There is some debate about whether the girasol (Helianthus annuus) originated in Mexico or not. Some experts claim it is a pre-Columbian domesticated plant based on fossilized seeds found in Tabasco dating back 4,500 years and its cultivation was repressed by the Spanish because of its association with the indigenous deities and warfare. Other experts assert linguistic evidence suggests the plant was brought from another region (possibly North America).
The Nahuatl word for this plant was chimalxochitl (shield-flower) and was intimately associated with Huitzilopochtli, a sun warrior god. The names used in modern times, girasol (turns toward the sun) and mirasol (looks at the sun), refer to the plant’s movement following the sun. Mirasol and girasol morado are also names used for the purple cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) while the chile mirasol (Capsicum annuum) is more commonly known in its dry form, chile guajillo.
Traditionally, girasol is used as an anti-inflammatory agent for arthritis, rheumatism, and sore muscles. The Mayo people use girasol to treat tuberculosis and respiratory ailments with proven effectiveness.
Girasol is antioxidant, antibiotic, anti-fungal, anti-diabetic, and antiglycative. It has nephroprotective, cardioprotective, and haematoprotective effects. The seed is antihypertensive, skin-protective, analgesic, and antibacterial. Nutritionally dense, it is a good source of unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins E, B1, B5, and B6, selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, folate, fiber, iron, zinc, amino acids, and diterpenoids. Helianthus annuus bee pollen has also been found to have high antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.
The stems and leaves are steeped in alcohol for 3 days to make the tincture to use as a rub for arthritis. For gout pain, 10 grams of flower petals are soaked in ½ liter of caña (Saccharum officinarum) alcohol for three days.
An infusion for rheumatism is made with 100 grams of leaves boiled in a liter of water for an hour and drunk before meals. A tea for nerves is made by boiling 15 seeds in one liter of water for ten minutes. Allow it to cool and serve sweeten with miel (honey).
Interested in natural remedies? Uncover herbal remedies from traditional Mexican sources for healing and wellness in the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series.