Medicinal plants

Safflower

Features

Carthamus tinctorius, more commonly known as safflower or even safflower, is a plant belonging to the Asteraceae family. This plant has been cultivated since ancient times by the peoples who inhabited the Mediterranean basin. In fact, safflower grows spontaneously in our latitudes; and it can also be found in many temperate zones, from continental Asia to eastern Africa. It is an annual and very weed plant, which can grow up to one and a half meters in height. The leaves, especially those that develop around the inflorescences, are thorny and are arranged around the stem alternately. The flowers are yellow, reddish yellow or tending to white, and develop, even numerous, at the end of each branching.

Cultivation


Safflower is a plant grown mainly for the purpose of collecting its seeds, which are used to produce safflower oil. Generally the sowing of the seedlings is done in autumn in areas where the climate is favorable, and in any case before the temperatures drop below 7 degrees. However, safflower needs fairly high temperatures to develop, which is why it is grown in temperate areas. It does not present particular problems as regards the soil, since it easily adapts to clayey or saline soils; instead, it needs a lot of light for many hours a day, being a long-day plant. It also needs a lot of water, which it can obtain thanks to the depth of its roots. The seeds are harvested around July-August.

Food and cosmetic uses of safflower


Safflower is used in both cosmetics and food. The safflower oil, which is obtained from the processing of the seeds, is rich in unsaturated acids (including omega 6 and vitamin K), and is used a lot both in the kitchen, for example to produce some types of vegetable margarine, than in the pharmaceutical industry. Safflower seedsthey also have coagulating properties, and therefore can be used to produce thickeners for creams or puddings. From the corolla of the flowers, on the other hand, a substance is extracted, cartamine, very similar to saffron, and for this reason often used as a food coloring, even if, despite its intense color, the flavor compared to saffron is very slight. The intense color of the paper also makes it widely used in cosmetics, to produce lipsticks and other products.

Safflower: Other uses


Safflower has also been used in industry and in animal breeding. In industry it has only recently begun to be used, especially in the production of colors and varnishes, because it has been noted that safflower oil has the property of making colors dry more slowly. Safflower is also often used as a food for animals. The whole plant, both fresh and dried as is done with hay, is used as food for sheep; while, again with safflower, it is possible to produce panels rich in fibers and proteins that are also used as food for other animals. The nutritional properties of safflower seeds make them a very suitable food for feeding birds such as goldfinches and canaries, but they are also suitable for feeding exotic birds.

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