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The Joyous Magickal Properties of Sunflowers

Hi, my loves and welcome to WiccaNow. Recently I’ve been sharing guides to the magickal properties of some of my favourite herbs and plants, like this guide to the magickal properties of yarrow, another all about patchouli, a post about hibiscus and also a guide to the magickal uses of lemons. Today I want to continue with this by sharing my guide to the amazing magickal properties of sunflowers.

Sunflowers have a very long history as a magickal plant, having been used by Native American tribes for thousands of years. The Aztecs used them as part of their religious ceremonies to worship the sun deities. The magickal properties of sunflowers include fertility, happiness, luck and loyalty. Medicinally, sunflowers can be used to reduce inflammation and to treat coughs.

magickal properties of sunflowers Helianthus annuus botanical illustration

Disclaimer: Any medicinal benefits given here are a product of my own research and as such should not be taken over the advice of trained medical professionals. If you are ill, please go and see a doctor. Always make sure that anything you consume is 100% safe. If you are pregnant, consult your doctor or midwife before consuming something you haven’t tried before.

History of Sunflowers

Sunflowers, the most common of which is called Helianthus Annuus, are native to North America and belong to the Asteraceae family. There is evidence that sunflowers were being cultivated by American Indians, in what is now known as Arizona and New Mexico, as early as 3000BC. They were a common crop and are thought to have been domesticated before corn. 

American Indian tribes used the seeds to make flour for bread and cakes. They also added this flour to other vegetables like beans, corn and squash. The seeds were commonly eaten as a snack and were also pressed to make oil. The oil was used to treat skin and hair and other parts of the plant were used to make dyes for textiles and body painting. The stalks of the sunflowers were dried and used as building materials. 

It’s believed that Native American tribes cultivated the sunflower plant into the single-stemmed plant we commonly see today. In its original form, it was a much bushier plant with multiple flower heads. 

In the 1500s, Spanish explorers brought sunflower seeds back to Europe. The flowers were cultivated widely but were mainly ornamental. By 1716, a patent was granted in England for a technique to extract the oil from the seeds. 

Russia is credited with spreading the popularity of sunflowers, and much of this is down Peter the Great who appears to have loved the plant. Texts from 1769 mention that sunflowers had moved from purely ornamental plants to being used to make oil. By the 1830s sunflower oil was being produced on a commercial scale. Part of the rise in popularity of sunflower oil was due to the Russian Orthodox Church. The Church forbid the consumption of most oils during lent, however, sunflower oil wasn’t on this list which meant that it rose immensely in popularity. 

By the early 1800s, over 2 million acres of sunflowers had been planted by Russian farmers. There were two different types of sunflowers being planted, with one type being used for oil production and the other being used to produce sunflower seeds for consumption. 

2 types of sunflower flowers one with black seeds and one with white seeds
Generally speaking, the lighter seeds are used for consumption and the smaller, darker seeds are used for oil production.

By the late 1800s, Russian sunflower seeds found their way back the US. Most likely, this came from Russian immigrants bringing seeds with them. The first commercial sunflower crops in the US were used as silage feed for poultry. The first commercial sunflower oil was produced in 1926 by the Missouri Sunflower Growers’ Association. 

The Canadian Government started an official breeding program during the 1930s where they used seeds brought into Canada by Russian Immigrants. Canadians appreciated the oil so much that an increasing number of acres were planted with sunflower crops. By 1946 a small oil plant was built by Canadian farmers.

In 1964 the Government licensed a seed called “Peredovik” which had a high oil and seed yield. Throughout this time production in Canada and the US increased and by the 70s hybridized seeds had been produced which increased oil and seed production and the plant’s resistance to diseases. 

During the late 1970s, increased demand for sunflower oil from Europe meant that crop acreage in the US exploded. Europeans had been using more and more sunflower oil as they learned that animal fats could negatively impact cholesterol. The Russian supplies of oil weren’t able to cope with the demand and Europeans started importing sunflower seeds from the US in order to crush them in local mills. This has changed today, with Europe producing most of its own sunflower seeds and the imports from the US being relatively minimal. 

Today, the main producers of sunflower products in the world are again Russia and Ukraine. Combined they produce around ½ of the worlds sunflower seeds. 

field of sunflowers for magickal properties of sunflowers

Fun Facts about Sunflowers

  • In Greek mythology, sunflowers came about because a young girl was madly in love with Apollo and followed his path through the sky every day. He eventually got sick of her constant pining and turned her into a sunflower by piercing her with one of his sun arrows. Other versions of this story suggest that another god felt sorry for her and turned her into a sunflower so as to stop her obsession. The myth suggests that because of this young girl, sunflowers still follow the path of the sun throughout the day facing east in the morning and west in the evening. 
  • There is an award, known as The Pustovoit Award. It’s a prestigious award given for research into sunflowers.
  • One type of sunflower seed, Mammoth Russian, was sold in seed catalogues for more than 100 years in the US. 
  • Sunflower crops are a huge market, ranking as the 4th most common crop in the world after palm, soybeans and rapeseed. 
  • Aztec priestesses who worshipped the sun gods were crowned with sunflowers.
  • The tallest sunflower was 9.17m tall and the largest flower was 82cm across.  
  • The Incas used sunflowers part of their religious practices in Peru.
  • In Chinese medicine, sunflowers aren’t used at all. 
  • A single sunflower can contain up to 2,000 seeds.
close up of a blooming sunflower
The golden angle is approximately 137.5° and seeds in a sunflower are arranged according to it This angle is irrational which means that no seed has a neighbouring one at the exact same angle from the centre (Prusinkiewicz and Lindenmayer, 1990).
  • Sunflower seeds sometimes turn blue-green when baked due to a (harmless) chemical reaction between chlorogenic acid in the seeds and baking soda. 
  • If you’re making pesto and don’t have pinenuts, toasted sunflower seeds are an amazing substitute. 

Medicinal Uses of Sunflowers

Sunflowers have been used medicinally for thousands of years. Native American tribes used the oil as a sunscreen and to treat everything from skin ailments to snakebites. The crushed leaves can be used to ease swelling and pain from spider or snakebites (the Native Americans clearly knew what they were doing). Using the flowers in tea is thought to treat malaria and lung problems. 

bee flying into sunflower macro
Use sunflowers to ease the pain of a bee sting.

All parts of the sunflower plant may be used in medicinal treatments. While sunflower seeds (the most common part to consume) are considered very safe, eating too many can cause some issues. It’s recommended that seeds be measured out to avoid excessive calorie intake and high levels of cadmium which can cause damage to kidneys. Make sure not to eat the sunflower seed husks as these may cause digestive issues due to the human body’s inability to break down the shells.

Sunflowers may be useful in treating:
  • Inflammation
  • The roots may be used to make a decoction which may help with pain associated with rheumatism
  • Diuretic
  • May help to treat high fevers
  • May Improve digestion
  • May improve brain health
  • May increase energy levels
  • 25g of sunflower seeds contains a daily dose of vitamin E
  • Contains calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and potassium
  • Sunflower seeds contain around 20% protein, which is why eating too many of them can cause excessive calorie consumption.
  •  Contain anti-oxidants
  • Used traditionally to treat coughs
  • May help to lower cholesterol

Magickal Properties of Sunflowers

Sunflowers are strongly associated with the sun, and as such are often used during Litha. They represent fertility (this doesn’t necessarily mean physical fertility but can also be used in magick relating to abundance and fertile ideas and creativity). Sunflowers are often used in fertility magick because of the abundance of seeds each flower head produces. 

The magickal properties of sunflowers are often used in magick to do with devotion, adoration and loyalty. This comes from the fact that sunflowers will loyally follow the suns path during the day. Add sunflower petals to a ritual bath to attract happiness. Pick a sunflower at sunset then wear for the evening to bring luck the next day. Sleep with a sunflower under your pillow in order to find out the truth in a specific matter. Sunflower oil is a common base for magickal oils. 

  • Luck
  • Protection
  • Confidence
  • Sun magick
  • Fertility
  • Wishes
  • Faery magick
  • Joy
  • Courage
  • Friendship
  • Prosperity
  • Happiness
magickal properties of sunflowers illustrated
The associations and magickal properties of Sunflowers.

Correspondences of Sunflowers

Deities – Apollo

Associations of Sunflowers

Zodiac – Leo

Planet – The Sun

Element – Fire

Gender – Masculine

Crystals – Amber, Jasper, Sunstone

sunflower in a field of wildflowers
I would include beauty as one of the magickal properties of sunflowers. I mean, how can you not fall in love this incredibly sunny flower?

So, my lovelies, I hope this guide gives you everything you were looking for about the magickal properties of sunflowers. They really are a magnificent ode to the solar deities. 

Until next time,

Blessed be,