Carrier Oils For Aromatherapy



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Sunflower Oil

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Sunflower Oil

Latin Name
Helianthus Annuus L.

Asteraceae (compositae)

Helios in the Greek work for sun and anthos means flower. Annuus from the Latin and means yearly. In France the plant is called tournesol and in Spain tornasol, both of which mean ;'that which turns toward the sun' but this has no foundation in fact and the plants do not show this behaviour, although the flowers do all face the same way - facing the morning sun in the South of France - they do not turn.

The Plant and its Environment

The originated in South America, where it was worshipped by the Aztecs as a representation of the sun; the seeds were eaten toasted or turned into meal and the plant was brought to Europe at the end of the 16th century. The major flowers today are the countries of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, India, Argentina. The Mediterranean countries and the USA. It is also grown in large quantities in the South of France.

Sunflowers can grow to a height of 5 meters ( 15 feet) and the flower heads can vary from 7.5 cm (3 inches) in diameter to an impressive 35 cm (15 inches)! This tremendous growth takes place in a relatively short periodof time (the plant is an annual) and requires lots of water, so sunflowers can be used to drain soggy areas. This will grow in almost any soil as long as there is plenty of full sun and they are watered daily in dry areas.

Before collection the seeds are allowed to ripen in the flower head until black, and each head yields on average about 0.25 kg (0.5 lb) of seeds.

'High oleic' type sunflowers are also grown and here the triglycerides contain at least 80% oleic acid. The oil from these is more heat resistant than the usual 'linoleic type' sunflower oil.

The Oil
Sunflower seeds contain around 30% of oil (although some modern varieties contain 50% (Bruneton 1995) which is light and slightly sweet. Organic sunflower is often used as the macerating medium for calendula and other plants.

Method of Extraction
All oil extracted from organically grown plants is obtained by cold pressing. The oil obtaind from non-organically grown plants is obtained by cold pressing. The oil obtained from non-organically grown plants and sold commercially in large quantities is produced by solvent-based refining.

Principal Constituents

Type Based on  Content - %
 Saturated fatty acid units    
 C14:0  myristic acid   0.5
 C16:0  palmitic acid  1-10
 C20:0  arachidic  0-1.5
 C22:0  behenic acid  0-1
 C24:0  lignoceric acid  <0.5
Typical saturated fatty acid unit content    12
Monounsaturated fatty acid units    
C16:1 palmitoleic acid <1
C18:1 oleic acid 14-35 (high) 78-83%
C20:1 eicosenoic <0.5
C22:1 erucic acid <0.3
Typical monounsaturated fatty acid unit content    24 
 Polyunsaturated fatty acid units    
 C18:2 linoleic acid  64 (55-70)*
 C18:3 alpha-linolenic acid <0.3
Typical polyunsaturated fatty acid unit content   64

The value increases with cooler growing conditions

Reference: Carrier Oils For Aromatherapy & Massage: Len Price with Ian Smith & Shirley Price

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