What is Sunflower Lecithin?

Sunflower lecithin refers to the naturally occurring substance found in sunflower seeds. Typically seen in granules ranging in color from yellow to brown, lecithin is a naturally occurring constituent found in a variety of flora and fauna. A substance of a fatty nature, sunflower lecithin is derived from the seeds of the sunflower by dehydrating them and separating all three constituents. The resulting substances are the gum derived from the seed, the natural oil and other natural solids. The gum is the source of the lecithin. Along with the medicinal benefits, it is utilized for the texture it endows in foods such as pastries, butter alternatives and chocolates. As an emulsifier, it creates consistency described as smooth and creamy, while providing additional moisture.

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Sunflower Lecithin vs Soy Lecithin vs Egg Lecithin

Historically, researchers were first able to isolate lecithin from just egg yolk, but the possibilities have broadened since then. Alternative to sunflower seeds, soybeans also serve as a popular natural source of lecithin, although the quality of lecithin from various sources differ to some degree. Overall, sunflower seeds are the favored source of lecithin for those seeking out the most organic and/or healthiest option. Soybean lecithin has been criticized for being genetically modified and chemically processed. In addition, the alleged association between soy and ailments such as cancer and susceptibility to thyroid conditions, suggests that soy products may actually be more harmful than healthy. Soy lecithin has been shown to contain phytoestrogens, which has long been associated not only with autoimmune disorders mentioned above, but metabolic ailments such as weight gain, sexual dysfunction and breast growth in both male and female subjects, as well as early menopause in women.

Sunflower Lecithin is also preferred over some of its alternatively derived counterparts, such as egg and Soy Lecithin for those wishing to avoid their respective sources for religious or ethical reasons. Vegetarians and vegans who don’t eat eggs prefer sunflower lecithin over egg lecithin. Soy lecithin is considered by many observant Jews to be considered kosher during Passover, a Jewish religious observance, where those participating, refrain from eating leavened bread and other food items.

Since its discovery, lecithin has served as a popular supplement for improving the quality of bodily functions. As a dynamic constituent in the structure of animal cells, lecithin helps to maintain the membranes of the body’s cells by keeping them soft and malleable, while preventing them from hardening. This is how it contributes to the health of the individual, who consumes the substance.

Among other similar phospholipids, lecithin is a naturally occurring component of the human body, as it is produced by healthy kidneys, the liver and the heart. It is believed that it serves the purpose of both physical and cognitive functioning. That being said, many turn to supplements for the purposes for improving the levels of lecithin in their bodies. This has made sunflower lecithin a popular form of supplementation within recent years.

Sunflower Lecithin Benefits and Uses

Cholesterol: As an emulsifier of fats, it serves to remove blood clots, excess fat and cholesterol from the bloodstream. This serves to treat and prevent issues, such a coronary disease and heart attacks, while improving blood circulation in the body.

Nootropic, Cognitive Enhancement and Memory: Nutritionists and herbalists often recommend sunflower lecithin for the positive attributes it has on both cognitive and neurological functioning. Nutritionists and researchers believe that the high rate and diversity of phospholipids is the attribute that makes this possible. Initial studies have rendered promising results regarding the improvement of cognitive and neurological functions such as memory retention, maintenance of focus and ability to study when test subjects were treated with supplements of sunflower lecithin. Some of the present ingredients associated with these positive attributes are phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylinositol. It is believed that these constituents play a key role in lecithin’s ability to increase in nerve cells vital to the brain, as well as improve the quality and quantity of brain cells. These promising effects that sunflower lecithin has on the brain has led many researchers to speculate that the substance may be further utilized for other treatments of brain-related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

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Breast feeding and Plugged Ducts: It is believed that sunflower lecithin can be utilized to both prevent and treat existing clogged ducts as the hydrophilic aspect of the compound allows it to treat oils and fats in the body, while the hydrophobic aspect bonds with the water. However, there is very little evidence to support this and most researchers aren’t entirely clear as to if and how sunflower lecithin treats plugged ducts even though many consumers online report positive outcomes when they added sunflower lecithin to their daily supplements. However, it is important to note that many doctors recommend breastfeeding women to refrain from taking sunflower lecithin, as much is still unknown about the fatty acid. It is preferable that a doctor is consulted first, so that they can properly outline the specifics of taking sunflower lecithin for breast feeding purposes and to ensure an accurate and safe dosage.

Depression: One of the components of lecithin is a neurotransmitter phospholipid known as choline. This helps the brain develop healthier neurotransmitter functions. Sunflower lecithin is particularly commended for its ability to fight depression and other mood disorders. Buyer beware, though. Not all neurotransmitters are meant to treat all people, even the ones with some of the same mood disorders. While many claim that sunflower lecithin helped eased their anxiety disorders, several accounts exist from users online, who claim that lecithin worsened their depressive symptoms. It is always best to check with a doctor before altering one’s daily supplemental intake for mental health.

Increased Sperm Production: There are many products out in the market that utilize lecithin for the purposes of increasing production and output of sperm. Many anecdotal accounts of its effectiveness are listed online. They give testimony that two to three capsules, in addition to proper hydration, have coincided with increased sexual performance. Since there is little testing to prove the link between sunflower lecithin and a higher sperm rate, scientists cannot provide a conclusive answer in regards to if or how it does so.

Weight Loss: Many manufacturers of sunflower lecithin claim that as an emulsifier, it will help consumers lose weight, as it allows the fat within the body to break down and disperse in water. Scholars in Vanderbilt claim that the evidence to support this isn’t sufficient. In fact, they bring up the possibility that an individual taking daily doses of sunflower lecithin might actually gain weight, since it is both high in caloric content and a fatty acid.

Heart Health: The most popular and well-known use for sunflower lecithin supplements is for treating and preventing ailments related to the heart. Scientific studies have shown that lecithin is not only beneficial to heart health, but it is a required substance for heart functionality. The fattiness of the substance contains triglycerides and particularly in sunflower-derived lecithin, there is a high rate of linoleic acid. This makes it a competitor for the amount per volume of linoleic acid in olive oil.

Liver: In a variety of studies, sunflower lecithin has been found to contribute to the health of the liver. The prominent level of phospholipids ascribes to this. They prevent fats from building up in the liver, so that it does not become burdened by fats. The result is that sunflower lecithin prevents fatty liver disease and more serious diseases such as cirrhosis, type 2 diabetes and even liver cancer.

Anti-Aging and Anti-Cancer: Sunflower lecithin contributes to the health of the body’s cells. Phosphatidylcholine is one of the most effective antioxidants and it is coincidentally found in abundance in sunflower lecithin. The substantial number of antioxidants in sunflower lecithin is key in the prevention of damage to the cells via oxidation. In effect, this slows down the rate of external and internal aging, as well as prevents various types of cancer and heart disease.

Blood Pressure: Some constituents of sunflower lecithin have been shown to lower blood pressure via its ability to break down fats and lipids in the bloodstream, such as triglycerides and cholesterol. This prevents the walls of the arteries from thickening from the accumulation of fats and lipids. The overall effect of this is the lowering of blood pressure and thus, diminishing the likelihood of a stroke or heart attack.

Central Nervous System: Studies have shown that regular intake of sunflower lecithin can serve to improve the health of the nervous system. The fatty acids present in the chemical compounds in sunflower lecithin have been shown to improve the functionality of the body’s nervous system. They prevent disruptions to the multifaceted network present in the nerve fibers of the brain, while serving to advance the activity of neurotransmitters and strengthening nerve tissue.

Healing: Research has shown promising results regarding the healing of wounds in response to the fatty acids and linoleic acid present in sunflower lecithin. These components are theorized to increase the speed of the body’s response to wounds. This is due to the effect that fatty and linoleic acid has on the body’s release of inflammatory transmitters, as well as cytokines to minor wounds created on the body. It has been recommended that those wishing for an immediate effect on their wounds should use sunflower lecithin by directly applying it externally.

Arthritis, Rheumatism and Joint Pain: Physicians and herbalists recommend that those suffering from arthritis, rheumatism and similar issues with their joints should try sunflower lecithin in conjunction with their standard treatments. Joint pain is alleviated with the supplementary use of sunflower lecithin, as it serves to lubricate joints and minimize the pain associated with the symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism. This connection is natural since lecithin deficiency is one of the major causes of rheumatism in the first place.

Acne: As an emulsifier, sunflower lecithin prevents acne and helps the body maintain a healthy epidermis by absorbing the essential fatty acids.

Sunflower Lecithin Side Effects, Toxicity, Interactions and Safety

Overall, sunflower lecithin is a relatively safe supplement and there is little danger associated with the consumption of much more than the recommended minimum. However, some noted side effects include digestive complications such as a feeling of fullness, pain or discomfort in the abdomen, nausea and diarrhea. It is recommended that women who are pregnant or nursing stay on the safe side and refrain from consuming additional lecithin via the consumption of supplements.

Sunflower Lecithin Dosage

Recommended dosage fluctuates based on a variety of factors including age, sex and health of the patient. The minimum daily recommended intake is 500 mg a day for women, while it is 600mg for men. For both long term and short-term benefits, doctors recommend that patient consumption of lecithin should be on average 1200 mg daily. Some recommended dosages have gone as high as 3600-4800 mg per day, as is the case with those wishing to treat a recurring case of plugged ducts. For such a case, it is recommended that the individual is dosed with one capsule in the amount of 1200 mg at a rate of three or four times a day.

Buying Sunflower Lecithin

Sunflower Lecithin Syrup: A variety of manufacturers offer sunflower lecithin in the form of raw syrup. This form of the supplement is recommended for the general benefits associated with sunflower lecithin, such as overall heart and digestive health, as well as increased cognitive functioning. It is also the best choice for those who are using it for its emulsifying capabilities in various foods and baked goods. The benefits of the syrup form are that it blends well with liquid foods such as smoothies, soups and sauces. However, if a specific amount is required for daily intake, it is recommended that those looking to supplement with sunflower lecithin look to more precise forms. Also of concern, is the taste and the inconvenience associated with the mess and clean-up. Many people complain of the thickness and the taste, which has been reported to be something similar to “pencils”.

Sunflower Lecithin Powder: Another form of the supplement that can be added to foods is sunflower lecithin powder. Many versions of this form come in a coarser consistency known as granules. It is important to keep in mind that when purchasing the powder form, granules may take a little longer to dissolve in food products. Many people who have tried the powder form note that there is an absence of the idiosyncratic flavor, making it preferable to the syrup. As with the syrup, powders are recommended for individuals wishing to supplement their diet and do not require exact dosages.

Sunflower Lecithin Capsules: By far the most popular option, sunflower lecithin capsules allow for a mess-free method of incorporating exact doses in their daily supplement routine. Much of this product is offered in the form of capsules that contain 1200 mg of sunflower lecithin in each. If an individual is completely set on turning to sunflower lecithin to treat clogged ducts and/or mastitis, this is the form that is typically recommended, as the precision of the doses allows it to be the safest and most accurate form of supplementation.

Sunflower Lecithin Liquid: One of the lesser-known ways to consume sunflower lecithin is via sunflower lecithin liquid. Although it is valued as an ingredient in foods and baked goods, for its relative thinness as opposed to the syrup, consumers describe it as having a similar viscosity to molasses. The relative thinness and ease of blending makes this a favorite for homemade topical applications such as lotions, balms and shampoos. Sunflower lecithin liquid is generally recommended for those wishing to make a topical cream for treating acne and similar skin conditions.

Should Sunflower Lecithin be Cold Pressed?

Many consumers of varying forms of sunflower lecithin are vigilant in ensuring that the product that they are purchasing is cold pressed. Buyer beware: in recent years, many popular brands of sunflower lecithin that were originally cold pressed altered their process so that the product is pasteurized. Sometimes, this takes place without the clear majority of consumers being aware of the fundamental change. The reason why so many people choose sunflower lecithin in the first place, as opposed to alternative sources of lecithin, is the purity of the compound. The process of pasteurization, whether it be in supplement form or food products, takes a longer amount of time and often involves the application of foreign chemicals for the purposes of preservation and stabilization. Often, the decision to choose between cold pressed and pasteurized is a matter of priorities. Those who prefer pasteurized sunflower lecithin are typically concerned with some combination of safety (the sterilization of pasteurized sunflower lecithin is more thorough), longer shelf life, and a lower price. Consumers seeking a purer source of sunflower lecithin should consider purchasing supplements derived from the cold pressing process.

Should Sunflower Lecithin be NON GMO?

Similar to the reasons for seeking out cold pressed sunflower lecithin, many people specifically choose sunflower lecithin because it is much easier to find a non-GMO product, as the majority of the soybeans grown worldwide have been genetically modified. The debate regarding GMO’s ranges from the health-related to questions of ethics. Those who are adamant about eliminating GMOs from crops claim that cross pollination with genetically modified plants will have devastating consequences on the ecosystem and that regular consumption will have long term negative effects on the health of the consumer. Although testing has shown no major health problems in response to genetically modified products on the market, scientists are still unsure of the long-term effects of genetically modified sunflower lecithin on the consumer. To safeguard against any potential as of yet unseen side effects, it is recommended that consumers choose non-GMO sunflower lecithin.

Should Sunflower Lecithin be Organic?

The production of organic sunflower lecithin takes the safeguarding against GMOs one step further. The land on which the sunflowers are grown must receive official certification to be able to officially brand themselves as organic. This means that the soil must not have grown non-GMO plants or been treated with banned products for a span of three years. Even when a product is non-GMO, it is not ensured that the plants have not been cross pollinated with GMO plants or have not been treated with pesticides or fertilizers containing synthetic chemicals. Consumers who purchase organic sunflower lecithin do so to grant more assurance of that. However, it is important to keep the price of the product in mind as sunflower lecithin tends to have a much higher price tag than its conventional counterparts.

Sunflower Lecithin and Cannabis

With the burgeoning cultural acceptance of the use of cannabis for both medical and recreational reasons, research has recently started to go underway to improve the experience. Sunflower lecithin has become a recent candidate for enhancing cannabis-related experiences.

Should you Add Lecithin to Boost your Edibles?

When the topic of enhancing cannabis products with sunflower lecithin comes up, it is most frequently regarding the use of lecithin in edibles. As an emulsifier, it improves the texture and consistency of baked goods. Since marijuana is not water soluble, some form of oil is necessary in order to incorporate it into the baked goods. To use sunflower lecithin in edibles, it is recommended to incorporate a teaspoon for every cup of batter made. The emulsifying properties of lecithin will prevent the oils and the waters from separating and will result in a more consistent batter. This has the added benefit of decreasing the chances of the final product molding or becoming mildew ridden.

Does Lecithin improve results of Marijuana?

Use of sunflower lecithin in products containing marijuana have been reported to improve the experience of being high. The science behind this theory is that THC and all the cannabinoids are more easily accessed by the body when they are consumed in conjunction with lecithin, as it allows easier interactions between the water and the oils in the product, making it easier for the body to digest. Because marijuana has only recently begun to lose the taboo associated with being an illegal drug, not much research has gone into the use of lecithin and how it alters the effects of marijuana on the consumer. However, several online accounts swear by the method of using sunflower lecithin in particular to make edibles.

When to add Lecithin to Cannaoil or Cannabutter?

For the purposes of ensuring that the cannabis in the product is not a major component of the flavor profile, it is recommended that the lecithin is added after the washing step, if the consumer is using the washing method. It is also recommended that once the lecithin is melted, the batter should be placed in a blender and mixed at a high speed. This is to help the cannabinoids fuse together by the lecithin. This is the favored method by people who specialize in the process of baking using cannabis.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3316137/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6754453
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2916447
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10905815
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4693209/

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Darcy is an aspiring herbalist with a special interest in healing through natural & alternative means. After being diagnosed with an auto-immune disease Darcy decided to become self-educated and informed about the natural medicines the earth provides us with.

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