Helianthus annuus. Sunflower.
Nat. Ord. — Asteraceae. Sex. Syst. — Syngenesia Frustranea.
Description. — This is an annual plant, with an erect, rough stem, usually about seven feet high, but which under favorable circumstances, attains the hight of fifteen and even twenty feet. The leaves are large, cordate, three-nerved, the upper alternate, the lower opposite. Peduncles thickening upward. Flowers large, nodding ; rays yellow ; disk dark-purple. Seeds numerous, dark-purple when ripe. A splendid variety occurs with the flowers all radiate.
History. — This well known plant is a native of South America, and is extensively cultivated in the gardens of this country, on account of its beautiful, brilliant, yellow flowers, which appear in July and August. The ripe seeds are the parts used, they are of a purplish color, externally, about four or five lines long, between two and three wide, two-angled, margins parallel, apex somewhat pointed, the base truncate, compressed, with longitudinal convex surfaces, so as nearly to present four angles ; internally the testa is whitish, and the kernel is whitish, oily, rather sweetish, and edible. They contain a fixed oil which may be obtained by expression. The leaves are large, and when carefully dried, may be made into segars, very much resembling in flavor that of mild Spanish ones. The virtue of the seeds chiefly depends upon the fixed oil they contain.
Properties and Uses. — Sunflower seeds and leaves, are diuretic and expectorant, and have been used in pulmonary affections with considerable benefit. The following preparation has been of much efficacy in bronchial and laryngeal affections, and even in the cough of phthisis ; it acts as a mild expectorant and diuretic : Take of sunflower seeds, bruised, two pounds, water five gallons ; boil the two together until but three gallons of liquid remain, then strain, add twelve pounds of sugar, and one and a half gallons of good Holland gin. The dose of this is from two fluidrachms to two fluidounces, three or four times a day, or whenever tickling or irritation of the throat, or cough is excessive, or when expectoration is difficult. Various agents may be added to this preparation, according to indications, as tincture of stillingia, tincture of balsam of Tolu, tincture of iodine, etc. An infusion of the pith of sunflower stem is diuretic, and may be used where this class of agents is indicated, also in many febrile and inflammatory forms of disease ; it likewise makes a good local application in some forms of acute ophthalmia. The pith contains nitre, and has been proposed for the preparation of moxa ; the quantity of nitre, however, varies, depending entirely upon the locality and character of soil in which the plant grows. The oil obtained from the seeds by expression, has been employed with benefit in cough, in dysentery, in inflammation of the mucous coat of the bladder, and in disease of the kidneys. To be given in doses of from ten to fifteen drops, two or three times a day. A teaspoonful of the oil taken at one dose, has produced active diuresis for four consecutive days, accompanied toward the termination with pain and debility in the lumbar region. The leaves are astringent.