The safflower plant, biologically known as the Carthamus Tinctorius, is a tall, plant with yellow, red or orange blooms that resembles a thistle and whose entire lifespan lasts up to only a year. Although it has traditionally been harvested for use in medicines, food coloring, and red and yellow dyes, the main reason for the safflower plant’s cultivation is for its oil. The safflower oil is derived from its seeds and is by far the most desired part of the plant. Its leaves, however, are also sometimes used in cooking as a replacement for the very expensive saffron. Its leaves play a huge role in traditional medicine.
Types of Safflower Oil
There are two main strains of the safflower, and each produces a slightly different version of the oil. When the seeds are ready to be harvested, they are removed from the blooms, treated (if necessary) and then dried. Because of the naturally bitter taste of the safflower seed, all seeds for use in food products are treated. The seeds that are left untreated are later refined for use in industrial products. After the refinement process is completed, the seed mash that remains is added to grains used in livestock feeds.
The most common type is monounsaturated safflower oil. This oil makes the perfect cooking oil due to its very high smoking point (509 degrees, compared to the 460 degrees of canola oil). This high smoking point allows it to withstand high degrees of temperature without dissociating. Besides that, this oil is beneficial to the cardiovascular system when taken in due to its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids, something discussed here. The monounsaturated fatty acids also increase the safflower oil’s stability and so can be stored outside a refrigerator without turning rancid.
The other type of safflower oil contains high amounts of a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid called linoleic acid. This type of fatty acid is unfavorable to health and therefore has limited uses in cooking. It is mostly used for simple culinary uses which do not involve heat, such as in salad dressing. This variant of safflower oil has a natural lack of tint makes it a perfect additive to oil-based paints and many other oil-based products. In an industrial setting, safflower oil is often used as a “drying oil” in many stain removers, paints and other similar products which require quick evaporation.
Nutritional Contents of Safflower Oil
Like many other oils; safflower oil is a great source of healthy fats and vitamins. It is naturally very high in Vitamin E, which has been shown to assist the body in removing free radicals which subsequently lowers your risk of developing cancer or heart disease. In addition to that, Vitamin E also boosts your immune system, promotes blood circulation and helps to manage respiratory issues.
Safflower Oil Benefits And Its Medical Applications
One of the most exciting applications of safflower oil is its recent discovery as a possible source of human insulin. By introducing an outside gene into the safflower plant, pharmaceutical companies have successfully produced safflower-extracted insulin and are now testing its use on humans. The implications of this are huge, due to the constantly growing demand of insulin in the global market.
As a health supplement, many use safflower oil for its ability to promote nail and hair growth, especially women. Because it does not clog pores, it is also ideal for many massage oils and lotions. In fact, safflower oil has long been used in China as to promote circulation and relieve pain.