Flowers can be both beautiful and beneficial

Acres of sunflowers are beginning to bloom, making for very cheery scenery in Ohio. (Julie Geiss photo)

Living in the country means we basically take one of two main roads to get anywhere. The fields along the road I travel the most are in transition. Instead of green stalks and stems a new color has taken over. 

It’s as if the first golden rays of the morning are captured in flower petals. Acres of sunflowers are beginning to bloom, making the country road a very cheery place. Most of the sunflowers grown near my home will eventually be used in birdseed. 

Oilseed is one of the two types of sunflowers typically grown in Ohio. The small black seeds have a high oil content and are processed into oil. Cardinals, purple finches, house finches, mourning doves and Carolina chickadees are drawn to oil-type sunflower seeds.

Health benefits

Our feathered friends are on the right track when it comes to health. Humans can gain nutrients from sunflower oil and seeds as well. There are many health benefits associated with consuming sunflower seeds and sunflower oil in moderation. 

After removing the outer hull or shell, the meat of the sunflower is the kernel. Sunflower oil is a triglyceride extracted from the kernel containing palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid and linoleic acid. 

Oleic acid is a type of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acid also called omega-9. It has a positive relationship with blood lipids and contains vitamin E.

In addition to heart health, sunflower oil is great for maintaining soft skin. Not only is it a moisturizer, but it also can be used to prevent acne. 

The second type of sunflowers grown is non-oilseed. The large sunflower head has large black and white stripe seeds in the center. The seeds can be eaten as a snack or used in many food products. This is the type of sunflower we have growing in our garden. 

I love sunflower seeds sprinkled on salads and oatmeal. It is also a great addition to baked goods like quick breads and muffins. The canary yellow petals can brighten a field, but consumption of the seeds can help with anxiety and depression. 

A fourth cup of sunflower seeds provides 30% of the recommended daily intake of magnesium. The same serving of sunflower seeds also contains selenium which is important for thyroid health while also protecting against cell damage and infections. 

Sunflowers are a native species to North America. Instead of one large sunflower, native plants were smaller with multiple heads. Native Americans used the seeds as a high-energy food source. 

Spanish explorers took sunflowers back to Europe. The plants were changed to their modern counterparts by agronomists in Russia. 


Hibiscus flowers are known for their vivid colors and tropical ambiance. (Julie Geiss photo)

Sunflowers are not the only flower making their way into my kitchen. I love hibiscus flowers for their vivid colors and tropical ambiance. 

While purchasing tea, I noticed many brands carried hibiscus varieties. I decided a DIY hibiscus tea could be something that I experimented with this summer. 

I have three hibiscus plants that provide me with many flowers. It is not recommended to use flower shop hibiscus flowers for consumption because they are usually sprayed with chemicals. 

The only part of the flower that I used was the petals, discarding the stem and stamen. I chose the darkest pink flowers, knowing they would make a dark-colored tea. I placed the petals in a jar and poured hot water over them.

After four or five minutes, I strained the petals out and poured the tea over ice cubes. It was a refreshing summer drink, slightly tangy and flowery. It was also delicious with lemon or lime slices added. 

In recent studies, consuming hibiscus has been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Many antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene are found in hibiscus products. 

Antioxidants defend against harmful molecules called free radicals. This is important because free radicals damage cells and can lead to diseases like cancer and heart disease.

It is amazing to me that the plants I see as pretty and decorative are actually antioxidant-rich foods that can potentially prevent disease. It is such an astounding design that flowers can be beautiful and beneficial. 

I think it’s time to intentionally slow down, with a cold glass of iced tea in my hand and soak up all that the end of summer has to offer.


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Julie Geiss lives with her husband and four children in Unity Township, Ohio. Faith and family are first in her life, but she also loves hiking, biking and camping. You can contact Julie at


  1. Enjoyed your article about the health benefits of such beautiful flowers as sunflowers and hibiscus! How amazing that we can enjoy looking at a bright tropical flower, make delicious tea with it, and lower blood pressure at the same time. Learning about sunflowers that fill the fields and provide amazing nutrients for good health also make me think there is nothing accidental or random chance about flowers in creation. Thankful.


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