An initiative of :

Wageningen University

Sitekeuring.NET Award> Food Products > Spices

Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius)

Plant family

Asteraceae (aster family)

Botanical synonyms



Mediterranean .

Used plant part


Sensoric quality

Very weak, herbaceous.

Main constituents

Safflor flowers contain carthamin, a dye of flavonoid type, but no essential oil.

The plant is widely cultivated for an edible oil, which is extracted from the seeds. It contains triglycerides of the doubly unsaturated linoleic acid (70%) and the triply unsaturated linolenic acid (10%); the latter is, together with the comparatively high content of vitamin E (310 ppm), responsible for the good reputation of safflower oil among nutrition scientists. Iodine index is rather high, ranging from 140 to 150.

Safflower (dried flowers)


The orange-red flowers of safflower sometimes serve as a substitute for saffron, since they give a (rather pale) colour to the food. They are frequently sold as saffron to tourists in Hungary or Northern Africa (and probably many other parts of the world). Their value as spice is nearly nil, but their staining capability justifies usage in the kitchen.

Although dried safflower flowers might appear occasionally in Mediterranean herb mixes, they are not typical for any cuisine, with one possible exception: Cookbooks from Georgia cuisine mention an mysterious yellow flower called Imeretian saffron, which probably is Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus), but might also be marigold (Tagetes erecta) or safflower. None of these flowers has much flavour, and so one may well substitute the other.

ource :

European Masters Degree in Food Studies - an Educational Journey

Master in Food Safety Law is an initiative of Wageningen University, The Netherlands