Safflower is a highly branched, herbaceous
A herbaceous plant is a plant that has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to the soil level. They have no persistent woody stem above ground...

, thistle
Thistle is the common name of a group of flowering plants characterised by leaves with sharp prickles on the margins, mostly in the family Asteraceae. Prickles often occur all over the plant – on surfaces such as those of the stem and flat parts of leaves. These are an adaptation that protects the...

-like annual
Annual plant
An annual plant is a plant that usually germinates, flowers, and dies in a year or season. True annuals will only live longer than a year if they are prevented from setting seed...

. It is commercially cultivated for vegetable oil extracted from the seeds. Plants are 30 to 150 cm tall with globular flower heads having yellow, orange or red flowers. Each branch will usually have from one to five flower heads containing 15 to 20 seeds per head. Safflower is native to arid environments having seasonal rain. It grows a deep taproot
A taproot is an enlarged, somewhat straight to tapering plant root that grows vertically downward. It forms a center from which other roots sprout laterally.Plants with taproots are difficult to transplant...

 which enables it to thrive in such environments.


Traditionally, the crop was grown for its seeds, and used for colouring and flavouring foods, in medicines, and making red (carthamin
Carthamin is a natural red pigment derived from safflower , earlier known as carthamine. It is used as a dye and a food coloring. As a food additive, it is known as Natural Red 26....

) and yellow dyes, especially before cheaper aniline
Aniline, phenylamine or aminobenzene is an organic compound with the formula C6H5NH2. Consisting of a phenyl group attached to an amino group, aniline is the prototypical aromatic amine. Being a precursor to many industrial chemicals, its main use is in the manufacture of precursors to polyurethane...

 dyes became available. For the last fifty years or so, the plant has been cultivated mainly for the vegetable oil extracted from its seeds. In April 2007 it was reported that genetically modified
Genetic engineering
Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genome using modern DNA technology. It involves the introduction of foreign DNA or synthetic genes into the organism of interest...

 safflower has been bred to create insulin
Insulin is a hormone central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. Insulin causes cells in the liver, muscle, and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood, storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle....



Safflower seed oil is flavorless and colorless, and nutrition
Nutrition is the provision, to cells and organisms, of the materials necessary to support life. Many common health problems can be prevented or alleviated with a healthy diet....

ally similar to sunflower oil
Sunflower oil
Sunflower oil is the non-volatile oil expressed from sunflower seeds. Sunflower oil is commonly used in food as a frying oil, and in cosmetic formulations as an emollient. Sunflower oil was first industrially produced in 1835 in the Russian Empire.- Composition :Sunflower oil is mainly a...

. It is used mainly in cosmetics and as a cooking oil
Cooking oil
Cooking oil is purified fat of plant origin, which is usually liquid at room temperature ....

, in salad dressing, and for the production of margarine
Margarine , as a generic term, can indicate any of a wide range of butter substitutes, typically composed of vegetable oils. In many parts of the world, the market share of margarine and spreads has overtaken that of butter...

. It may also be taken as a nutritional supplement. INCI
The International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients, abbreviated INCI, is a system of names for waxes, oils, pigments, chemicals, and other ingredients of soaps, cosmetics, and the like, based on scientific names and other Latin and English words...

 nomenclature is Carthamus tinctorius.

There are two types of safflower that produce different kinds of oil: one high in monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid
Oleic acid
Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in various animal and vegetable fats. It has the formula CH37CH=CH7COOH. It is an odorless, colourless oil, although commercial samples may be yellowish. The trans isomer of oleic acid is called elaidic acid...

) and the other high in polyunsaturated fatty acid (linoleic acid
Linoleic acid
Linoleic acid is an unsaturated n-6 fatty acid. It is a colorless liquid at room temperature. In physiological literature, it has a lipid number of 18:2...

). Currently the predominant edible oil market is for the former, which is lower in saturates than olive oil, for example. The latter is used in paint
Paint is any liquid, liquefiable, or mastic composition which after application to a substrate in a thin layer is converted to an opaque solid film. One may also consider the digital mimicry thereof...

ing in the place of linseed oil
Linseed oil
Linseed oil, also known as flaxseed oil, is a clear to yellowish oil obtained from the dried ripe seeds of the flax plant . The oil is obtained by cold pressing, sometimes followed by solvent extraction...

, particularly with white, as it does not have the yellow tint which linseed oil possesses.

Safflower seed is also used quite commonly as an alternative to sunflower
Sunflower is an annual plant native to the Americas. It possesses a large inflorescence . The sunflower got its name from its huge, fiery blooms, whose shape and image is often used to depict the sun. The sunflower has a rough, hairy stem, broad, coarsely toothed, rough leaves and circular heads...

 seed in birdfeeders, as squirrel
Squirrels belong to a large family of small or medium-sized rodents called the Sciuridae. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots , flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa and have been introduced to Australia...

s do not like the taste of it.


Safflower flowers are occasionally used in cooking as a cheaper substitute for saffron
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. Crocus is a genus in the family Iridaceae. Each saffron crocus grows to and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas, which are each the distal end of a carpel...

, and are thus sometimes referred to as "bastard saffron." Lana is a strain of Safflower that grows in the southwestern United States, most notably Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

 and New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...


In colouring textiles, safflower's dried flowers are used as a natural textile dye. Natural dye
Natural dye
Natural dyes are dyes or colorants derived from plants, invertebrates, or minerals. The majority of natural dyes are vegetable dyes from plant sources – roots, berries, bark, leaves, and wood — and other organic sources such as fungi and lichens....

s derived from plants are not widely used in industry but they are getting more important world wide because of naturality and fashion trends.
The pigment in safflower is benzoquinone-based Carthamin
Carthamin is a natural red pigment derived from safflower , earlier known as carthamine. It is used as a dye and a food coloring. As a food additive, it is known as Natural Red 26....

, so it is one of the quinone
A quinone is a class of organic compounds that are formally "derived from aromatic compounds [such as benzene or naphthalene] by conversion of an even number of –CH= groups into –C– groups with any necessary rearrangement of double bonds," resulting in "a fully conjugated cyclic dione structure."...

-type natural dyes. It is a direct dye (CI Natural Red 26) and soluble.
Yellow is the color evoked by light that stimulates both the L and M cone cells of the retina about equally, with no significant stimulation of the S cone cells. Light with a wavelength of 570–590 nm is yellow, as is light with a suitable mixture of red and green...

, mustard
Mustard (color)
Mustard is a color that resembles culinary mustard. It is similar to the color Flax.-Mustard in human culture:Food* Mustard is the color of the belt awarded to the winner of the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan's Famous in Coney Island, New York.Games*In the board game Cluedo, one of the...

, khaki
This article is about the fabric. For the color, see Khaki . Kaki, another name for the persimmon, is often misspelled "Khaki".Khaki is a type of fabric or the color of such fabric...

, olive green or even red
Red is any of a number of similar colors evoked by light consisting predominantly of the longest wavelengths of light discernible by the human eye, in the wavelength range of roughly 630–740 nm. Longer wavelengths than this are called infrared , and cannot be seen by the naked eye...

 colours can be obtained on textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

s, but it is used mostly for yellow colours. All hydrophilic fibres (all natural fibres, such as cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

, wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

, etc.) may be dyed with this plant since it may be classified as a direct dye. Polyamide
A polyamide is a polymer containing monomers of amides joined by peptide bonds. They can occur both naturally and artificially, examples being proteins, such as wool and silk, and can be made artificially through step-growth polymerization or solid-phase synthesis, examples being nylons, aramids,...

 can also be dyed without a mordant
A mordant is a substance used to set dyes on fabrics or tissue sections by forming a coordination complex with the dye which then attaches to the fabric or tissue. It may be used for dyeing fabrics, or for intensifying stains in cell or tissue preparations. The term mordant comes from the Latin...

 agent because of its wool-like chemical structure. Polyester
Polyester is a category of polymers which contain the ester functional group in their main chain. Although there are many polyesters, the term "polyester" as a specific material most commonly refers to polyethylene terephthalate...

, polyacrylnitryl and others which are hydrophobic synthetic fibres can be dyed only in the existence of a mordant.

Safflower concentrate is an ingredient of the carbonated soft drink Tizer
Tizer is a red-coloured soft drink sold in the United Kingdom. The name originally comes from the phrase 'Tizer the Appetizer'. It was launched in 1924 by Fred Pickup of Manchester when it was known as 'Pickup's Appetizer'. After the death of Pickup it was owned by the Armour Trust before being...

 and some types of Sunkist
Sunkist (soft drink)
Sunkist is a brand of primarily orange flavored soft drinks launched in 1979.Sunkist was first licensed by Sunkist Growers to the General Cinema Corporation, the leading independent bottler of Pepsi-Cola products at the time...


Dried Safflower flowers (草紅花 caohonghua, 紅花 honghua) are used in Traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to a broad range of medicine practices sharing common theoretical concepts which have been developed in China and are based on a tradition of more than 2,000 years, including various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage , exercise , and dietary therapy...

 to alleviate pain, increase circulation, and reduce bruising. They are included in herbal remedies for menstrual pain
Dysmenorrhea is a gynecological medical condition of pain during menstruation that interferes with daily activities, as defined by ACOG and others. Still, dysmenorrhea is often defined simply as menstrual pain, or at least menstrual pain that is excessive...

 and minor physical trauma
Trauma (medicine)
Trauma refers to "a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident." It can also be described as "a physical wound or injury, such as a fracture or blow." Major trauma can result in secondary complications such as circulatory shock, respiratory failure and death...



The pharmaceutical company SemBioSys Genetics
SemBioSys Genetics
SemBioSys Genetics Inc. is a development stage agricultural biotechnology company. It utilizes its renewable, patented plant seed-based oil body, and genetic expression technology platforms to develop and make high-value proteins and oils in oil seed producing plant species...

 is currently using transgenic safflower plants to produce human insulin as the global demand for the hormone grows. Safflower-derived human insulin is currently in the PI/II trials on human test subjects.


Safflower is one of humanity's oldest crops. Chemical analysis of ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

ian textiles dated to the Twelfth dynasty
Twelfth dynasty of Egypt
The twelfth dynasty of ancient Egypt is often combined with Dynasties XI, XIII and XIV under the group title Middle Kingdom.-Rulers:Known rulers of the twelfth dynasty are as follows :...

 identified dyes made from safflower, and garlands made from safflowers were found in the tomb of the pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

Tutankhamun , Egyptian , ; approx. 1341 BC – 1323 BC) was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty , during the period of Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom...

. John Chadwick
John Chadwick
John Chadwick was an English linguist and classical scholar most famous for his role in deciphering Linear B, along with Michael Ventris.-Early life and education:...

 reports that the Greek name for safflower occurs many times in Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 tablets, distinguished into two kinds: a white safflower, which is measured, and red which is weighed. "The explanation is that there are two parts of the plant which can be used; the pale seeds and the red florets."

Safflower was also known as carthamine in the nineteenth century. It is a minor crop today, with about 600,000 tons being produced commercially in more than sixty countries worldwide. India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, and Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 are the leading producers, with Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

, Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

, China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

 and Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 accounting for most of the remainder.

Other names include Sallflower, Beni, Chimichanga, or Carthamus Tinctorius.


The safflower, an annual plant, is native to a climate with a long dry season and a limited rainy season. Its defenses are very poor against numerous fungal diseases in rainy conditions, after its seedling stage. This greatly restricts the areas in which it can be grown commercially around the globe. See List of safflower diseases. The plant is also very susceptible to frost injury (from stem elongation to maturity).

See also

  • Safflower Princess
  • Conjugated linoleic acid
    Conjugated linoleic acid
    Conjugated linoleic acids are a family of at least 28 isomers of linoleic acid found mainly in the meat and dairy products derived from ruminants. As the name implies, the double bonds of CLAs are conjugated, with only one single bond between them....

  • Tsheringma
    Tsheringma is a herbal tea made in Bhutan. The name is derived from the Bhutanese Goddess of longevity, wealth and prosperity.It is taken as a Bhutanese traditional medicine, giving a soothing and refreshing sensation internally and is believed to improve the conditions of the heart, liver, and the...

  • Chinese herbology

External links

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