Safflower, Carthamus tinctorius, is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual plant in the sunflower family Asteraceae.  It is commercially cultivated for vegetable oil extracted from the seeds.  Plants are 30 to 150 cm (12 to 59 in) tall with globular flower heads having yellow, orange, or red flowers. Each branch will usually have from one to five flower heads containing 15 to 20 seeds per head. The leaves are broad, toothed and without petioles. The veins are quite visible at the bottom of the leaf. The flowers are solitary, tubular and reddish-yellow, appearing at the end of the stem. The fruit is white and in the form of a hazelnut, the end of which has thin strands of thread. Safflower is native to arid environments having seasonal rain. It grows a deep taproot which enables it to thrive in such environments.  The flower and oil from the seeds are used as medicine. Safflower seed oil is used for high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, to prevent scarring, and for many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.  In foods, safflower seed oil is used as a cooking oil.In manufacturing, safflower flower is used to color cosmetics and dye fabrics. Safflower seed oil is used as a paint solvent. This plant is native to Iran and is currently cultivated in most parts of the world.

Scientific name

Carthamus tinctorius

Ayurvedic name


Chinese name

Hóng huā

Plant type


Harvested parts

Flowers, Seeds

Main producer


Main use

Coloring, Flavoring



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