Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual plant. It is commercially cultivated for vegetable oil extracted from the seeds.
Safflower seed oil is flavorless and colorless, and nutritionally similar to sunflower oil. It is used mainly in color cosmetics and dye fabrics. Safflower seed oil is used as a paint solvent.
In foods, safflower seed oil is used as a cooking oil ,in salad dressing, and for the production of margarine.
There are two types of safflower that produce different kinds of oil: one high in monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid) and the other high in polyunsaturated fatty acid (linoleic acid). Currently the predominant edible oil market is for the former, which is lower in saturated fats than olive oil. The latter is used in painting in the place of linseed oil, particularly with white paints, as it does not have the yellow tint which linseed oil possesses.
Oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, notably linoleic acid, are considered to have some health benefits. One human study compared high-linoleic safflower oil with conjugated linoleic acid, showing that body fat decreased and adiponectin levels increased in obese women consuming safflower oil.
The assumed benefits of linoleic acid in the case of heart disease are less obvious: in one study where high-linoleic safflower oil replaced animal fats in the diets of patients with heart disease, the group receiving safflower oil in place of animal fats had a significantly higher risk of death from all causes, including cardiovascular diseases. In the same study, a meta-analysis of linoleic acid used in intervention clinical trials showed no evidence of cardiovascular benefit.
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