Safflower in the Apothecary Garden
An article about safflower in the apothecary garden. By professional aromatherapist and author Sharon Falsetto.
Safflower has a place in the apothecary garden, even though it is not as well known as sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Learn more about safflower in this short article!
Description of Safflower as a Plant
Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius), like borage (Borago officinalis), doesn’t actually have an aroma. However, it is used as a carrier oil in aromatherapy, and it does have medicinal uses in herbal medicine. It is not a tall plant and, when planted next to taller plants like sunflower, you may miss it. Therefore, I would advise planting it in a mix of smaller herbal plants such as oregano (Origanum vulgare), basil (Ocimum basilicum), and mint (Mentha spp.).
Its unique feature is its orange, thistle-like flowers, which emerge from a rosette shaped bud. Plant a few safflower plants together for the full, visual effect. The flowers do not last long and the seeds form about four weeks after flowering has ended.1 Seeds contain about 30 to 45% of oil1, which is extracted via cold expression to produce safflower oil.
I would advise getting “up close and personal” with safflower to truly appreciate its botanical features, as part of an aromatic garden.
How to Grow Safflower in the Apothecary Garden
Safflower is an annual plant, meaning that it will bloom once, and it will need to be replanted the following year. If you let it go to seed, like any plant, there is the possibility it will grow again from the new seeds produced, although conditions would have to be right for it to grow successfully. I would advise sowing new seeds in the spring, after the average last frost for your area, to produce plants in the places that you wish them to grow.
Safflower is traditionally considered an oilseed crop, but it is also used as a cover crop by farmers (and gardeners) for the benefits listed below.
Safflower as a Cover Crop in the Apothecary Garden
Safflower has a number of great benefits for the aromatic gardener as a cover crop. A cover crop essentially protects and enriches the soil for the benefit of the next plant crop. If you aren’t harvesting this plant for its oil or seeds, consider the following benefits of safflower as a cover crop:
- a deep taproot which breaks down hard soil and encourages air and water movement. The taproots of safflower can also reach nutrients in the soil that other plants’ roots fail to reach.2
- resistant to root lesion nematodes.2
- low pest presence in the garden and attracts beneficial pollinators and insects such as lacewings and spiders.2
Permaculture with Safflower in the Apothecary Garden
Permaculture draws on the natural world to design a holistic “health care” system for the garden to create and sustain food and resources in harmony with its environment. A simple example is that of organic gardening.3 Safflower has a place as a permaculture worker in the garden.
Safflower is a good biomass crop4 which means that it may help to supply nitrogen to the soil, add organic matter to the soil, or help to suppress weeds in the garden. The roots of the safflower (as mentioned above) are the key to this plant’s permaculture benefits.
Safflower Benefits in Herbalism
Safflower has the following uses in herbalism, if you harvest it from your aromatic garden for this purpose:
- promotes menstruation.
- useful for amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea.
- invigorates the blood and it is useful in many blood-related disorders.5
Consult a certified herbalist for dosage and methods of application for safflower in herbalism.
Learn More About Safflower as a Carrier Oil in Aromatherapy with Sedona Aromatics
- Purdue University website, Alternative Field Crops Manual: Safflower, accessed from: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/safflower.html
- Green Cover Seed website, Safflower, accessed from: https://www.greencoverseed.com/product/1074/
- Deep Green Permaculture website, What is Permaculture?, accessed from: https://deepgreenpermaculture.com/permaculture/
- Toby Hemenway website, A Permaculture Guide to Choosing Cover Crops, accessed from: http://tobyhemenway.com/1285-permaculture-cover-crops/
- Mdidea website, Functions and Clinical Uses of Safflower, accessed from: https://www.mdidea.com/products/new/new01503.html
About the Author:
The author of this article has been working in the health care industry since the 1990’s and in the aromatherapy industry since the 2000’s. She is UK-certified aromatherapist and a NAHA Certified Professional 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 has taken the online Master Gardener short course series with the University of Oregon. Sharon works from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona, where she gardens and distills plants from her own aromatic gardens, surrounded by natural fauna and flora on an original pioneer homestead property.