When Vincent van Gogh began his series of sunflower paintings in Arles, in the South of France in August 1886, he is said to have risen early to capture the flowers before the heat of the day could wilt them in the vase. But this isn’t what we see in the paintings. The flowers speak of a vulnerability and impermanence made all the more poignant when we know of the artist’s fate, and the suffering he endured as a result of his mental and physical health.
Helianthus annuus, the sunflower, has traditionally been used as both food and medicine. The plant has also been used to clear heavy metals and nuclear waste from polluted soil and water. As hyper-accumulators, sunflowers powerfully absorb toxicity into their own systems. Similarly, in folk medicine, the bruised roots were used as a poultice, drawing poison and infection from the body. The homeopath Burnett used little-known Helianthus as a spleen remedy, particularly in cases of infected fistulas with enlargement of the spleen. The spleen filters blood and helps the body fight infection. Characteristic symptoms of Helianthus in homeopathy are of someone fighting infection. Its general use in traditional herbal medicine is as an anti-inflammatory and detoxifier of the system. Sunflower Flower Essence is suggested for those with a distorted sense of self or ego: either overly confident or having low self-esteem.