Scientific Name(S): Carthamus tinctorius L. Family: Compositae
Common Name(S): Safflower, American saffron, zafran, bastard saffron, false saffron, dyer's-saffron
Safflower is a broadleaf, annual oilseed crop primarily adapted to grow in the western Great Plains. In the same family as sunflower, it is a thistle-like plant with a strong central branch stem and a varying number of branches. Each branch usually has one to five flower heads and each of those heads contains 15 to 20 seeds. Safflower has a taproot system that can penetrate to depths of eight to 10 feet, making it more tolerant to drought than small grains.
The plant produces profuse flowers of yellow to deep red color. Seeds are produced in August and are enclosed in a mass of down.
History: Although safflower is today recognized primarily as a source of a healthful edible oil, its traditional uses had not focused on the oil. Rather, safflower was originally valued for the yellow and red dyes yielded by its flowers. These dyes had been used for centuries to color cosmetics and fabrics. The use of safflower extract to dye the wrappings of mummies has been reported. Safflower had been used as a replacement for saffron, but because of its lack of taste, lost its popularity. Traditional uses of safflower tea included inducing sweating and reducing fever. The oil has been used as a solvent in paints.
Uses of Safflower
Safflower has been used as a dietary supplement to modify lipid profiles and has been used to treat fevers and as a laxative.
The oil in linoleic safflower contains nearly 75% linoleic acid, which is considerably higher than corn, soybean, cottonseed, peanut or olive oils. This type of safflower is used primarily for edible oil products such as salad oils and soft margarines. Researchers disagree on whether oils high in polyunsaturated acids, like linoleic acid, help decrease blood cholesterol and the related heart and circulatory problems. Nonetheless, it is considered a "high quality" edible oil and public concern about this topic made safflower an important crop for vegetable oil.
Side Effects of Safflower
There are no known side effects.
Summary: Safflower had been widely recognized as a source of dye. However, more recently, the beneficial properties of the high unsaturated fat content of its oil has resulted in the worldwide consumption of the oil in place of saturated fats. Although the results of clinical studies generally indicate that dietary supplementation with this oil can reduce serum cholesterol levels, the changes in lipid profiles may not be as important as previously suggested in terms of reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
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