Don’t let its weed-like appearance fool you! The humble safflower may not be as pretty or fragrant as the rose, but it is one of the oldest, most versatile crops in history! Safflower is a dandelion-like flower that is commercially grown for many different uses. India, the United States and Mexico are the top commercial producers of safflower.
Here are some of the many ways safflower can be used:
- Safflower oil, made by pressing the seeds, is a popular, flavourless vegetable oil used for cooking and salad dressings.
- Safflower oil is used in the production of margarine.
- The oil can be used as a massage oil.
- The oil can be used as a paint solvent and varnish.
- The oil is often used in oil paintings to thin out the paint and soften the colours.
- It is used in cosmetics as a dye.
- The flower is also an ingredient in lotions, lip balm, shampoos and conditioners.
- The flower heads are edible and can be used as a less expensive alternative to saffron.
- The leaves of young plants can be eaten as vegetables.
- Dried stalks can be used to create fuel or to make paper.
- The flower heads can be used to create natural yellow and red dyes for textiles.
- It could be taken as nutritional supplement used to prevent heart disease.
- Safflower seeds are food for birds, an alternative to sunflower seeds.
- Safflower can be used to flavour soft drinks.
- Dried safflowers is used in Chinese traditional herbal medicine to relieve pain, menstrual symptoms and increase circulation.
- In India, the flowers are used for their laxative properties.
- Safflower herbal tea can help relieve colds, coughs and fevers.
- And last, but not least, safflowers make lovely cut flowers!