Herb: Oregon Sunflower

Latin name: Balsamorhiza sagittata

Synonyms: Balsamorrhiza sagitatta

Family: Compositae

Medicinal use of Oregon Sunflower:

Oregon sunflower was quite widely employed as a medicinal herb by various native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints, but especially stomach problems. It is little used in modern herbalism. The root is antirheumatic, diuretic, cathartic, diaphoretic, febrifuge and vulnerary. An infusion of the leaves, roots and stems has been used as a treatment for stomach pains, colds, whooping cough, TB, fevers and headaches. A decoction of the root has been taken at the beginning of labour to insure easy delivery. The juice from the chewed root is allowed to trickle down the throat to treat sore mouths and throats whilst the root has also been chewed to treat toothaches. The smoke from the root has been inhaled as a remedy for body aches such as rheumatism. The root is chewed or pounded and used as a paste on wounds, blisters, bites, swellings and sores. A poultice made from the coarse, large leaves has been used to treat severe burns. An infusion of the leaves has been used as a wash for poison ivy rash and running sores. The seeds have been eaten as a treatment for dysentery.

Description of the plant:


30 cm
(11 3/4 inch)


Habitat of the herb:

Open hillsides and flat land up to moderate elevations, especially on deep soils.

Edible parts of Oregon Sunflower:

Root - raw or cooked. The root has a thick crown that is edible raw. Roots have a sweet taste when cooked. A long slow baking is best, the Flathead Indians would bake them in a fire pit for at least 3 days. The roots are resinous and woody with a taste like balsam. Young shoots - raw or cooked. Added to salads or used as a potherb. The large leaves and petioles are boiled and eaten. When eaten in large quantities they act like sleeping pills to cause sleepiness. The young flowering stem can be peeled and eaten raw like celery. Seed - raw or cooked. A highly prized source of food. It can be roasted, ground into a powder and used with cereals when making bread. The raw seed can also be ground into a powder then formed into cakes and eaten without cooking. The seed is rich in oil. Oil. The seed was a prized source of oil for many native North Americans. The roasted root is a coffee substitute.

Other uses of the herb:

The large hairy leaves are used as an insulation in shoes to keep the feet warm. An infusion of the root has been rubbed into the scalp to promote hair growth.

Propagation of Oregon Sunflower:

Seed - sow early spring in a greenhouse and only just cover the seed. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 6 days at 18C. Either sow the seed in individual pots or pot up the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer. Division in spring. Very difficult since the plant strongly resents root disturbance. It is probably best to take quite small divisions, or basal cuttings, without disturbing the main clump. Pot these up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in the greenhouse until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the summer if they have grown sufficiently, otherwise over-winter them in the greenhouse and plant out in late spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Open hillsides and flat land up to moderate elevations, especially on deep soils.

Known hazards of Balsamorhiza sagittata:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.