Safflower (botanical name Carthamus tinctorius) is mainly cultivated for the plant's utility as a food and herbal medication. This plant is indigenous to India and Iran in Asia and North Africa. However, these days safflower plants are grown in several regions of the globe, including various parts of North America.
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Safflower plants grow up to a height of 3 feet (about 1 meter) and it produces flowers in red and white hues. Generally, these plants are harvested during summer. The seeds of safflower are small, conical and have a white hue. These seeds are quite akin to those of the black-oil sunflower seeds that are loaded with fat and protein.
Often, safflower seeds are fed to birds. One major advantage of safflower seeds compared to various other types of seeds is that only specific birds and squirrels consume them. As a result, safflower plants enable people to be further selective regarding the specific birds they draw to their feeders. In other words, pollinating the seeds is limited to only a section of birds and animals. In case pigeons, doves, blackbirds, squirrels and crackers flock to your feeder and they drive away the birds you would like to visit the feeder, it is advised that you may try using safflower seeds.
Safflower has been cultivated since long. It is interesting to learn that this plant has been cultivated since the time of King Tut. This is evident from the fact that safflower seeds were found in the king's tomb.
In present times, safflower seed is considered to be a minor commercial crop. In all, just about 800,000 tonnes of these seeds are produced worldwide annually.
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The oil extracted from safflower seeds is primarily used as cooking oil. In addition, safflower oil is also used in salad dressings and to produce margarine. Safflower seed oil or simply safflower oil is colorless and does not have any flavour. As far as its nutrient content is concerned, it is similar to that of sunflower oil. Safflower seed oil also has commercial use. For instance, it is used as a substitute for linseed oil in the manufacture of paint products, especially in the manufacture of white paint since this oil is colorless and does not have the yellowish tint of linseed oil.
It has been established that safflower seed oil encloses elevated concentration of linoleic acid (LA). As a result this oil is an excellent moisturizer and, at the same time, nurtures as well as restructures the skin when it is used in creams, lip care products and balms. It also has a number of industrial uses and is used as a drying or semi-drying agent for manufacturing paints and various surface coatings. It may seem to be incredible, but safflower seed oil can also be used as a substitute for diesel. However, different from various other vegetable oils that are used as diesel substitute, safflower seed oil is very expensive for this purpose.
It is worth mentioning here that safflower seeds are excellent for use as organic skincare products. It has been clinically proven that safflower seeds are extremely beneficial in reducing the levels of serum cholesterol. In addition, safflower seeds are widely used as a substitute for sunflower seeds in bird feeders. In present times, safflower seed, from which safflower oil is extracted, is used for a number of purposes - as a cooking oil, birdseed, in the food and paint industries and also foots (the residue left behind after the oil is extracted from the seeds) to make soaps. All said and done safflower plants are mainly cultivated for the oil extracted from their seeds.
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Safflower seeds offer us several health benefits, such as fight against anemia, alleviate headaches and soothe irritability. In addition, these seeds also support the health of our muscles, including the muscles of the heart, and help the bones to absorb more calcium from the ingested foods. The health benefits of safflower seeds are not limited to the above, but they also help in providing relieve from symptoms related to magnesium deficiency, for instance muscle spasms, eyelid twitching and also high blood pressure. At the same time, they support strong bones and teeth and promote digestion. Safflower seeds possess tonic as well as diuretic properties.
Safflower seeds, especially the oil extracted from them, are loaded with vitamin E in addition to unsaturated fatty acids - both vital for the health of our hair and skin. Hence, many skin and healthcare products contain this oil. You can directly rub the oil extracted from safflower seeds directly onto your nails to promote growth and, at the same time, moisturize the skin around the nails. In a way, this oil helps to prevent occurrence of many diseases associated with the skin and nails.
On the other hand, you can also apply safflower seed oil onto your scalp to nurture the skin and also decrease redness. In addition, applying this oil also helps to repair the damaged hair and make it healthy and lustrous.
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Findings of many studies undertaken to examine the health benefits of safflower seeds and safflower seed oil have shown that consuming small amounts (roughly 1-2 tablespoons) of the safflower seed oil every day resulted in considerable lessening of belly fat in women, especially those in post-menopausal stage. It seems that this effect of safflower seed oil is caused by controlling the levels of blood sugar and also regulating insulin response. This, in turn, results in enhanced fat burning response by the body.
In general, as far as the nutritional value of safflower seeds are concerned, they are an excellent source of essential minerals like iron, phosphorus, manganese and various vitamins, including vitamin E, vitamin B1, vitamin B6 and vitamin B9. In addition, these seeds also enclose sufficient amounts of fatty acids. Consuming a moderate amount of safflower seeds seem to be beneficial for the health of the cardiovascular system and the muscle health. In addition, it also promotes the various activities of our nervous system. Iron and B vitamins provided by safflower seeds also help to improve the metabolism process of energy and provide the body with sufficient energy. In effect, these small seeds are power house of energy and consuming them boosts the energy level significantly.
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Aside from supplying the body with outstanding energy and being useful for the health of our skin and hair, safflower seeds offer several other health benefits. These seeds facilitate in promoting muscle tone, enhancing memory and concentration, supporting the immune system, shielding the nervous system and its cells, preventing anemia, Beriberi as well as paralysis and death in newborns.
Safflower seeds enclose roughly 35 percent unsaturated fatty acids, which mainly comprise oleic acid (omega-9 fatty acids) and linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acids). Findings of several studies undertaken to examine the health benefits of safflower seeds and the outcome dietary fatty acids vis-à-vis the health of our cardiovascular system showed that taking a diet loaded with healthy unsaturated fatty acids, for instance the Mediterranean diet, helps in lowering the levels of "bad" or low density lipo-protein (LDL) cholesterol. At the same time, a diet rich in unsaturated fatty acids also aids in regulating the blood pressure and keep the blood vessels healthy as well as elastic as the fatty acids possess potent antioxidant properties.
The most important issue is to preserve a healthy ratio of the different essential omega fatty acids. Ideally, the ration of omega-3 to omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids should be 1:1 or 1:3. It is important to incorporate fatty acids in our diet either as safflower oil, olive oil, sunflower oil or linseed oil. You may also consume sesame seeds, walnuts, safflower seeds or sunflower seeds to get enough of unsaturated fatty acids. All these will have positive consequences on your cardiovascular system and keep it healthy. At the same time, intake of unsaturated fatty acids will help in reducing the mortality rates, especially deaths caused by high blood pressure, elevated levels of cholesterol and various diseases related to the cardiovascular system.