Family • Compositae - Carthamus tinctorius Linn. - SAFFLOWER - Hong hua

Scientific names

Carthamus glaber Burm. f.
Carthamus inermis Hegi
Carthamus tinctorius Linn.
Carthamus tinctorius var. albus Alef.
Carthamus dentatus Blanco
Carduus tinctorius (L.) Falk
Hong hua (Chin.)

Common names

Biri (Tag.)
Kasabha (Bis.)
Kasubha (Tag.)
Kasumba (Tag.)
Kachumba (Pamp.)
Lago (Tag.)
Parrot seed (Engl.)
Dyer’s saffron (Engl.)
Safflower (Engl.)
Fake saffron (Engl.)
Bastard saffron (Engl.)
Wild saffron (Engl.)
Da hong hua (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

ARABIC: Asfur, asfoor, usfur
CROATIAN: Bojadisarski bodalj, Šafranika.
CZECH: Azafrán, Světlice barvířská.
DANISH: Farvetidsel, Safflor..
DUTCH: Carthamusbloem , Saffloer, Saffloer-bloem.
FINNISH: Värisaflori.
FRENCH: Carthame des teinturiers, Fleur de carthame, Graine de carthame, Safran bâtard.
GERMAN: Färberdistel, Färbersaflor, Falscher Safran , Saflor.
GREEK: Knikos
HINDI: Kusum
HUNGARIAN: Magyar pirosító, Pórsáfrány, Sáfrányos szeklice, Szaflór, Szeklice.
ITALIAN: Cartamo, Falso zafferano.
JAPANESE: Beni bana.
KOREAN: Hong hwa.
PERSIAN: Gulrang.
PORTUGUESE: Açafrão-bastardo, Cártamo, Falso-açafrão.
RUSSIAN: Saflor, Saflor krasil’nyi.
SLOVENIAN: Barvilni rumenik, Barvilni žafran, Žafranika.
SLOVAKIAN: Požlt farbiarska.
SPANISH: Alazor, Alazor bastardo, Azafrán bastardo, Cártamo.
SWEDISH: Färgtistel, Safflor.
TURKISH: Safran yalancı, Yalancı safran.
URDU:Gul rang
VIETNAMESE: Cây rum, Hồng hoa.

Kasubha is an erect, branched, smooth herb, 30 to 90 centimeters high. Leaves are stalkless, half-clasping, lanceolate, 5 to 10 centimeters long, 1 to 2.5 centimeters wide, but smaller toward the top, with margins minutely spiny toothed. Flowering heads are large, surrounded by a cluster of leafy bracts which gradually become the bracts of the involucre, 2.5 to 4 centimeters across. Flowers are orange-red. The achenes, often deformed, are obovoid, usually 4-ribbed and truncate at the top. Pappus is absent or scalelike.


– Planted here and there for dyeing purposes.
Nowhere spontaneous.
– Native of Egypt.


– Flowers yield a coloring principle, carthamin.
– Seeds contain a fixed oil, 28.7%; proteins, 14.11%; cellulose, 30.6%.
– Flowers yielded eight compounds: palmitic acid, 1-O-hexadecanolenin, trans-3-tridecene-5,7,9,11-tetrayne-1,2-diol, trans-trans-3,11-tridecadiene -5,7,9-triyne -1,2-diol, coumaric acid, daucosterol, apigenin and kaempferol.
-Flower petals have yielded carthamin, safflor yellows A and B, Safflormin A and C, isocarthamin, isocarthamidin, hydroxysafflor yellow A. A water fraction yielded four compounds, viz., 6-hydroxykaempferol 3-O-glucoside, 6-hydroxykaempferol 7-O-glucoside (2, a new compound), kaempferol 3-O-rutinoside and quercetin 3-O-glucoside.


– Considered tonic, laxative, diaphoretic, abortifacient.
– Seeds and oil considered purgative and laxative.
– Flowers considered tonic and emmenagogue.

Parts used
Flowers, seeds, oil.

– Dye from flowers used as substitute for saffron, for coloring food. Not valued as a spice.
– Oil from the seeds is a valuable and edible oil.
– In China, young shoots eaten in time of scarcity.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Carthamus tinctorius L. prevents LPS-induced TNFalpha signaling activation and cell apoptosis through JNK1/2-NFkappaB pathway inhibition in H9c2 cardiomyoblast cells / Tien YC, Lin JY et al / J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Aug 9;130(3):505-513. Epub 2010 Jun 9.

(2) Safflower: Research Update

(a) Effect of saffor (Carthamus tinctorius) injection on renal ischemia/reperfusion injury in rats / Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2006 Nov;31(21):1814-8 / Gao F, Wu XH, Luo CL, He YF, Zhang LS, Yang

(b) An anti-estrogenic lignan glycoside, tracheloside, from seeds of Carthamus tinctorius / Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2006 Nov;70(11):2783-5 / Yoo HH, Park JH, Kwon SW

(c) Serotonin derivatives, major safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) seed antioxidants, inhibit low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation and atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein E-deficient mice / J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Jul 12;54(14):4970-6.

(d) Pharmacokinetics and excretion of hydroxysafflor yellow A, a potent neuroprotective agent from safflower, in rats and dogs / Planta Med. 2006 Apr;72(5):418-23 / Chu D, Liu W, Huang Z, Liu S, Fu X, Liu K.

(e) Study on the antioxidative effect of Safflor Yellow / Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2004 May;29(5):447-9 / Jin M, Li JR, Wu W.

(f) Effects of defatted safflower seed extract and phenolic compounds in diet on plasma and liver lipid in ovariectomized rats fed high-cholesterol diets.:J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2004 Feb;50(1):32-7.Cho SH, Lee HR, Kim TH, Choi SW, Lee WJ, Choi Y

(g) Antioxidative flavonoids from leaves of Carthamus tinctorius.:Arch Pharm Res. 2002 Jun;25(3):313-9.Lee JY, Chang EJ, Kim HJ, Park JH, Choi SW

(h) A study on the teratogenic and cytotoxic effects of safflower extract.:J Ethnopharmacol. 2000 Dec;73(3):453-9.Nobakht M, Fattahi M, Hoormand M, Milanian I, Rahbar N, Mahmoudian M.

(i) Hypotensive effects of safflower yellow in spontaneously hypertensive rats and influence on plasma renin activity and angiotensin II level:Yao Xue Xue Bao. 1992;27(10):785-7.Liu F, Wei Y, Yang XZ, Li FG, Hu J, Cheng RF

(j) The inhibitory effect of a herbal formula comprising ginseng and carthamus tinctorius on breast cancer

(3) Carthamus Tinctorius Enhances the Antitumor Activity of Dendritic Cell Vaccines via Polarization toward Th1 Cytokines and Increase of Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes / Jia-Ming Chang, Le-Mei Hung et al / eCAM, doi:10.1093/ecam/nen068

(4) Analgesic properties of “CF” extracted from safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) seeds and potential for its use in medicine / A M Popova, I A Li, D I Kang / Pharmaceutical Chemistry Journal, Volume 43, Number 1 / January, 2009 / DOI 10.1007/s11094-009-0233-z

(5) Two New Quinochalcones from the Florets of Carthamus tinctorius / Jian-Shuang Jiang et al / Org. Lett., 2010, 12 (6), pp 1196–1199 / DOI: 10.1021/ol902971w

(6) Determination of Mineral Content in Methanolic Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) Seed Extract and Its Effect on Osteoblast Markers / Young Seok Lee, Chang Won Choi et al / Int J Mol Sci. 2009 January; 10(1): 292–305. / Published online 2009 January 12 / doi: 10.3390/ijms10010292.

(7) Sorting Carthamus names / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher, / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / A Work in Progress. School of Agriculture and Food Systems. Faculty of Land & Food Resources. The University of Melbourne. Australia.

(8) Carthamus tinctorius Enhances the Antitumor Activity of Dendritic Cell Vaccines via Polarization toward Th1 Cytokines and Increase of Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes / Jia-Ming Chang, Le-Mei Hung, Yau-Jan Chyan, Chun-Ming Cheng, and Rey-Yuh Wu / Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 274858, 10 pages / doi:10.1093/ecam/nen068

(9) The effects of the extracts from Carthamus tinctorius L. on gene expression related to cholesterol metabolism in rats / Teerakul Arpornsuwan*, Khaimuk Changsri, Sittiruk Roytrakul and Tadsanee Punjanon / Songklanakarin J. Sci. Technol. 32 (2), 129-136, Mar. – Apr. 2010

(10) Protective effects of dietary Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) on experimental coccidiosis / Lee, Sunghyen
Lillehoj, Hyun et al / Journal of Poultry Science. 46:155-162. /

(11) Antiulcer screening of Carthamus tinctorius on volume and acidity of stimulated gastric secretion in rats / Rajesh Mandade, SA Sreenivas, Ravi Wanare / Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics, 2012, 3:185-8 / DOI: 10.4103/0976-500X.95525

(12) Hair Growth-Promoting Effect of Carthamus tinctorius Floret Extract / Jintana Junlatat and Bungorn Sripanidkulchai* / Phytotherapy Research, 11 Dec 2013 / DOI: 10.1002/ptr.5100

(13) Stimulation of melanogenesis by Carthamus tinctorius floret extract in B16F10 murine melanoma cells / Jintana Juniatat, Bungom Sripandikutchai / 021-KKU / http://pharm.kku.ac.th/isan-journal/journal/volumn9-no1/003-Aesthetic/Page221.pdf

(14) Studies on chemical components of Carthamus tinctorius petals / Li Y1, Che Q. / Yao Xue Xue Bao. 1998 Aug;33(8):626-8.

(15) Comparative study of four safflower oils (Carthamus tinctorius) varieties grown in eastern of Morocco /
Abdessamad Ben moumen, Farid Mansouri, Lamyae Zraibi, Malika Abida Abedlghani Nabloussi, Marie-Laure Fauconnier , Mariane Sindic Ahmed El amrani,and Hana Serghini Caid / InsideFood Symposium, 9-12 April 2013

(16) Effects of Carthamus tinctorius L. on the ovarian histomorphology and the female reproductive hormones in mice / Ali Louei Monfared∗, Amir Parviz Salati / Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine Received: Oct 2, 2012; Accepted: Jan 13, 2013 Vol. 3, No. 2, Spring 2013, 171-177

(17) Effect of Carthamus tinctorius (Safflower) on fasting blood glucose and insulin levels in alloxan induced diabetic rabbits / Nasreen Qazi, Rafeeq Alam Khan, Ghazala H Rizwani and Zeeshan Feroz / Pak. J. Pharm. Sci., Vol.27, No.2, March 2014, pp.377-380

– Hot infusion of dried flowers used as a diaphoretic in jaundice, nasal catarrh and muscular rheumatism.
– Cold infusion used as a laxative and tonic in measles and scarlatina to favor efflorescence of eruptions.
– In Indochina, flowers are given for dysmenorrhea and paralysis, as tonic and emmenagogue.
– In China, plant is used as abortifacient and to expel retained placenta.
– Plant boiled in sesamum oil is used as remedy for itches.
– Medicated oil prepared from the plant used as external application for rheumatism and paralysis.
– Flowers used for hair growth.
– In Punjab, seeds used as diuretic and tonic.
– In Thailand used as herbal tea to reduce cholesterol and prevent atherosclerosis.
– In Korea, seeds used as folk medicine to enhance bone formation or prevent osteoporosis.

Dye: Dye is impermanent; colors silk a brilliant scarlet, but is not permanent. Used in the preparation of toilet rouges. for which it is mixed with powdered talc.
Oil: Oil from the seed used in making soap and candles; also used as lubricant and in candle-making.

Study Findings
• Cardioprotective Against LPS-Induced Apoptosis: Study showed Carthamus tinctorius possesses the ability to suppress JNK activity and inhibit LPS-induced TNF-a activation and apoptosis in H9c2 cardiomyoblast cells. CT can potentially cardioprotective against LPS-induced apoptosis.
• Cardioprotective / Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury: Study showed Carthamus tinctorius extract could protect myocardium damage induced by I/R injury. The mechanism of cardioprotection may be associated with inhibition of apoptosis of myocardium, upregulating protein expression of Bcl-2 gene and downregulated protein expression of Bax gene.
• Renoprotective: Study showed injection of safflor significantly reduced the renal dysfunction and injury caused by I/R (ischemia/reperfusion) of the kidney, effected probably due to inhibition of cell apoptosis and caspase-3 gene expression.
• Tracheloside / Anti-Estrogenic Lignan Glycoside: Tracheloside, isolated from the seeds of CT significantly decreased the activity of alkaline phosphatase, an estrogen-inducible marker enzyme, against cultured ishikawa cells, at a level of inhibition comparable to tamoxifen.
• Anti-Atherosclerotic / Antioxidant / LDL-Lowering: Study showed serotonin derivatives of extract of safflower seeds attenuate atherosclerotic lesion development possibly through inhibition of oxidized LDL formation through strong antioxidative activity.
• Neuroprotective: Study showed HSYA (hydroxysafflor yellow A) dose-dependently improved the neurological deficit scores and reduced the cerebral infarct area in a potency similar to the therapeutic effects of nimodipine on cerebral ischemia.
• Antioxidant / Safflor Yellow: Study showed SY is an antioxidatve part of Carthamus tinctorius.
• Polyphenols / Lipid Benefits: Study showed safflower polyphenols improved blood lipids by increasing the HDL-cholesterol formation and cholesterol excretion without significant uterotropic action in estrogen-deficient animals.
• Flavanoids / Antioxidants: Study isolated eight flavonoids. Luteolin-acetyl-glucoside and quercetin-acetyl-glucoside showed potent antioxidative activities.
• Teratogenic and Cytotoxic Effects of Safflower Extract / Coloring and Flavoring Use: Study showed that in higher doses, changes in cellular orientation and cellular degeneration were observed. also, cytotoxic assay demonstrated a concentration-dependent cytotoxic effect of the carthami flos extract. It suggests reconsideration of use as food additive.
• Hypotensive Effect: Study using SY, a mixture of chalconoid compounds extracted from CT lowered the blood pressure of spontaneously hypertensive rats. Results suggest the decrease to be mediated by the renin-angiotensin system.
• Breast Cancer Inhibitory Effect: The compound Zhyu-xiang, derived from extracts containing ginseng and carthamus tinctorius, was studied on treatment of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell andhuman mammary gland cell lines. Zhu-xiang showed significant dose-dependent inhibition in cell proliferation, greater than that of commonly used cytotoxic drugs. The inhibitory effect was due to induction of apoptosis, both time- and concentration-dependent. Results suggest Zhu-xiang could be a useful anticancer compound against breast cancer.
• Immunomodulatory / Antitumor Activity: Study showed the Carthamus tinctorius could promote immunity through the activation of DCs per se.
• Analgesic Activity: Study showed CF oil extracted from safflower seeds is a natural local anesthetic with moderate analgesic activity mediated through influences on the serotoninergic and monoaminergic pathways. It has a potential to occupy a leading place among local anesthetics used in traditional medicine, acupuncture, and medical massage.
• Quinochalcones / Anti-Inflammatory: Study isolated two new quinochalcone compounds – saffloquinoside A and saffloquinoside B – from the florets of C tinctorius. Saffloquinoside A exhibited middling anti-inflammatory activity.
• Bone Formation Benefits: Study in Sprague-Dawley rats showed a significant increase of osteoblast markers – osteocalcin and bone-specific alkaline phosphatase. The effect appears likely to be mediated by IGF-I at the early stages of treatment.
• Antioxidant / Radical Scavenging: Study of crude extract showed antioxidant activities in various assays: DPPH scavenging, ABTS+ radical scavenging and superoxide anion radical scavenging.
• Antidiabetic / Hypolipidemic: Study of a hydroalcoholic extract in diabetic male Wistar rats showed decreases in FBS, triglycerides, LDL and VLDL. Blood sugar lowering effect was comparable to glibenclamide.
• Antitumor: Study evaluated the antitumor activity of CT extract on dendritic cell (DC)-based vaccine in cancer treatment. Results showed a dose-dependent dramatic increase of the levels of TNF-a and IL-1ß, with more immunologic and co-stimulatory molecules expressed on the DC surface.
• Hepatoprotective: Study of a methanolic extract showed a hepatoprotective (antioxidant and anti-inflammatory) effect against CCl4-induced hepatotoxicity in rats as evidenced by biochemical parameters and histopathological findings.
• Hypolipidemic / Effects on Gene Expression: Study evaluated the hypolipidemic effect of various fractionation of crude extract. Results showed the dichlormethane extract to reduce the total cholesterol/HDL-cholesterol of hyperlipidemic rats. The results may partly be due to a decrease in the HDL-cholesterol and gene encoding enzymes of the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway.
• Antiulcer: Study showed an extract from Ct showed an antiulcerogenic effect, which may be due to its calcium channel blocking activity.
• Hair-Promoting Growth: Study examined the potential of hydroxysafflor yellow A-rich C. tinctorius extract on hair growth in vitro and in vivo. C. tinctorius floret ethanolic extract promoted the proliferation of both dermal papilla cells and HaCaT and significantly stimulated hair growth-promoting genes. It suppressed expression of transforming factor ß-1, the hair loss-related gene. Results suggest a potential for use as a hiar-growth promoting agent.
• Anti-Infammatory / Heme Oxygenase-1 Induction: Heme oxygenases (HO) are cytoprotective enzymes that degrade heme, generating CO, bilirubin, and ferrous iron, products with antioxidant, antiapoptotic, antithrombotic, and anti-inflammatory actions. Study evaluated methanol exhibited anti-inflammatory action , probably through induction of HO-1 expression via Nrf2 translocation and inhibition of NF-kB activity.
• Stimulation of Melanogenesis / Gray Hair Treatment: Study evaluated the effect of Carthamus tinctorius floret ethanolic extract on melanogenesis in murine melanoma cells. Results showed the CTE can stimulate melanogenesis at the transcriptional levels without cytotoxicity, with a potential as a gray hair treatment product.
• Female Reproductive Concerns: Study evaluated the possible effects of C. tinctorius on ovarian histomorphology and levels of female reproductive hormones in mice. Treatment with extracts showed detrimental effects with reduction in the number of ovarian follicles with an increase in atretic follicles, together with decrease in blood levels of FSH and estrogen.
• Antidiabetic: Study evaluated the effect of C. tinctorius on fasting blood glucose and insulin levels in alloxan induced diabetic rabbits. Results showed significant hypoglycemic effect together with significantly increased insulin levels in extract treated and glibenclamide treated groups as compared to diabetic control.

Oil, seeds, supplements in the cybermarket.