Sunflower: magic, medicine, and folklore

A tall, ornamental plant with sun-like flowerhead and edible seeds. It channels the energy and warmth of the Sun, promotes magical healing, and attracts joy.

Helianthus annuus. Also known as: Sun Crown. Golden Crown. Beams of Sun.

Family: Asteraceae | asters
Habitat: temperate to warm, fields and gardens
Size: 100—300 cm
Life cycle: annual
Foraging: flowers, seeds and oil
Flowers: yellow to orange, July—October
Leaves: large, dentate, often sticky

A botanical illustration of sunflower from Herbalist’s Primer

Description

A tall plant with hairy, sturdy stems, usually branching in the wild and single in cultivated variants. Broad, coarse, toothed leaves are sometimes sticky to the touch. The massive flowerhead comprises numerous small five-petaled florets called disk flowers surrounded by larger, sterile, yellow to orange ray flowers, mistakenly considered sunflower petals. Disk flowers mature into edible seeds covered in hard, shiny, grey-black husk. The seeds have an oily, slightly sweet flavor.


Habitat and Cultivation

Sunflowers require a sunny exposure and fertile, moist, well-draining soil with a lot of mulch. They promote growth of other useful and edible plants and once established, require no effort in cultivation. Young flowers track the sun; as adults, they all face east. Sunflowers are infinitely useful: they attract bees, serve as poultry and cattle food, may be used as fowl litter or kindling. Dried stems are hard as wood and burn easily; the ash is high in potash and makes an excellent manure. Plant it to drain swamps and waterlogged soil. The latex produced by sunflowers may be used to create rubber.


Foraging and Preparation

Inspect the flowerheads daily when the harvest time approaches, as the ripening seeds fall out on their own if left for too long and attract hungry vermin and birds. On a dry day, cut the plants to ground level once the flowerhead dries and shrivels, then let the seeds fall out naturally in a dry room. Extract the rest by hitting the side of a flowerhead with a wooden mallet—or use any other convenient method. Extract oil from the seeds by cold-pressing; the oil is much cheaper than olive oil and more versatile.


Culinary Properties

Seeds, raw or roasted, make a perfect snack food or an addition to breads and desserts, like sunflower halva. Sunflower oil, high in polyunsaturated fat, is used for cooking.


Medicinal Properties

Use the seeds as a diuretic and expectorant in treatment of pulmonary complaints, bronchitis, coughs, colds, and whooping cough. A tincture of seeds breaks malarial fever.


Magical Properties

Use sunflower in spells and rituals invoking the power of the Sun. It brings the Sun’s warmth and energy to all preparations, making it useful against the creatures of the night and shadows. Sunflower oil causes symptoms of sunlight allergy in such beings, and a stalk of sunflower added to a campfire bestows the same property to the flames.

Sunflower promotes magical healing. The oil is a common carrier for healing and blessing oils as it easily absorbs the magic of other herbs and ensures a smooth, even application. Use it to consecrate robes, tools, and gems prior to healing rituals, as well as during attempts at bringing back the dead or bestowing immortality. It creates a powerful resonance loop with amaranth; using them together greatly amplifies their power.

The plant brings joy even in the darkest times and deepest sorrows. Carry seeds or dried ray flowers in a sachet to attract happiness to yourself or offer it as a gift to bring luck to another. For reasons unknown but probably gold-related, dragons and lions are also attracted by sunflowers, so such gifts might be a mixed blessing.


Additional Context

Sunflowers, hailing from Mexico and Peru, were used by the Aztecs in their temples of the Sun. The priestesses wore sunflower crowns and carried the flowers in their hands, and the motif of sunflowers was used for decoration, sometimes inlaid with gold. The plant was known as the ‘fourth sister’ and planted by several Native American groups on the north edges of gardens, next to the other sisters: corn, beans, and squash. As sunflower produces extracts that increase germination of wheat, amaranth, purslane, and many other useful plants, while inhibiting germination of weeds, planting sunflowers in the fields should be considered a brilliant, pro-ecological, and sustainable practice.


This is Not All

Sunflower is also a national flower of Ukraine – a country and people that we at Double Proficiency fully support in the face of this horrible, unforgivable Russian invasion.

May this old Slavic symbol of the eternal Sun, of the victory over Evil and Darkness, of survival against all odds bring hope in these trying times.


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