Herb: Safflower


Latin name: Carthamnus tinctorius


Family: Compositae



Medicinal use of Safflower:

Safflower is commonly grown as a food plant, but also has a wide range of medicinal uses. Modern research has shown that the flowers contain a number of medically active constituents and can, for example, reduce coronary heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. Alterative, analgesic, antibacterial, antiphlogistic, haemopoietic. Treats tumours and stomatitis. The flowers are anticholesterolemic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, laxative, purgative, sedative and stimulant. They are used to treat menstrual pains and other complications by promoting a smooth menstrual flow and were ranked third in a survey of 250 potential anti-fertility plants. In domestic practice, the flowers are used as a substitute or adulterant for saffron in treating infants complaints such as measles, fevers and eruptive skin complaints. Externally, they are applied to bruising, sprains, skin inflammations, wounds etc. The flowers are harvested in the summer and can be used fresh or dried. They should not be stored for longer than 12 months. It is possible to carefully pick the florets and leave the ovaries behind so that seed can be produced, though this procedure is rather more time-consuming. The plant is febrifuge, sedative, sudorific and vermifuge. When combined with Ligusticum wallichii it is said to have a definite therapeutic effect upon coronary diseases. The seed is diuretic, purgative and tonic. It is used in the treatment of rheumatism and tumours, especially inflammatory tumours of the liver. The oil is charred and used to heal sores and treat rheumatism. In Iran, the oil is used as a salve for treating sprains and rheumatism.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Annual


Height:
100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

Flovering:
August to
October

Habitat of the herb:

Poor dry soils in full sun.

Edible parts of Safflower:

An edible oil is obtained from the seed. It contains a higher percentage of essential unsaturated fatty acids and a lower percentage of saturated fatty acids than other edible vegetable seed oils. The oil, light coloured and easily clarified, is used in salad dressings, cooking oils and margarines. A very stable oil, it is said to be healthier than many other edible oils and its addition to the diet helps to reduce blood-cholesterol levels. Seed - cooked. They can be roasted, or fried and eaten in chutneys. Tender young leaves and shoots - cooked or raw. A sweet flavour, they can be used as a spinach. A famine food, it is only used when all else fails. An edible yellow and a red dye are obtained from the flowers. The yellow is used as a saffron substitute to flavour and colour food. The (fried?) seeds are used as a curdling agent for plant milks etc.

Other uses of the herb:

The seed yields up to 40% of a drying oil, it is used for lighting, paint, varnishes, linoleum and wax cloths. The oil can also be used as a diesel substitute. It does not yellow with age. When heated to 300C for 2 hours and then poured into cold water, the oil solidifies to a gelatinous mass and is then used as a cement for glass, tiles, stones etc or as a substitute for "plaster of Paris". If the oil is heated to 307C for 2? hours, it suddenly becomes a stiff elastic solid by polymerization and can then be used in making waterproof cloth etc. A yellow dye is obtained by steeping the flowers in water, it is used as a saffron substitute. A red dye can be obtained by steeping the flowers in alcohol. It is used for dyeing cloth and, mixed with talcum powder, is used as a rouge to colour the cheeks.

Propagation of Safflower:

Seed - sow spring in gentle heat in a greenhouse. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 4 weeks at 15C. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. The seed can also be sown in situ in April/May but plants may not then mature their seed.

Cultivation of the herb:

Poor dry soils in full sun.

Known hazards of Carthamnus tinctorius:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.