Safflower; Centuries Old, and Yet Unknown

Safflower has been a common herb for centuries.*

We don’t hear much about safflower. But, in fact it is one of the more widely used plants in our lives. Carthamus tinctorius, is one of the world’s oldest crops. Through history, the flowers were used for dyes. Today, the flowers are also used in cosmetics. The pressed seeds make safflower oil which also has numerous uses. And, the plant and flowers have been documented as used for medicinal applications.

Painters love the flowers from the safflower plant as a source for red and yellow dyes. Archaeological analysis identified safflower dye and garlands were present in the tomb of pharaoh Tutankhamun. The seeds were pressed to make an oil that painter’s use as a replacement for linseed oil.

Today, we commonly use safflower in cooking and may not even know it. The seeds produce a great vegetable oil for high heat cooking and the light taste. The nutritional content is similar to sunflower oil. Did you know that it is also used in margarine?  The flowers have also been used as an inexpensive replacement for saffron in cooking. Further, when compared to olive oil, safflower oil is lower in saturated fats and the preferred oil when considering the high amount of linoleic acid in safflower and its’ beneficial impact on the body by increasing adiponectin levels in the body of obese women who consume safflower oil. See this study:  “Comparison of dietary conjugated linoleic acid with safflower oil on body composition in obese postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes mellitus”American Journal of Clinical Nutrition90 (3): 468–476.

In medicinal applications, as mentioned in the study above, safflower increases adiponectin in the blood and thereby can reverse the effects of insulin-resistance and type 2 diabetes. This makes losing weight easier. I personally have found that by adding safflower oil to my regular diet as part of my salad dressing and cooking oil, I am able to trim down my waistline and keep it thinner.

The oil is used for preventing heart disease by the chemicals contained in it that can thin the blood to prevent clots, widen the blood vessels, lower blood pressure, and stimulate the heart. This in turn can prevent atherosclerosis and stroke. Beneficial for treating fevers with the sweating it induces, treats coughs and breathing problems as an expectorant to help loosen phlegm. Historically, women have used the oil for absent or painful menstrual periods, as well as inducing abortions.

Health benefits gained by ingesting the flowers, in capsule form, include skin, stomach, kidneys, pancreas, and nerves. It is useful to aid digestion and helps digest oils. It is also good for eliminating cholesterol. Ailments treated through history include arthritis, boils (used externally), bronchitis, chickenpox, colitis, delirium, gallbladder, gas, jaundice, heartburn, hypoglycemia, hysteria, liver, measles, mumps, poison ivy, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, and urinary problems.

Safflower has been the herbal treatment for the build-up of uric acid in the body as in the case of gout. Along these lines, safflower has been used successfully by athletes to aid in workout and performance recovery from the accumulation of lactic and uric acids resulting in stiff muscles.

Safflower contains high amounts of potassium. Moderate amounts of sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, selenium, and vitamin K. There are small amounts of calcium, manganese, silicon, and zinc.

The oil is easy to find in the grocery. But, the capsulated form is not as readily available because of the little known benefits of this fabulous herb. Consider adding it to your health regime.

*Any information regarding the use of herbs is strictly for informational purposes only. Should you desire to use herbs for treatment of conditions, please consult your Doctor, and/or Naturopathic physician prior to using them.

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