What is safflower oil?

Safflower oil (Distel oil) is obtained from ripe seeds taken from the Carthamus tinctorius L. (Asteraceae). It is produced by pressing (cold-pressed safflower oil) or extraction, followed by refining (refined safflower oil).

The safflower plant, sometimes referred to incorrectly as ‘saffron’, has been cultivated and highly valued since ancient times in the Near and Middle East. Long ago, the red pigment was used as a fabric dye. In 1887, the researcher Georg Schweinfurth identified it as a substance used in the Egyptian mummification process, showing how important the plant was, since only the Pharaoh had the right to cultivate safflowers. Until recent times, safflowers were used in dyeing, mainly in the Alsace region, until their position was challenged by the discovery of aniline dyes.

The unassuming safflower, a herbaceous plant (depending on how closely planting is carried out) that tolerates dry and saline conditions and puts down roots to a depth of <3m, prefers temperatures of 24-32°C and is cultivated nowadays primarily in India, Mexico, the USA, Ethiopia, Australia and Spain. Safflowers are harvested when the plants are actually quite dry, but have not yet dried out completely. Depending on the variety, the number of seeds ranges between 1000 and 2500, but the oil content is only 15%. Since the shell accounts for a very high proportion (45%) and is, furthermore, of no value, safflowers would actually be unsuitable for oil extraction were it not for an extremely high proportion of essential linoleic acid, which compensates for these negative attributes.

Safflower oil, which is obtained from the seed once it has been peeled, conditioned, flaked and pressed or extracted, has the highest linoleic acid content (approx. 80%) of all vegetable oils. Other fatty acids include oleic and palmitic acids (10-15% and 5-8%, respectively). Usually, cold-pressed safflower oil is then refined. The yellow oil, which has a characteristic, mild taste, is particularly well-suited to a biological wholefood diet. Safflower oil is also used in foodstuffs used for dieting (margarine, edible oil) and in cosmetics. In the pharmaceuticals trade, it is used in dermatological preparations and in medicines that lower the cholesterol level. Safflower oil has also acquired importance as a raw material for surface coatings and varnishes.

INCI Name: Carthamus Tinctorius Seed Oil

Six health benefits of safflower oil

Safflower oil offers a variety of potential benefits. Below, we discuss the evidence behind six key benefits of safflower oil:

1. A healthful source of fatty acids

Share on PinterestSafflower oil is made from the safflower plant.

Safflower oil is a rich source of unsaturated fatty acids, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

The body needs these fats to function. Experts generally consider unsaturated fatty acids to be more healthful than saturated fats.

Fats in the diet, such as those found in safflower oil, are essential for hormone regulation and memory. They are vital in allowing the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Eating some fat with meals may also help a person to feel fuller.

Safflower oil is lower in saturated fats, which are often considered “bad” fats, than olive oil, avocado oil, and sunflower oil.

A diet high in “good” fats and low in “bad” fats has many health benefits, including reducing inflammation and improving heart health.

There are two types of safflower oil: high-oleic and high-linoleic. Both contain unsaturated fatty acids.

Like olive oil, the high-oleic variety of safflower oil contains monounsaturated fats and is a good option for cooking at high temperatures.

High-linoleic safflower oil contains higher quantities of polyunsaturated fats. It is not suitable for heating but is ideal for use in salad dressings.

2. Improves blood sugar levels

A systematic review of studies from 2016 suggests that eating a diet high in unsaturated fats can improve a person’s blood glucose control.

The study found that replacing some sources of carbohydrate or saturated fats with unsaturated fatty acids, especially polyunsaturated fats, had a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels, as well as insulin resistance and insulin secretion.

A 2011 study suggested that consuming 8 grams (g) of safflower oil daily for 4 months may reduce inflammation while improving blood sugar in some people with type 2 diabetes.

It is important to note that the participants in this study were women with type 2 diabetes who also had obesity and were past the stage of menopause.

The researchers suggest that people might use quality dietary fats alongside diabetes treatments to reduce complications associated with the condition.

3. Lowers cholesterol, boosts heart health

The same 2011 study also reports that participants’ blood cholesterol levels improved following 4 months safflower oil use.

These findings support the American Heart Association’s suggestion that unsaturated fats may lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad,” cholesterol in the blood. High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.

Safflower oil may contribute to heart health in other ways too.

The unsaturated fats in safflower oil can thin the blood and make platelets less sticky. This might help prevent blood clots that can lead to heart attack and stroke. Safflower oil might also affect blood vessels by relaxing them and reducing blood pressure.

4. Fights inflammation

Safflower oil may also have anti-inflammatory properties.

According to a study in Clinical Nutrition, Safflower oil and the unsaturated fatty acids in safflower oil improved markers of inflammation. This may help with several conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.

5. Soothes dry skin

Applying safflower oil topically to dry or inflamed skin may help soothe it and give the skin a soft and smooth appearance. Although most of the research on safflower oil for the skin is anecdotal, it is a common ingredient in cosmetics and skin care products.

Safflower oil contains vitamin E, which may be responsible for some of its skin benefits. Vitamin E has been an important ingredient in dermatological products for decades.

Some research suggests that vitamin E protects the skin from the effects of sunlight and from free radicals, which are harmful molecules that damage cells in the body and contribute to disease.

Before using safflower oil on the skin, perform a patch test. Rub a drop of the oil into the arm and wait for 24 hours. If no reaction develops, it is probably safe to use.

6. Safe for cooking at high temperatures

Not all oils are safe to use for frying. This is because overheating delicate oils can create free radicals.

High-oleic safflower oil is safe to cook with at high temperatures. In fact, this monounsaturated oil has a higher smoke point than many other oils, including:

  • corn oil
  • canola oil
  • olive oil
  • sesame oil

Safflower also has a milder flavor than other oils, including olive and coconut, which makes it an excellent choice for deep frying, pan frying, or baking.

People should not heat polyunsaturated safflower oil, however. Save it for drizzling over steamed vegetables and making vinaigrettes. Keep the oil in the refrigerator to prevent it from turning rancid.

Is Safflower Oil Good for My Skin?

Prepared cosmetics containing safflower oil don’t require any special instructions. Simply follow product directions.

Pure, edible versions of safflower oil and safflower body oil may be applied to your skin without any preparation.

Safflower essential oils, on the other hand, must be diluted prior to application. Apply a few drops to a small amount of carrier oil before applying. If you’re looking for extra moisture, try coconut or almond oils. Jojoba and grapeseed oils are better suited carriers for oily skin.

Since safflower oil is considered generally safe for consumer use, it may be safe to use daily. Essential oils are more potent and are designed for short-term use only. Discontinue use if you notice any signs of irritation or reactions, such as rash or hives.

You should also remember the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor or regulate the quality or purity of essential oils. It’s important to be sure you’re choosing a quality brand.

Safflower oil for acne

While it may seem counterproductive to apply oil to acne, safflower oil is found to be noncomedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores. Its anti-inflammatory effects may also be potentially helpful in treating pimples and acne spots. It may also help unclog your pores when used a few times per week.

You can use safflower oil as a spot treatment by leaving it on overnight. You can also make a face mask:

  1. Combine safflower oil with oatmeal and honey.
  2. Apply the mixture to all or part of your face.
  3. Rinse with water after 10 minutes.

Read more about essential oils for acne.

Safflower oil for eczema

Eczema is a common skin condition. The symptoms of eczema are actually inflammatory responses. While severe eczema might require medication, you may also help treat skin patches through diet and topical ointments.

Dietary benefits of safflower oil include helping your body process oil-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A and E. These antioxidant-rich vitamins are important in keeping your cells in good health.

As a topical moisturizer, the linoleic acid in safflower oil is thought to help maintain the integrity of the outer layer of your skin by preventing flaking.

Apply pure safflower oil directly to your eczema as often as desired. If you’re using diluted essential oil, use only once or twice per day.

Read more for 8 natural remedies to reduce eczema symptoms.


Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on May 22, 2019.

Clinical Overview


Safflower has been used as a laxative and as a dietary supplement to modify lipid profiles and treat fever. However, there is no supporting evidence for these uses from clinical trials.

Safflower oil 8 g/day has been associated with improvement in glycemic control.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Avoid use. Not recommended for use in pregnancy; abortifacient and emmenagogue effects have been suggested.

None well documented.

Allergy to the flowers has been reported. Safflower oil was generally well tolerated when used as a control in clinical trials.

Research reveals limited information regarding toxicity with the use of safflower oil.

Scientific Family

  • Asteraceae (daisy)


Safflower is native to the Middle East and is widely cultivated throughout Europe, China, India, and the United States. A bushy annual that reaches approximately 1 m in height, it has shiny, oval, spiny-edged leaves that alternate around a single, smooth, upright stem. The plant produces profuse yellow to deep red flowers. Safflower produces a dry, one-seeded fruit known as an “achene” that is generally small and white and contains nuts with 1 seed. Seeds are produced in August and enclosed in a mass of down.1, 2, 3 Safflower roots extend 2 to 3 m into the soil, making them useful as rain-fed cropping systems.3


Although safflower is now recognized primarily as a source of healthy edible oil, traditional uses have not focused on the oil. Safflower was originally valued for the yellow and red dyes yielded by its flowers. These dyes have been used for centuries to color cosmetics and fabrics. The use of safflower extract to dye the wrappings of mummies has also been reported.5 Safflower had been used as a replacement for saffron but lost its popularity because of its lack of taste. Safflower tea has been used in traditional medicine to induce sweating and reduce fever. The oil has been employed as a laxative and has been used as a solvent in paints.4 A biblical reference is made to saffron in Song of Solomon 4:13-14.5


Safflower oil is characterized by the presence of a high proportion of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, including linoleic (approximately 75%), oleic (13%), palmitic (6%), and stearic (3%), as well as other minor straight-chained fatty acids.6, 7, 8 Alpha- and gamma-tocopherol have also been described.9 Although safflower oil is a rich source of linoleic acid, the activity of delta 6-desaturase is required for its conversion to dihomogammalinolenic acid (DHGA) and arachidonic acid. In contrast, evening primrose oil appears to be a more bioavailable source of fatty acids for the production of DHGA.10

More than 200 compounds have been isolated from C. tinctorius, including flavonoids, phenylethanoid glucosides, coumarins, fatty acids, steroids, and polysaccharides.3

The seeds contain a lignan glycoside known as tracheloside11; serotonin derivatives and their glucosides have been found in the seed extract.11, 12

Uses and Pharmacology

Safflower oil has been used as a control or comparator agent in many clinical trials and experiments evaluating effects against conditions such as dyslipidemia, diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and cancer.8, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 Few quality clinical trials specifically investigating the effects of safflower have been published.


Animal/In vitro data

In a study of mice, injections of C. tinctorius (0.625 g/kg and 2.5 g/kg) given intraperitoneally each day for 5 days inhibited ST segment and T-wave elevation in isoproterenol-induced acute myocardial ischemia (P < 0.05) and also decreased levels of the inflammatory cytokines, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha (P < 0.05).20

Clinical data

Safflower showed no effect on blood pressure, heart rate, or brachial artery vascular conductance when used as placebo in clinical trials.14, 21

Safflower oil consumption has been reported to have variable effects on plasma lipids.10, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 Studies investigating the effects of phospholipids from safflower and soybean showed decreased hepatic lipid levels via decreased liver cholesterol and increased fecal neutral steroid.28

A decreased expression of adhesion molecules, induced by oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL), has been observed following consumption in meals rich in safflower. The clinical importance of this effect is unclear.9, 29, 30 Effects of safflower oil on platelet linoleic acid and thromboxane B2 levels were equivocal in small studies.31


In an in vitro study, N-p-coumaroyl serotonin and N-feruloyl serotonin isolated from safflower seed inhibited alpha-glucosidase, a well-known drug target in the management of diabetes.32 In a study of rabbits, C. tinctorius extract 200 mg/kg and 300 mg/kg administered for 30 days significantly increased insulin levels and caused a hypoglycemic effect.33 Daily intraperitoneal injections of C. tinctorius extract 200 mg/kg in rats increased insulin levels and decreased fasting blood glucose and cholesterol parameters.34

In a double-blind, crossover clinical trial (N = 35 evaluable) comparing conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) with safflower oil in menopausal women with type 2 diabetes mellitus, the 2 oils were administered in doses of 8 g/day for 16 weeks, with a 4-week washout period between treatments. CLA, but not safflower oil, decreased body mass index (BMI) and total adipose mass. Safflower oil, but not CLA, produced reductions in trunk adipose tissue and fasting blood glucose, and increased lean tissue and adiponectin levels.35 Benefits observed with safflower oil, and not CLA, included reduced hemoglobin A1c and C-reactive protein and increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.36

As a component of medical nutrition therapy for patients with type 1 or 2 diabetes, the American Diabetes Association Standards of Care (2014) recommend an increase in foods containing alpha-linolenic acid based on beneficial effects observed on lipoprotein profiles, heart disease prevention, and overall positive health in patients with diabetes (moderate-quality evidence). Likewise, as a component of medical nutrition therapy for patients with type 2 diabetes, the American Diabetes Association Standards of Care (2014) recommend higher-quality dietary fat intake as an alternative to decreased fat intake by replacing saturated and/or trans fats with mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet. This Mediterranean-style approach to eating may improve glycemic control and cardiovascular disease risk factors (moderate-quality evidence).37


There are no animal or in vitro data regarding the use of safflower for obesity.

Some studies in which saffron oil was used as a control have been published. One 8-week, randomized, double-blind clinical trial conducted in obese males compared the benefits of CLA, safflower oil, heated safflower oil, and olive oil for weight loss and vascular endothelial function. CLA was superior to safflower oil for reductions in body weight and BMI, but was inferior for postprandial vascular endothelial function improvement.38 A double-blind, randomized, crossover trial evaluated weight-loss and lipid-lowering effects of CLA compared with safflower oil. There were no changes in BMI or lipid levels compared with baseline following 8-week courses of CLA or safflower oil.27


Animal studies suggest that a moderate dietary intake of essential fatty acids may be required to maintain the integrity of CNS function.39

However, safflower oil–induced n-3 deficiency (high n-6 to n-3 ratio) had a deleterious effect on cognition in mice.40 In another experiment with mice, a safflower oil–rich diet (ie, depleted n-3 fatty acids) resulted in a decrease in insulin-degrading enzyme associated with an increase in beta-amyloid levels similar to those found in Alzheimer disease.41 Therefore, a low dietary intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids is considered a candidate risk factor for the development of Alzheimer disease, as well as for decreased cognition.40, 41

There are no clinical data regarding the use of safflower for its effects on the CNS.

Other uses


Safflower’s antioxidant activity is responsible for inhibiting the production of oxidized LDL to ultimately reduce atherosclerosis.42 N-(p-coumaroyl) serotonin is a potent antioxidant compound present in safflower oil and has been shown to exert growth-promoting activity for mouse fibroblasts and human fibroblasts in vitro. Antioxidant activity and inhibitory effects on proinflammatory cytokine production from human monocytes were observed at similar doses.12

Estrogen-related osteoporosis

Linoleic acid, found in safflower seed oil, is believed to exert anti-inflammatory effects in bone. Specifically, it is believed to facilitate the formation of prostanoids, correct bone loss in women following ovariectomy, and increase the intestinal absorption of calcium.3 Safflower seed extract showed a protective effect in experiments.11

Pruritus in renal disease

Safflower oil supplementation resulted in clinically unimportant reductions in symptoms of pruritus.43

Human papillomavirus–induced laryngeal papillomatosis

A small, randomized, double-blind, crossover clinical trial in pediatric patients used safflower oil rich in oleic acid as the control arm versus CLA in patients requiring surgical intervention for human papillomavirus (HPV)–induced laryngeal papillomatosis. Patients received 2.5 g/day of each oil for 8 weeks, with a 6-week washout period between treatments. CLA produced greater improvement in HPV-induced laryngeal papillomatosis scores and required fewer surgical procedures compared with the control group.44

Hair growth

In a study including both in vivo and in vitro models, C. tinctorius increased the length of hair follicles in a manner similar to that of minoxidil. Mice treated with C. tinctorius had hair growth at day 15 similar to that observed in mice treated with minoxidil.45

Male infertility

In a study of rats with busulfan-induced infertility, C. tinctorius extract 10 mg/kg daily for 35 days significantly improved sperm morphology, motility, and count (P = 0.02, P = 0.03, and P = 0.00001, respectively). Higher doses of C. tinctorius (ie, 25 mg/kg and 50 mg/kg) generally did not improve these measures; the 25 mg/kg dose slightly but not significantly improved sperm count.46 In another murine model, C. tinctorius extract exerted toxic effects on testicular tissue.47

Lung dysfunction

In a study of rats, hydroxysafflor yellow A, a flavonoid component derived from C. tinctorius, attenuated gasoline engine exhaust–mediated lung damage. Specifically, the compound was found to improve measures of pulmonary function and increase adenosine 3′,5′-cyclic phosphate (cAMP) levels and protein kinase A activity while decreasing interleukin-6 and TNF-alpha levels.48

Tendon injury

The effect of safflower yellow on tendon injury was assessed in a study of chickens. Local application of safflower increased expression of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) and collagen type I protein, improved tensile strength of the tendon, and increased adhesion.48


In a study of women with diabetes, safflower oil 8 g/day was found to improve glycemic control.35

In a single-blind, placebo-controlled study, 9 capsules of safflower oil as placebo were used to provide 80 calories per day and contained alpha-linolenic acid 800 mg, oleic acid 160 mg, and palmitic acid 100 mg per capsule.14 Another trial used safflower oil 10 g/day as placebo.21 Studies in obese adults and adults with diabetes ranged from 3.5 to 8 g/day.27, 35, 38

Transcutaneous safflower oil 3 mL 4 times a day has been administered by massage to neonates. This method of administration resulted in absorption, as indicated by altered lipid profiles in the neonates.26

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Information is limited. Abortifacient and emmenagogue effects have been suggested.49, 50 A study in mice demonstrated that C. tinctorius extract at doses of 1.4 mg/kg and 2.8 mg/kg caused toxic changes in the structure of the placenta. Neonate survival rates in mice receiving these doses (calculated at days 5, 15, 25, and 42 after birth) were decreased compared with controls.51

Another study in rats with maternal diabetes showed that diets supplemented with safflower oil and folic acid reduced malformation rates as well as decreased matrix metalloproteinase-2 and -9 activities.52

Briggs Book Link

  • Safflower


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Case reports of immunoglobulin E–mediated allergy (eg, rhinitis, urticaria, asthma) to the flowers exist.53 A literature review of 14 case reports of allergic shock from the clinical use of safflower injection in China found that the majority of cases occurred less than 30 minutes after administration.54 Trials using safflower oil as a control report few adverse reactions.


Toxicologic information is limited. Foods are often cooked in safflower oil, and the oil is commonly used as a placebo in clinical trials. A study to determine the safety of safflower oil showed no adverse effects on liver enzymes and renal parameters (eg, uric acid, blood urea nitrogen, creatinine) at 10 g of oil per day.21 One study found that C. tinctorius extract at doses of 1.4 mg/kg and 2.8 mg/kg caused detrimental effects on the kidney tissue of mice.55

1. Carthamus tinctorius. USDA, NRCS. 2008. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 8 September 2008). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. Accessed April 24, 2015.2. van Wyk BE, Wink M, eds. Medicinal Plants of the World. 1st ed. Portland, OR: Timber Press Inc; 2004.3. Asgarpanah J, Kazemivash N. Phytochemistry, pharmacology, and medicinal properties of Carthamus tinctorius L. Chin J Integr Med. 2013;19(2):153-159.233714634. Dobelis, IN, ed. Magic and Medicine of Plants. Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association; 1986.5. Duke JA, Duke PK, DuCellier JL, eds. Duke’s Handbook of Medicinal Plants of the Bible. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2008.6. Kwon JS, Snook JT, Wardlaw GM, Hwang DH. Effects of diets high in saturated fatty acids, canola oil, or safflower oil on platelet function, thromboxane B2 formation, and fatty acid composition of platelet phospholipids. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991;54(2):351-358.16775257. Windolz M, ed. The Merck Index. 10th ed. Rahway, NJ: Merck & Co; 1983.8. Paschos GK, Magkos F, Panagiotakos DB, Votteas V, Zampelas A. Dietary supplementation with flaxseed oil lowers blood pressure in dyslipidaemic patients. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007;61(10):1201-1206.172684139. Masterjohn C. The anti-inflammatory properties of safflower oil and coconut oil may be mediated by their respective concentrations of vitamin E. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2007;49(17):1825-1826.1746623710. Abraham RD, Riemersma RA, Elton RA, Macintyre C, Oliver MF. Effects of safflower oil and evening primrose oil in men with a low dihomo-gamma-linolenic level. Atherosclerosis. 1990;81(3):199-208.211238911. Kim KW, Suh SJ, Lee TK, et al. Effect of safflower seeds supplementation on stimulation of the proliferation, differentiation and mineralization of osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008;115(1):42-49.1799724112. Takii T, Hayashi M, Hiroma H, et al. Serotonin derivative, N-(p-Coumaroyl) serotonin, isolated from safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) oil cake augments the proliferation of normal human and mouse fibroblasts in synergy with basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) or epidermal growth factor (EGF). J Biochem. 1999;125(5):910-915.1022058313. Tsuzuki T, Igarashi M, Miyazawa T. Conjugated eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) inhibits transplanted tumor growth via membrane lipid peroxidation in nude mice. J Nutr. 2004;134(5):1162-1166.1511396414. Walser B, Giordano RM, Stebbins CL. Supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augments brachial artery dilation and blood flow during forearm contraction. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2006;97(3):347-354.1677047215. Bloomer RJ, Fry A, Schilling B, Chiu L, Hori N, Weiss L. Astaxanthin supplementation does not attenuate muscle injury following eccentric exercise in resistance-trained men. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2005;15(4):401-412.1628667116. 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Iwata T, Kamegai T, Yamauchi-Sato Y, et al. Safety of dietary conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in a 12-weeks trial in healthy overweight Japanese male volunteers. J Oleo Sci. 2007;56(10):517-525.1789845822. Cox C, Sutherland W, Mann J, de Jong S, Chisholm A, Skeaff M. Effects of dietary coconut oil, butter and safflower oil on plasma lipids, lipoproteins and lathosterol levels. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1998;52(9):650-654.975612123. Wardlaw GM, Snook JT, Lin MC, Puangco MA, Kwon JS. Serum lipid and apolipoprotein concentrations in healthy men on diets enriched in either canola oil or safflower oil. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991;54(1):104-110.190547424. Williams MJA, Sutherland WH, McCormick MP, Yeoman D, de Jong SA, Walker RJ. Normal endothelial function after meals rich in olive or safflower oil previously used for deep frying. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2001;11(3):147-152.1159098925. Jackson KG, Wolstencroft EJ, Bateman PA, Yaqoob P, Williams CM. 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Minimum requirements of n-3 and n-6 essential fatty acids for the function of the central nervous system and for the prevention of chronic disease. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1992;200(2):174-176.157957840. Calon F, Lim GP, Morihara T, et al. Dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid depletion activates caspases and decreases NMDA receptors in the brain of a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Eur J Neurosci. 2005;22(3):617-626.1610174341. Zhao L, Teter B, Morihara T, et al. Insulin-degrading enzyme as a downstream target of insulin receptor signaling cascade: implications for Alzheimer’s disease intervention. J Neurosci. 2004;24(49):11120-11126.1559092842. Berraaouan A, Abid S, Bnouham M. Antidiabetic oils. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2013;9(6):499-505.2411162143. Begum R, Belury MA, Burgess JR, Peck LW. Supplementation with n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids: effects on lipoxygenase activity and clinical symptoms of pruritus in hemodialysis patients. 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Cosmeceutical Critique: Safflower Oil

Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius), a thistlelike annual, is one of the oldest cultivated crops, its use dating back to ancient Egypt. It was traditionally grown for its seeds, which were used in foods and folk medicine. Safflower is now primarily cultivated for its vegetable oil, which is extracted from its seeds. Safflower oil has been found to exert notable health benefits when consumed through the diet and also when used in topical formulations.

Linoleic acid is a primary constituent of safflower seeds, and is the component to which the oil’s cutaneous benefits are typically ascribed. In fact, safflower oil is one of the richest sources of linoleic acid, which is necessary for the endogenous production of ceramides, key components of the epidermal layer that play a crucial role in barrier function and help the skin retain water.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia/Paulatz/CC License

Although safflower oil is rich in the essential omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid and is known to confer health benefits via diet, there is a dearth of data on the use of safflower for dermatologic purposes.

In skin care products, safflower oil is incorporated in moisturizing agents for its occlusive properties. Occlusive agents coat the stratum corneum to slow transepidermal water loss. Typically, such substances have the capacity to dissolve fats and are therefore used in many skin care cosmetics.

Research on Topical Applications

In an early study on the antiproliferative potential of C. tinctorius extracts, Yasukawa et al., in 1996, isolated erythro-alkane-6,8-diols from the flowers of C. tinctorius and applied the tumor-promoting agent 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) to the ears of mice (1 mcg/ear) to induce inflammation. The investigators reported that five of the eight alkane-6,8-diols assayed suppressed inflammation, and the mixture of erythro-alkane-6,8-diols significantly inhibited TPA-induced skin tumor formation in mice after initiation with 7,12-dimethylbenzanthracene (Oncology 1996;53:133-6).

In 2004, Roh et al. investigated the melanogenesis-suppressing activity of safflower seeds to develop a novel skin-whitening agent. They reported that an 80% aqueous methanol extract and ethyl acetate fraction from the seeds significantly inhibited mushroom tyrosinase, and the researchers identified three active constituents . Of these, N-feruloylserotonin and N-(p-coumaroyl)serotonin were found to more potently suppress the melanin synthesis of Streptomyces bikiniensis and B16 melanoma cells than arbutin, a well-known inhibitor of melanogenesis (Biol. Pharm. Bull. 2004;27:1976-8).

In 2005, Solanki et al. conducted a short, randomized controlled study in a tertiary-care neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of a large teaching hospital, to assess the transcutaneous absorption of oil traditionally used in massage of newborns, and to compare the effects of safflower oil and coconut oil on fatty acid profiles of massaged babies. The investigators randomly assigned 120 babies to three groups – safflower oil, coconut oil, or no-oil controls (40 in each group). The babies were massaged with 5 mL of oil four times daily for 5 days. Blood triglyceride levels were significantly elevated in all groups, though much more so in the noncontrol groups. Significant increases in essential fatty acids (linolenic and arachidonic) were seen in the safflower oil group, and similar increases in saturated fats were seen in the coconut oil group, with changes more evident in term babies. The researchers concluded that topically applied oil is absorbed in neonates and is likely available nutritionally. Consequently, they deemed the fatty acid constituents of the massage oils significant in potentially impacting the fatty acid profiles of patients (Indian Pediatr. 2005;42:998-1005). Safflower oil is rich in essential fatty acids, and coconut oil is rife with saturated fat.

Potential Dietary Benefits

Safflower oil has also been found, as has olive oil, to confer dietary benefits on diabetic pregnant rats and their embryos, preventing diabetes-induced developmental harm during early organogenesis (Mol. Hum. Reprod. 2010;16:286-95). Supplementation with either oil has also been demonstrated to prevent excessive activity by matrix metalloproteinases (specifically MMP-2 and MMP-9) in the placenta of diabetic rats, with salubrious effects manifesting in the sera (Placenta 2012;33:8-16). In addition, in a recent study, safflower oil and folic acid supplementations were shown to interact, protecting rat embryos from diabetes-induced harm through reductions in proinflammatory mediators (Mol. Hum. Reprod. 2012;18:253-64).

As mentioned above, safflower oil is available in several topical products, but it is more likely beneficial through diet. Topically, safflower oil, as found in a Neutrogena bath oil, for example, contains linoleic acid and may be useful when added to bathwater or applied to wet skin. Of course, oils in general are not suitable for all skin types. Safflower oil is indicated for individuals with dry or damaged skin.


Safflower oil, rich in the essential omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid, is known to confer health benefits via diet. It is also included in skin care products, such as bath oils, which anecdotally appear to be effective. Nevertheless, there is a dearth of data on the use of safflower oil for dermatologic purposes. Much more research is necessary, including randomized controlled clinical trials in humans, to establish the potential for more extensive uses of safflower oil for skin health.

Types of safflower oil

Safflower oil is an oil made from the extract of the safflower seeds. The safflower plant and oil are both used as a health and nutritional supplement. Related to the sunflower, the safflower plant (known as Carthamus Tinctorius) looks very much like a thistle since it develops yellow/orange petals. These petals drop at some point thus exposing the seeds which can be used, after being removed, just as they are or can be treated. The petals of safflower are often used as a substitute for saffron in cooking since it has almost the same flavor and color as saffron.

The dried seeds are processed in specialized plants, pressed into oil and classified into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils. The first category including monosaturated safflower is used in foods and cooking since it suits high temperatures. It should be stored in a dry, dark and cool place. Reduce the air and light that reaches the oil and you will also reduce the risk of oxidation. It is advised to buy the quantity you will use within several weeks or a couple of months in order for the oil to stay fresh. The polyunsaturated safflower oils contain linoleic acid and can be used only cold in foods like salads. Unlike the monosaturated oil, this type is not shelf-stable and should be stored in a cool place or a refrigerator. Since the seeds left untreated have a bitter taste, they are usually pressed into the oil to be further used in the making of several products such as cleansers and soaps.

What makes the safflower oils stand out, though, since there are so many other healthy oils out there? Compared to olive oil, safflower contains more vitamin E. This type of oil is also richer in essential fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega 6 than many other oils. Just like vegetable oils, safflower oil is tasteless, can be used at high temperatures and has heart-healthy properties. One of the great things about safflower is that it does not lose its nutritional properties and value even when used at high temperatures. The oil does not contain cholesterol which is another major plus.

Safflower oil and health benefits

Although there is still much debate on the health benefits of safflower oil use, several studies and voices associate this type of oil with an alleviation of the symptoms of several diseases including arteriosclerosis, Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease. Such hypotheses generated by certain studies need to be further studied and tested before making such claims, though. Even so, many people have experienced various health benefits when using safflower oil.

Thanks to the high amount of vitamin E it contains, safflower oil can reduce respiratory problems, boost immunity and help blood circulation. Since this vitamin is known to help the body eliminate free radicals, it can lower the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. It’s low levels of saturated fats and high levels of unsaturated fats make the safflower a good option for people with heart problems.

Besides being used internally, safflower oil is also used externally. When rubbed into the roots of your hair, safflower oil boosts the hair quality and shine. It can also be used as a skin moisturizer and smoother and nail growth promoter. Hence its addition to many bath and body products. Safflower is also used to reduce redness, inflammation, and eczema as well as in massage lotions and oils since it is low in comedogenic action and it won’t clog pores.

Safflower oil – nutritional information

Many people use this oil for its dietary properties and the benefits it has on one’s overall well-being. Enjoy these benefits by using safflower as part of a healthy and balanced diet. The safflower oil is comprised of 2.40% stearic fatty acids, 78.71% oleic fatty acids, 4.85% palmitic fatty acids, 12.44% linoleic fatty acids, and .08% linoleic fatty acids. It is also the only oil available on the market with such high linoleic acid concentration.

Safflower oil – dosage and effects

One study from Ohio State University involving safflower oil compared the effects the safflower oil and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) triggered in two groups of people who took one of the two oils for 16 weeks. The study involved postmenopausal women diagnosed with type II diabetes. By the end of the trial, researchers found that women taking safflower oil enjoyed a greater abdominal fat reduction than the women taking CLA. The daily dose of 1 ¾ tablespoons of safflower oil used in the trial also improved good cholesterol (HDL), inflammation, blood sugar, and insulin sensitivity.

Unfortunately, side effects occurred as well. People allergic to daisies experienced an allergic reaction since safflower plants are part of the daisy family. The side effects patients who used safflower oil on a daily basis experienced include vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

As with any other supplements, make sure you see your doctor before taking safflower oil. There are certain health conditions that can get worse if using certain supplements. If you have a heart condition or low blood pressure, the use of safflower oil can trigger a drop in your blood pressure. Plus, safflower oil is not recommended if you are pregnant since it can determine contractions and labor. Therefore, make sure you see your health care provider before taking any supplement, not only safflower oil.

What Is Safflower Oil – Uses And Benefits Of Safflower Oil

If you’ve ever read the list of ingredients on say a bottle of salad dressing and saw that it contained safflower oil, you may have wondered “what is safflower oil?” Where does safflower oil come from – a flower, a vegetable? Are there any health benefits to safflower oil? Inquiring minds want to know, so keep reading the following safflower oil information for answers to these questions as well as the uses for safflower oil.

What is Safflower Oil?

Safflower is an annual broadleaf oilseed crop that was grown primarily in areas of the western Great Plains. The crop was first propagated in 1925 but was found to have insufficient oil content. In successive years, new varieties of safflower were developed that contained increased oil levels.

Where Does Safflower Oil Come From?

Safflower does indeed have a flower, but it is cultivated for the oil that is pressed from the seeds of the plant. Safflower thrives in arid regions with fairly high temperatures. These conditions allow the blooms to go to seed in early fall. Each flower harvested has between 15-30 seeds.

Today, about 50% of the safflower grown in the United States is produced in California.

North Dakota and Montana grow most of the remainder of that for domestic productions.

Safflower Oil Information

Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) is one of the oldest cultivated crops and dates back to ancient Egypt on textiles dating to the Twelfth Dynasty and on safflower garlands adorning the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamun.

There are two types of safflower. The first variety produces oil that is high in monounsaturated fatty acids or oleic acid and the second type has a high concentration of polyunsaturated fats called linoleic acid. Both varieties are very low in saturated fatty acids in comparison to other types of vegetable oil.

Benefits of Safflower Oil

Most of the safflower that is produced contains about 75% linoleic acid. This amount is significantly higher than corn, soybean, cottonseed, peanut or olive oils. Scientists are in discord as to whether linoleic acid, which is high in polyunsaturated acids, can help to decrease cholesterol and the associated heart and circulatory issues.

Studies have shown however, that the high levels of omega-9 fatty acids in safflower oil improves the body’s immune system and lowers LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Unfortunately, safflower does not contain high levels of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects the body from free radicals.

Safflower Oil Uses

Safflower was originally grown for the flowers which were used in making red and yellow dyes. Today, safflower is grown for oil, meal (what is left after pressing the seed), and birdseed.

Safflower has a high smoke point, which means it is a good oil to use for deep frying. Safflower has no flavor of its own, which also makes it useful as oil to bulk up salad dressings. Not only does it have a neutral flavor but it does not solidify in the refrigerator as other oils.

As industrial oil, it is used in white and light colored paints. Like other vegetable oils, safflower oil can be used as a diesel fuel substitute; however, the expense in processing the oil makes it cost prohibitive to use realistically.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using or ingesting ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes or otherwise, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.

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