Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) is a highly branched annual plant that belongs to the Asteraceae family. It is commercially cultivated to extract edible oil from the seeds, known as safflower oil. The oil is not only extracted for consumption but also is beneficial for our health.
Traditionally this plant was cultivated for flowers used as a food color and for making dyes. More than half of the world’s safflower production is led by India. Countries like USA, Mexico, Ethiopia, Argentina, and China also produce the plant in high quantities. (1)
Safflower oil is a healthy vegetable containing saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. It is high in calories, vitamins, and phytosterols. All these components are beneficial for avoiding cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, gastritis, and infertility. (2)
Safflower seeds are small, white, and oval. Safflower seeds are 6-10 mm in length with a thicker hull. (3) The flavor of safflower oil is similar to canola, hence doesn’t add flavor to the food while cooking. The aroma is also neutral.
Safflower oil is mainly extracted for cooking purposes. Other than that, the safflower flower makes dyes for the textile industry, oil is used for the paint industry, and the seeds are used in animal feed. (2) It is also used as an emulsifier in bakeries and for herbal tea. It is also used in cosmetic products for good skin.
Safflower oil is beneficial for consumption because of its fatty acid profile. It is high in healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids) and contains a moderate amount of saturated fatty acids, which are considered unhealthy for our health.
These fatty acids are essential in metabolism and function as gene regulators and signaling molecules. (4)
The analysis data of fatty acid profile in safflower oil are (5)
|Lipids||Amount (per 100 grams)|
|Total fat||93.2 g|
|Saturated fatty acids||7.65 g|
|Monounsaturated fatty acids||71.6 g|
|Polyunsaturated fatty acids||13.8 g|
Safflower oil is high in calories (900 kcal/100 g). Vitamins like vitamin E (46 mg/100 g), vitamin K (5.3 mcg/100 g), and choline (0.2 mg/100 g) are also present in this plant oil. (6)
Safflower oil also contains many phytosterols, which are the constituents of plant cells, also known as plant sterols. These phytosterols possess hypocholesterolemic (lower level of cholesterol in blood) and antioxidant properties. (7) Stigmasterol (16.9 mg/100 g), campesterol (35.5 mg/100 g), beta-sitosterol (148mg/100 g), beta-sitostanol (11.8 mg/100 g), delta-5-avenasterol (14 mg/100 g), and delta-7-stigmastenol (50.8 mg/100 g) are the phytosterols present in safflower oil. (5)
Safflower oil is a vegetable oil with several health benefits. It is used for feeding and pharmaceutical purposes. The nutritional profile of this oil benefits our heart health, respiratory health, and every other possible aspect.
- Can help prevent diseases: Safflower oil is medicinally utilized because of the presence of linoleic acid. Intake of this oil can prevent essential fatty acid deficiency (EFAD) and lithium toxicity. (8) Polyunsaturated fatty acids and phytosterols prevent heart diseases and respiratory infections like the common cold, the flu, and the sinus. (9) Safflower oil possesses therapeutic properties and prevents diseases. (8)
- Can protect heart health: Safflower oil is packed with polyunsaturated fatty acids. The oil is high in linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid), so it can reduce the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and maintain the blood’s cholesterol values. (8) Lower cholesterol levels maintain blood flow and prevent the diseases like heart attacks, blood clotting, and strokes.
- Can benefit skin health: The presence of vitamin E and phytosterols in safflower oil possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This oil moisturizes the skin and protects it from free radical damage, preventing cell death. It also prevents pimples, sunburn, darkening of the skin, and uneven skin tone. (9)
- Can improve blood sugar: Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a factor associated with the risk of diabetics. This factor includes unusual body fat, insulin resistance, and lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Consumption of safflower oil with healthy fats and phytosterols functions as antioxidants and prevents abdominal obesity and insulin resistance. This oil helps to maintain blood sugar and is beneficial for one on medication for type-2 diabetes. (10)
- Can improve fertility: The powdered seeds of safflower and oil are believed to improve fertility in both males and females. It helps balance sexual hormones and sperm count and prevent infertility. The study was performed on rats, so the further proof is needed to support this statement. (11)
Despite being highly nutritious and benefiting health, safflower oil can still cause side effects. Applying safflower to the skin can cause irritation and allergy in some people. (8) Pregnant women are suggested not to consume safflower oil as it can contract the uterus and cause miscarriage. (9) The oil can also cause clotting disorders and increase the risk of bleeding. (12)
- Dajue, Li & (authors, Hans-Henning & Heller, J & Engels, Johannes. (1996). Safflower. Carthamus tinctorius L..
- Emongor, Vallantino. (2010). Safflower ( Carthamus tinctorius L.) the Underutilized and Neglected Crop: A Review. Asian Journal of Plant Sciences. 9. 10.3923/ajps.2010.299.306.
- Vegetable fats and oils. Fats and Oils Handbook. 1998;:174–344.
- Lund, Jenny & Rustan, Arild. (2020). Fatty Acids: Structures and Properties. 1. 10.1002/9780470015902.a0029198.
- Fooddata Central Search Results [Internet]. FoodData Central. [cited 2023Feb10]. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1750350/nutrients
- Fooddata Central Search Results [Internet]. FoodData Central. [cited 2023Feb10]. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2345746/nutrients
- Marineli, Rafaela & Furlan, Cibele Priscila & Marques, Anne & Bicas, Juliano & Pastore, Gláucia & Maróstica Jr, Mário. (2015). Phytosterols: Biological effects and mechanisms of hypocholesterolemic action. 10.1002/9781118733103.ch23.
- 6 final report on the safety assessment of Safflower Oil. Journal of the American College of Toxicology. 1985;4(5):171–97.
- Safflower oil: 5 reasons why this good fatty component should be part of your diet [Internet]. Netmeds. [cited 2023Feb10]. Available from: https://www.netmeds.com/health-library/post/safflower-oil-5-reasons-why-this-good-fatty-component-should-be-part-of-your-diet
- Ruyvaran M, Zamani A, Mohamadian A, Zarshenas MM, Eftekhari MH, Pourahmad S, et al. Safflower (Carthamus Tinctorius L.) oil could improve abdominal obesity, blood pressure, and insulin resistance in patients with metabolic syndrome: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2022;282:114590.
- Nasiri K, Akbari A, Nimrouzi M, Ruyvaran M, Mohamadian A. Safflower seed oil improves steroidogenesis and spermatogenesis in rats with type II diabetes mellitus by modulating the genes expression involved in steroidogenesis, inflammation and oxidative stress. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2021;275:114139.
- Top 6 health benefits of Safflower Oil [Internet]. Medical News Today. MediLexicon International; [cited 2023Feb10]. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322245#side-effects