed a garden labeled as containing fiber and dye plants, but the individual plants and their uses were not all labeled. I would be very interested ...
view the full question and answer

Plants good for repelling bugs in Austin, TX
April 18, 2007 - I need help on what type of plants or herbs are good for keeping bugs away from the house and also something that would be good for in the house for bugs?
view the full question and answer

Dumb question about prickly pear
December 23, 2005 - This is probably a really dumb question but I am interested in picking the prickly pear next year when it is in season, and was wondering the best way to get all of the little stickers off of the pear...
view the full question and answer

Yucca plant for horse joint problems
October 21, 2008 - is the yucca plant the same as what the joint medication is made of to give to older horses for the joints, and if so, can a plant be nibbled on when it grows in the pasture?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.