Benefits and side effects of Safflower Oil?

June 3, 2015 at 2:00 PM

Safflower oil has lots of benefits and helps in weight loss, skin care or respiratory problems. This article provides a detailed look at benefits and side effects of safflower oil with scientific explanation of why it helps and/or does harm. Hope it helps.

What is safflower oil?

Safflower is actually thistle-like (a group of flowering plants having sharp leaves) and herbaceous plant. The oil from this plant is generally obtained for making vegetable oil. The general length of the plant is 35 to 155 cm. The color of these flowers can either be red, orange or yellow. There are approximately two to five flower heads on a branch, and each flower head has in turn about 20 seeds. Safflower is widely cultivated in areas where it rains less. Also, it can be cultivated in areas with seasonal rains. A deeper taproot is grown on safflower, due to which it can survive in harsh climates.


According to the scientists, safflower is one of the oldest crops. A detailed analysis of safflower oil showed that it was used by people for making dyes, during the twelfth dynasty. Also, on the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, garlands were present, which were made from safflower oil. The Greek name for safflower is karthamos.

There are further two divisions of safflower oil. One of them is the weighed safflower, also known as the red safflower; the other one is the measured safflower, also known as the white safflower. In general, the red florets and the pale seeds are the two parts of the plant, which can be utilized. In the nineteen century, safflower was also popular by another name, carthamine.

In today’s world, safflower can be classified as a minor crop, meaning that, although it is expensive in cost, it isn’t cultivated widely. In more than 60 countries around the world, approximately 600,000 tons of the crop are cultivated. India, Mexico and the United States are among the major producers of this crop. On the other hand, the minor producers are the Arabs, Australia, Argentina, Kazakhstan and Ethiopia. Safflower is known by many other names. Some other names of safflower include Beni, Chimichanga and Sallflower. Kareza is the name of this crop in the Pushto language.

Safflower was originally grown for its seeds. It was generally used for coloring and flavoring foods. Also in medicines, safflower was widely used. It was also widely used for making dyes too. However, recently aniline dyes became available and now they are used because they are a bit cheaper. From the seeds of safflower, vegetable oil is extracted. This is one of the main reasons for the cultivation of this crop.

The two qualities of safflower oil are that it is flavorless and colorless. In appearance and other features, it is a bit similar to sunflower oil. It is generally used as a cooking oil and in cosmetics. Also, safflower seed oil is widely used for the production of margarine and in salad dressing. Safflower oil is also, sometimes, taken as a nutritional supplement. The INCI nomenclature of safflower seed oil is Carthamus tinctorius. Sometimes, birdfeeders, use safflower oil, instead of sunflower oil.The reason for this is that some animals, like squirrels, don’t like the taste of sunflower oil.

Different types of oil are generally formed by two types of safflower. One of them is high in polyunsaturated fatty acid and the other one is high in monounsaturated fatty acid. Now-a-days, the former one is being used in the market. In comparison to olive oil, it is lower in saturates. In painting, the high monounsaturated fatty acid is used in place of linseed oil. In particular, this oil is used for white paints. The reason behind this is that it doesn’t contain the yellowish texture present in linseed oil.

Safflower oil is also used in diet. It increases the production of adiponectin in the body- a protein responsible for regulating the production of fatty acid and the blood glucose. Recently in The Ohio State University, a study was done for 16 weeks. In the study, the comparison of conjugated linolenic acid and high-linolenic safflower oil was done. Also, in the study, the researchers studied the women who wanted to lose weight and also the women with high blood pressure and post-menopausal symptoms. When the participants of the study were given safflower oil, their belly fat reduced. Also, the production of adiponectin (the belly fat hormone) increased by 20 percent.

Another study related to safflower oil was done by Hornstra and his colleagues. In the study, the people who previously had suffered a heart attack, were given safflower oil instead of animal fats. The study showed that when the group was given more safflower oil in place of animal fats, the risk of death from coronary diseases and cardiovascular diseases decreased. In the Sydney Diet Heart Study, a person is likely to have less cholesterol in his blood if he consumes more omega-6 fatty acids coming from safflower oil.

Safflower is also used in cooking. It is used as a substitute of safflower. The safflower flowers are also used as a natural textile dye. The classification of the pigment in safflower is Quinone-type dye. Another name for it is CI Natural Red 26. It is a direct dye. In textiles, the most common colors are yellow, olive and mustard. The colors can further be changed into red and purple, when alkaline processing is used. Matural fibers such as wool and cotton, can be dyed with the plant.

Benefits of safflower oil

Now that you have a brief overview of the benefits of safflower oil, let us look at the benefits in more detail. 

Safflower oil for weight loss

If you need to change your diet plan for losing weight, all you need to do is to add safflower oil in your diet. Throughout the whole world, safflower oil has proved to be quite beneficial for people and has facilitated the weight loss process. People around the world have used safflower oil to become physically fit. According to different studies done so far (1), the serotonin levels in the body are increased by the consumption of safflower oil. The appetite of a person decreases greatly due to high serotonin levels in the body. Not only that but high serotonin levels improve your mood as well- so you don’t have to lose weight being depressed all the times! On the other hand, trying to lose weight through other methods can cause low serotonin in your body, which can manifest as overheating and depression. According to Dr. Oz, a well-known nutritionist, the consumption of safflower oil is very beneficial in losing weight (2).

If you’re consuming safflower oil, you’re more likely to shed off some kilos of your weight. Safflower oil does that by shedding off the ugly looking fat off your body. However, to lose weight, you should also reduce your caloric consumption, other than adding safflower oil to your diet. Research has shown that adding safflower oil to your diet can help you lose weight both through diet and indirect methods. A study relating to safflower oil was published in 2009 in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”. According to that study, use of safflower oil caused reduction in fat of the body and increased the lean mass- which is an indicator of weight loss. However, another study was done to find the effect of safflower oil on weight loss. The study showed that safflower oil doesn’t reduce the weight, however, the use of linolenic acid reduces weight. The reason for these mixed results from different studies is that safflower oil is not a low-calorie food. About 120 calories are present in 1 tablespoon of safflower oil. This amount is more as compared to other weight loss foods. However, it is equal to the caloric content in other oils and fats. 16 calories are present in 1 cup of celery, and in a cup of spinach contains just 7 calories. The idea for weight loss is simple, you need to burn more calories than you consume. So, if you eat too much safflower oil, you’re going to put on weight and not lose it. The key, therefore, is moderation!  

Safflower oil for lightening the skin

One of the main benefits of safflower oil is that it can be used for lightening the skin. As a skin lightening agent, safflower oil has been widely used and accepted. The skin of a person becomes soft, due to the use of safflower oil. Also, due to safflower oil, different impurities are removed from the skin.

To use safflower oil for skin, you can add a few drops of safflower oil in milk and then drink it daily before going to bed. Another way you can lighten you skin tone is by making safflower skin lotion. To make safflower lotion, add a few drops of safflower oil in a spoon of milk. Now take this lotion and massage it gently with water. After that, with the help of water, wash your skin. If you use it on regular basis, you will definitely see some changes in your skin. You can also put safflower oil in olive oil or coconut oil, and apply the mixture gently on your skin. You should remember one thing here that you will get the most benefits of safflower oil when you mix it with a liquid medium of some kind. A study was done in 2011 to find the effects of safflower oil on skin. The results of the study showed that safflower oil is quite beneficial for improving the tone, texture and appearance of the skin.

Safflower oil for fighting acne

Safflower oil is blessed with antibacterial properties too. Due to this, it is widely used for medicinal purposes. Use of safflower oil is very popular when it comes to acne. Acne is basically caused due to the growth of bacteria. Acne can cause a breakout if it isn’t handled properly. If you’re looking to reduce the growth of the bacteria and control the zits on your face, safflower oil can be your rescue. Safflower is full of antioxidant and due to these antioxidants, the skin is protected from harmful radicals and bacteria growth. All this adds up to give you a glowing and acne free skin.

To use safflower oil for fighting acne, you need to put some basil leaves in safflower oil and make a paste. Now apply the paste to your skin daily. This will reduce acne significantly. The anti-bacterial agents in both safflower oil and basil leaves will ward off the acne causing bacteria and will give you the youthful looking skin that you’ve always wanted.

Safflower oil for making skin flexible

Safflower oil can be added in bathing water for making the skin softer and over all lighter (3). Safflower is extremely efficient in rinsing off several impurities from different body parts, especially the skin. Also, the skin becomes fairer. For using safflower oil, add it in bathing water and bathe in that water for the next 25 minutes. This will soften your skin and will lighten up the tone of your skin as well.

Safflower oil reduces marks on skin

If you’re looking for ways to add to your beauty, safflower oil should make it your list as well. In fact, safflower oil is one of the main ingredient of several cosmetic products as well.

For using safflower oil on the skin, take turmeric powder and add it into water. Now add a few drops of safflower oil in it. Now thoroughly mix the ingredients, till they turns into a paste. Now apply the paste onto your skin and let it remain there for about 10 minutes. After that, wash it off. Use of this facemask will give you added benefits because turmeric is also a skin lightener and, when added to safflower oil, gives maximum benefits. If you don’t have turmeric, you can also use sandalwood powder. Safflower oil can also be mixed with other ingredients like milk and honey. Regular use of this mixture will also give you a glowing skin.

Safflower oil for removing suntan

The skin can become tan due to exposure to the sun. Even if you use sunscreen, you will have some tanning. Excessive tanning can result in wrinkling of the skin and dullness of skin tone. You can use safflower oil to reduce tanning. To use safflower oil for removing suntans, take some milk cream in a spoon and add safflower oil in it. Mixture the ingredients together and leave them for a night. On the next day, apply safflower oil on the tanned skin of the body. The dark patches, which have occurred due to sun heat, will be significantly reduced.

Safflower oil for hair

If you’re suffering from hair loss then going for natural ways of treatment is better than those good for nothing, expensive medicines and topical lotions. If these are your thoughts too then safflower oil what you need. Due to safflower oil, the new hair lines are formed and the hair follicles are healed. This happens because safflower oil has many antioxidants in it. According to some researchers, the use safflower oil is beneficial for baldness.

To use safflower oil for hair loss, take some milk and add safflower oil and licorice powder to it. Now apply this paste on the areas where hair is lost. Hair growth is promoted by the regular use of this safflower oil paste. Another way you can promote the growth of healthier hair is by mixing safflower oil with some other oil, say mustard oil. Mix these oils and massage your scalp with the mixture.

Safflower oil for treating respiratory issues

Different respiratory issues are treated by the use safflower oil. These include asthma, cold cough, whooping cough etc. The phlegm (a thick substance secreted by the mucous membrane) is loosened with the help of safflower oil.

Safflower oil for sexual health

Menstrual cramps and post-menstrual syndrome are some discomforting sexual problems among women. These problems can be cured with the help of safflower oil. Similarly, a big sexual problem among men is premature ejaculation. This problem can be dealt with the help of safflower oil. Not only that, but safflower oil also helps to improve male and female fertility. Many sexual illnesses can also be treated with the help of safflower oil.

Safflower oil for mental health

Safflower oil is quite beneficial for mental health issues like depression, and stress. It increases the production of serotonin levels in the body and helps you enjoy a normal mental health. Also, problems like insomnia can be treated with safflower oil. According to some reports, Alzheimer’s disease can also be treated with safflower oil.

Safflower oil against diabetes

Safflower oil is quite beneficial for the sufferers of diabetes (4). Doctors and medical healthcare professionals approve the use of safflower oil against diabetes and for lowering the blood sugar levels of the body. This is perhaps one of the biggest health benefits of the use of safflower oil. A research was recently conducted to find the effect of safflower oil on women with type 2 diabetes. The results of the study showed that safflower oil is quite beneficial against diabetes and diabetes related complications.

Safflower oil for digestion

Safflower oil is quite beneficial for digestion as the digestive system is strengthened by the use of safflower oil. For strengthening the functioning of stomach, you should add one gram of safflower oil in one liter of water and drink this elixir daily. Safflower oil can be used when the liver or spleen becomes too large.

Safflower oil for pregnancy

If you’re a pregnant female, you can use safflower oil to improve your pelvic flow of blood. Also, the cramps which accompany pregnancy, are reduced. To use safflower oil for pregnancy, you should add safflower oil in milk. Mood swings, depression, stress and tension can also be reduced due to the use of safflower oil during pregnancy.

Side effects of safflower oil

Many polyunsaturated fats can be obtained from safflower oil. The cholesterol levels of the body are lowered due to these polyunsaturated fats. The risks of heart diseases can be lowered due to the presence of polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are quite beneficial, when used instead of saturated fats. However, this poses a problem. It has been seen that polyunsaturated fats decrease the levels of bad cholesterol in the body. But, according to some studies, they also decrease the levels of good cholesterol in the body too. This poses a serious risk to the body. To counter this effect, olive oil can be used alongside safflower oil. This will help counter the effect of safflower oil, and the good cholesterol levels in the body, won’t be lowered.

Safflower oil is quite deficient in vitamin E - one of the most potent natural anti-oxidants. The use of this vitamin in the body is important for the removal of free radicals from the body. This reduces oxidative damage and also reduces the risks of many serious health conditions, including cancer. So, , if you want to increase the vitamin E consumption, it is better to use coconut oil and macadamia oil, instead of safflower oil.

Excessive use of safflower oil can be the result of kidney issues. In 2000, a study was done in Japan. In that study, safflower oil was given to hypersensitive rats. The quantity of proteins in the urine was increased in the rats. This indicates that damage was caused to the kidneys. This effect is particular more prominent in individuals who have strokes or have existing kidney and heart diseases.

Sometimes, allergic reactions can be seen by the use safflower oil. Safflowers are included in the same family as daises. People who are sensitive to daises should definitely avoid safflower oil. Also, people who are sensitive to mugwort and ragweed should definitely avoid safflower oil.

Gastrointestinal problems can also be caused due to safflower oil. Some people, who were taking safflower supplements, reported suffering from nausea, vomiting and stomach problems. The blood pressure of a person is also lowered, if safflower oil is taken in large quantities. So, it’s better for you to consult a doctor before taking safflower oil, if you are suffering from hypotension (abnormally low blood pressure) (5). Some bleeding disorders can also be caused by safflower oil. So, people who have decided to undergo or have recently undergone surgery, should avoid safflower oil.

The bottom line

This article provided you with detailed information on safflower oil and its benefits and side effects. Despite the fact that safflower oil is quite beneficial for our health it may have some negative effects and therefore you should only take it following a prior approval of your physician. Talk to your doctor and ask him or her whether safflower oil is good for you or not.

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Written by: Michal Vilímovský (EN)
Education: Physician
Article resources: See numbered references within the article
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Published: June 3, 2015 at 2:00 PM
Next scheduled update: June 3, 2017 at 2:00 PM
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