Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) is not one of the most well known medicinal plants in the aromatic garden, nor is the oil one of the most popular for aromatherapy practice. However, this year I decided to grow safflower in Georgie’s Garden, here at the Sedona Aromatics School, to learn more about this plant and how it can be used in the practice of aromatherapy. Here’s part one of a new trilogy on safflower!
Profile of the Plant Safflower
Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) is a member of the Asteraceae plant family, and therefore you should know that it is related to the sunflower (Helianthus annuus). It is an annual plant with orange to yellow flowers that almost resemble those of the thistle plant. Plant height varies between one to five foot.
It gains its common English name from “saffron flower” and its botanical name is a derivative nod to its use in dye coloring: Tinctorius.1
Safflower has traditionally been grown as an oilseed crop (particularly in the Great Plains region of the United States)2, although it has other uses as well.
Chemical Components of Safflower Oil
Safflower oil is extracted from cold expression of the seeds. Safflower produces an oil which is either high in monosaturated fatty acids (oleic acid) or polyunsaturated fatty acids (linoleic acid).2 Check with your supplier as to the chemical content of the oil you intend to purchase. Other components of safflower oil may include:
linolenic acid (trace).
Traditional Uses and Modern Day Use of Safflower
As mentioned above, safflower (both the flower head and the seed) was used as a plant dye for both paint and cosmetics. Safflower contains safflomin and carthamine which produces a red vegetable dye.1
The dye was also used for clothes and food.2
Safflower oil high in linoleic acid may contain upto 75% of this one component.2 It is considered the “superior” oil for aromatherapy use. It is useful for conditions such as eczema, and dry, cracked skin. Safflower oil high in oleic acid is primarily used for culinary purposes or as an industrial oil.
Safflower oil is one of the more expensive carrier oils in aromatherapy practice (although not as pricey as borage oil) but it can be combined with an oil such as sunflower to maximize the therapeutic and emollient benefits of each oil.
Learn More About Carrier Oils with Sedona Aromatherapie
If you would like to learn how to use carrier oils in aromatherapy blends, consider the Sedona Aromatherapie Linguistics of AromaticsTM Program.
Price, Len, 1999, Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy and Massage, UK: Riverhead Publishing
Purdue University website, Alternative Field Crops Manual: Safflower, accessed from: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/safflower.html
Author is a 20 year veteran in the health care and aromatherapy industry and a UK-certified aromatherapist. She is both a published author and editor in aromatherapy, a consultant, custom blend formulator and herbal studies student. She is the author of Authentic Aromatherapy and the current chief editor of the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal. She works from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona, where she is in the process of creating her own aromatic stillroom on her one acre homestead and aromatic gardens.