An introduction to sunflower oil. By Sharon Falsetto. This is the first article in a trilogy of articles on sunflower.
Sunflowers are not the first flower which you think about in an aromatic garden – although their bright, sunny disposition is not something you can easily miss. However, sunflower seeds are used to produce a carrier oil which is used in aromatherapy – and I recently discovered a rare and intriguing sunflower essential oil! Here’s more information about the different types of sunflower oil used for aromatic practice in this introduction to sunflower oil.
A Botanical Profile of Sunflower
The sunflower (Helanthus annuus) has been around for centuries. As a member of the Asteraceae plant family, a long-standing plant family, the sunflower is the epitomy of the expected characteristics of this plant family. It has a composite “flower-head” (which is actually a cluster of small flowers), alternate leaves, and a strong erect stalk (or stem). Sunflowers vary in size but some of the larger varieties can reach heights of up to fifteen feet. Sunflowers are traditionally yellow in color, but today you will find them in a variety of colors. I will discuss this more in next week’s post.
Sunflower as a Carrier Oil
The traditional use of the sunflower in aromatherapy practice is as a carrier oil. The oil is extracted from the seeds of the plant through cold pressing. Seeds will produce varying amounts of oil but they are known to produce a light, yellow oil which can be used for massage, in aromatherapy products, and in macerations with other plants.
Sunflower oil can contain a high percentage of oleic acid or linoleic acid, depending upon the type of sunflowers grown.1 Note that highly processed sunflower oil (produced at a high temperature) is not the same as cold pressed sunflower oil as it will not retain the same therapeutic properties. Highly processed sunflower oil is used as a cooking and salad dressing oil, but only the cold pressed oil is used in aromatherapy.
Sunflower as a carrier oil in aromatherapy can be used for skin care, bruises, and acne.
Sunflower as an Essential Oil
I recently discover a supplier who sells a very rare sunflower essential oil. It is described as being distilled from the seeds and flower leaves of the plant. When I received the oil it did, indeed, remind me of the aroma of sunflowers! It has a fresh, clean, green top note. I was unable to verify any therapeutic properties of this essential oil, nor find any clinical studies on it, but it is an ideal medium to add to aromatic perfumes which require this particular note. However, as it is rare (and expensive), it will be an essential oil to use with care!
Learn More About Carrier Oils with Sedona Aromatics
If you would like to learn how to use carrier oils in aromatherapy blends, consider the Sedona Aromatics Certificate in Holistic Aromatherapy course.
Price, Len, 1999, Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy and Massage, UK: Riverhead Publishing
Author is a 24 year veteran in the health care and aromatherapy industry and a UK-certified aromatherapist. She is both a published author and editor in aromatherapy, a consultant, custom blend formulator and herbal studies student. She is the author of Authentic Aromatherapy and the current chief editor of the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal. She works from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona on her one acre homestead and aromatic gardens.