Safflower oil

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Safflower oil
Safflower oil

There are many ignored and unattended species of cultivable crops which are crying out for research and investigation. In this article, we are in an attempt to throw some light upon safflower seeds, safflower oil and various aspects related to it.

A Brief Overview

Safflower crop has been cultivated since a long time. Ages ago, it was cultivated majorly for painting and dying purposes, but now, its uses extend to cooking, medicinal usage and flavouring foods.

Safflower, a relative of sunflower family, is a minor crop which is mainly used for domestic reasons. Half of the safflower production is attributed to India, for its use as edible oil and in painting industry. China also produces safflower but only for its medicinal properties domestically.

Scientific review

Safflower belongs to the Carthamus genus with biological name Carthamus tinctorius. It is known by a plethora of names worldwide. Some of the most common names of safflower are kusum, honghua, karar, Khartum, suban, et al. Because of its saffron like properties, yet cheap rate, it is also known as false saffron or bastard saffron.

The safflower plant is an annual and a spiny plant with bright coloured flowers blooming in July. The plant is vulnerable to frost injury and extreme cold climates. It germinates through self-pollination but can also be spread by cross-pollination through birds and insects.

What is safflower oil?
An image of Safflower Oil

Safflower oil is extracted from the seeds of safflower crop. Safflower oil finds extensive applications in painting, dying and food industry, besides being used in a variety of commercial products.

Production regions of safflower oil

Safflower crop is mostly produced in areas or regions possessing a warm and dry climate with suitable moisture content in the atmosphere.

Safflower oil production can be classified as domestic and international. Locally, India and China produce significant amount of safflower oil but not known internationally.

Some export based countries involved in safflower oil production are Mexico, Canada, Australia and USA.

Types of Safflower oil

Safflower oil comes in two varieties based on the type and percentage content of fatty acids. The first type which contains oleic acid or monounsaturated fatty acids is more predominant in the market while the other type consists of linolenic acid or polyunsaturated fatty acids. The former one is considered healthier because of its low saturation.

Uses of safflower oil

Safflower oil has manifold uses since historical times. Some of the uses are listed below:

  1. Historically, it was used for colouring cotton and silk and also to anoint mummies before binding them. Nowadays, it is used in making red and yellow dyes, based on the pigment Carthamine found in safflower.
  2. Safflower oil was also used as a cure in fever and sweating problems.
  3. Safflower foliage made tea is used for prevention of abortion and women infertility.
  4. Tender leaves of safflower are eaten as side dish alongwith the main diet.
  5. Safflower and all its parts are rich in medicinal values. It provides relief in cardiovascular diseases, swelling and pains and also in menstrual problems.
  6. Owing to its bitter taste, it is used as a bird feeder in fields and protection of crops.
  7. Safflower oil, due to its high saturation content, is widely used in cooking and salad dressing.
  8. Painting is another area where safflower oil finds significant place as white shade, unlike other painting oils which leave a yellow tint on the fabric.
  9. Obesity is a worldwide cause of worry today. Safflower oil helps in burning excessive fats which lowers down the weight.
  10. Safflower oil is a good source of vital hormones which strengthen the body cells and also makes the hair and skin shinier, glooming and healthier.
  11. Safflower oil, because of its property to retain moisture, is spread on other edible products to prevent them from losing their water content.
  12. Safflower oil is non-allergenic, thus used in a number of cosmetics for skin and hair care.
  13. The portion of safflower left after extraction of the oil is used for feeding animals like cows, cattle and swine.
  14. Safflower, after being debittered, is used in nutritional drinks.
Some drawbacks

Safflower oil is not isolated from disadvantages. Disproportionate use of safflower oil can result in various allergies of skin, hair and even internal organs. The oil is very much prone to damage by unsuitable climate. The safflower oil goes rancid if kept outside for prolonged period. Hence, careful handling of safflower oil is needed.

A final word

With increasing demands of low saturated and healthy diet requirements, research is being done on safflower to make it more usable and known to the world and also increase its production as edible oil. Because of its quinonian paint and dye properties, it also finds huge scope in painting as well as dying industry.

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