Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius)


Two parts of the safflower are primarily used: the flower itself and safflower seeds. There are two types of safflower oil with corresponding types of safflower varieties: those high in monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic) and those high in polyunsaturated fatty acid (linoleic). Currently, the seed varieties that produce oil high in oleic acid and very low in saturated fatty acids predominate in the United States market. High oleic safflower oil is lower in saturates and higher in monounsaturates than olive oil.
In the U.S. diet, safflower oil has been frequently substituted for oils with higher saturated fat content, as monounsaturated fat may have a beneficial effect on the risk of coronary heart disease.
Some clinical studies have shown that safflower oil supplementation may be helpful in patients with cystic fibrosis, Friedreich's ataxia, and neurotoxicity from lithium. However, more study is needed in these areas before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
In traditional Chinese medicine, safflower is used to invigorate the blood, dissipate stasis, amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), pain, and traumatic injuries. It is also used to "calm" a live fetus and abort a dead fetus, and is therefore used cautiously during pregnancy.

Related Terms

American saffron, Asteraceae (family), bastard saffron, Carthamus tinctorius, Carthamus tinctorius L., Compositae (family), dyer's saffron, EH0202, fake saffron, false saffron, high oleic acid safflower oil, hing hua, honghua, Intralipid®, kinobeon A, linoleate, linoleic acid, Liposyn®, Liposyn® II, Modified Liposyn®, Microlipid®, monounsaturated fatty acids, MUFA, n-6, n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid, n-6 rich vegetable oils, non-esterified fatty acid (NEFA), notoginseny cream, N-(p-coumaroyl) serotonin, oleate, omega 6, polyunsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fatty acids, PSF, PUFA, SAF, safflower injection, safflower meal, safflower oil, safflower oil cake, safflower oil emulsion, safflower oil esters, safflower oil-based lipid emulsion, safflower petals, safflower seeds, safflower yellow, safloroil, Safola®, tocopherols, triglyceride, US, zaffer, zafran.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Deficiency (fatty acid) (Grade: B)
Fatty acid intake is required for many physiological processes, including cellular maintenance skin repair, and production of prostaglandins. Safflower oil may improve fatty acid deficiency, especially oleic acid, linoleic acid and archadonic acid levels. Additional study is needed in this area before a strong conclusion can be made.
Angina pectoris / coronary artery disease (Grade: C)
Safflower yellow injection may improve both western and traditional Chinese medicine symptoms for angina pectoris and coronary artery disease. More high-quality studies with safflower are needed to establish the effect of safflower yellow injection.
Atherosclerosis (lipid peroxidation) (Grade: C)
Limited available evidence suggests that safflower oil may increase oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and lower thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) when compared to fish oil. Additional study is needed in this area.
Cardiovascular disorders (chronic cor pulmonale) (Grade: C)
Safflower oil has lowered high blood pressure and coagulation in patients with chronic cor pulmonale, although there is limited available evidence in this area. Additional study is needed.
Chronic hepatitis (hepatitis C) (Grade: C)
EH0202 is a traditional Japanese Kampo therapy containing safflower seed extract and is used for immunostimulation. EH0202 may decrease hepatitis C virus-RNA levels in patients with high viral titers. More studies with safflower alone are needed to define safflower's effect on hepatitis C.
Cystic fibrosis (Grade: C)
Cystic fibrosis patients are frequently deficient in fatty acids due to reduced absorption of nutrients. Results from studies using safflower oil supplements are mixed. Additional study is needed.
Diabetes mellitus type 2 (Grade: C)
Lipid (fat) abnormalities are commonly associated with diabetes, and complications of atherosclerotic disease are frequently associated with diabetes. Safflower oil may negatively affect glucose metabolism due to the extra intake of energy or fat, but these effects may be less pronounced than in fish oil.
Familial hyperlipidemia (Grade: C)
Ingestion of certain lipids is known to affect various serum lipid levels. Preliminary evidence suggests that ingestion of safflower oil may reduce serum cholesterol levels. Additional study is needed.
Friedreich's ataxia (Grade: C)
Friedreich's ataxia is a genetic neurodegenerative disease. In one clinical trial, safflower decreased deterioration caused by Friedreich's ataxia. More high-quality studies with larger sample sizes are needed to establish safflower's effect on Friedreich's ataxia.
Hypercholesterolemia (Grade: C)
Ingestion of certain lipids is known to affect various serum lipid levels. In the case of safflower oil, results are conflicting. More study is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
High blood pressure (Grade: C)
Based on preliminary evidence, safflower oil may be involved in synthesis of prostaglandins, which are responsible for vascular regulation and inflammatory responses and may affect hypertension (high blood pressure). However, clinical studies have shown that safflower oil ingestion decreases or does not affect blood pressure. Due to the conflicting evidence, additional study is needed in this area.
Kidney disorders (type II nephritic syndrome) (Grade: C)
There is currently insufficient available evidence to recommend for or against the use of safflower in the treatment of type II nephritic syndrome.
Malnutrition (protein-energy) (Grade: C)
Safflower oil has been used in patients with protein-energy malnutrition to promote balance in their nutritional intake. Although the patients improved, the effect cannot be isolated to safflower oil intake because of the many other nutrients the patients were ingesting. Additional study is warranted in this area.
Nutritional supplement (infant formula) (Grade: C)
Infants require higher fat intake to support their rapid growth and brain development. Infant formula supplemented with safflower oil may increase the energy density of formula for very low-birth weight neonates. Although preliminary study is promising, more study is needed in this area to confirm these results.
Skin conditions (phrynoderma) (Grade: C)
Preliminary evidence looks promising for the use of safflower oil in the treatment of phrynoderma, a rough, dry skin generally associated with a vitamin A deficiency. Additional study is warranted in this area.
Total parenteral nutrition (Grade: C)
Parenteral nutrition requires a certain percentage of fats to provide full nutrition. Various sources of fats have been used, including safflower oil. Overall, clinical trials have shown safflower oil total parenteral nutrition (TPN) to be safe when used at the doses in the trials. However, more studies should be conducted to see if safflower oil is superior to other sources of TPN lipids.
Toxicity (lithium) (Grade: C)
Based on preliminary study, safflower oil may effectively remit the symptoms of neurotoxicity from lithium. However, more studies are needed to establish safflower's effect on lithium toxicity.