Properties and Benefits of Safflower Seeds

Also known as false saffron, safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) is a proud member of the thistle family. Safflower seeds are the main source of vegetable safflower oil and a rich source of unsaturated fatty acids, notably Omega-9 and Omega-6. Various clinical studies reported that a moderate safflower seed and oil consumption is beneficial for cardiovascular health, as long as there is also a healthy Omega-3 intake.

Another study suggests that a small to moderate consumption of safflower seeds is efficient in reducing belly fat especially in post-menopausal women. Preliminary research shows that safflower oil and seeds may help reduce insulin sensitivity, again in post-menopausal women, and lower both cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. At the same time, it is important to remember that one food does not make or break your diet. Whatever the benefits you are looking to get when eating a certain food.

Safflower seeds benefits

What does safflower look like?

The safflower plant looks very similar in appearance to an ordinary thistle plant, except for its bright yellow and orange flowers. Similar to thistles, safflower plants have deep roots which allow them to thrive in arid soils and regions with little rainfall. The plant can grow up to 1.5-2 meters in height and is known to have been cultivated since ancient times. Safflower flowers contain between 10 to 20 pale, pointy, white, edible seeds of no particular flavor, from which safflower seed oil, a vegetable oil commonly used for cooking, is made.

  • Safflower seed oil info

Safflower seed oil is the edible oil extracted from safflower seeds. Because safflower seed oil has little to no smell or taste, it has come to replace regular sunflower seed oil, canola oil, peanut oil and other types of relatively tasteless (or neutral-tasting), odorless oils in cooking. Although most of the safflower seed production goes into making safflower oil, a small part is sold for the production of food supplements. Dried or powder safflower flowers are used as a culinary spice.

Safflower seeds

What are the health benefits?

Taking into account the nutritional profile of the seeds, the following 5 health effects stand out:

  • Rich in mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids

Safflower seeds are about 35% unsaturated fatty acids, mostly oleic (Omega-9) and linoleic (Omega-6) fatty acids. According to numerous studies focusing on the effects of dietary fatty acids on cardiovascular health, a diet rich in healthy unsaturated fatty acids, such as the Mediterranean diet, helps reduce cholesterol levels, regulates blood pressure and maintains blood vessels healthy and elastic due to the antioxidants properties of the fatty acids.

The key is to maintain a healthy ratio of 1:1 (ideal) or 1:3 Omega 3 to Omega 6 and 9 fatty acids. Including fatty acids in one’s diet diet, either in the form of olive oil, sunflower oil, linseed oil or safflower oil or in the form of walnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds or safflower seeds can have positive effects on cardiovascular health and reduce mortality associated to cardiovascular disease by lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

  • Important source of B vitamins

Safflower seeds are an excellent source of thiamine, pyridoxine and folate.

  • 90-100% of the RDI of vitamin B1 per 100 g
  • 90% of the RDI of vitamin B6 per 100 g
  • 40% of the RDI of vitamin B9 per 100 g of safflower seeds

In addition to ensuring good energy levels, safflower seeds help promote muscle tone, improve memory and concentration, protect the cells of the nervous system, support immunity, prevent Beriberi, anemia and paralysis and death in newborns.

  • Rich in iron, magnesium and phosphorus

  • Iron: 4.90 mg (50% for adult males under 51, 25% for adult women under 51)
  • Magnesium: 353 mg (over 100% for adult women, around 100% for adult males)
  • Phosphorus: 644 mg (around 95% of the RDI for both men and women)

Safflower seeds are great against anemia, headaches and irritability. Moreover, they support muscle health, heart included, and increase calcium absorption in bones. Last but not least, safflower seeds help ease magnesium deficiency symptoms such as eyelid twitching, muscle spasms, extrasystoles and high blood pressure, promote strong teeth and bones and support digestion.

  • Good for skin, hair and nails

Safflower seeds and oil in particular are rich in vitamin E and unsaturated fatty acids, two important compounds for skin and hair care. The oil obtained from safflower seeds can be rubbed directly on nails to stimulate growth and moisturize the skin around the nails. Alternatively, it can be applied onto the scalp to nourish the skin and reduce redness, as well as to repair damaged hair and give it a healthy shine.

  • Great for reducing belly fat

According to several studies, daily consumption of small amounts of around 1-2 tablespoons of safflower seed oil led to a significant reduction in belly fat in post-menopausal women (read more about how to get rid of belly fat). This effect appears to have been caused by safflower seed oil regulating blood sugar levels and insulin response, which increased the body’s fat-burning response.

Overall, as seen by their nutritional value, safflower seeds are a great source of iron, magnesium and phosphorus, vitamins E, B1, B6 and B9 as well as unsaturated fatty acids. A moderate consumption appears to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, support the activity of the nervous system as well as muscle health. The B vitamins and iron it provides further contribute to an improved energy metabolism and higher energy levels.

Side effects and contraindications

There have been reports of allergic reactions to both safflower seeds and oil, which is why caution is required if you have never come into contact with the plant. If you suspect you may be allergic to safflower, avoid consumption until you’ve seen an allergist and have had a skin prick test or other examination to learn if you are really allergic to the plant. Also, according to ongoing research, pregnant women should avoid safflower seeds, flowers and oil because they may increase blood flow in the uterus and possibly lead to a miscarriage. Always consult a specialist first on matters of nutrition and health.

This post was updated on Wednesday / November 11th, 2020 at 9:18 AM

11 thoughts on “Properties and Benefits of Safflower Seeds”

  1. Hi, I was just wondering how I would prepare safflower seeds to eat. How would I go about boiling them? Would I eat them raw? Is it okay to eat by itself? Is there a certain amount or is there a limit to how much I should eat?

    • If you like nuts and seeds in general, you will surely enjoy eating raw safflower seeds as a snack, on their own. You can toast them in a pan for several minutes to increase their nutty flavor. Cooking recipes require mostly safflower flowers, but you can add either raw or slightly toasted or roasted safflower kernels to quite a few recipes.
      For instance, I recommend a cold rice salad with boiled brown rice, currants, cashews, sesame seeds, safflower kernels, one big, slightly bitter green bell pepper and a dressing made from sesame oil, safflower oil and lemon juice with maybe a bit of garlic. You can also try adding safflower kernels to a cabbage salad: grate a medium white cabbage and mix it with finely chopped dill, grated carrots, one part vinegar for three parts safflower (or sunflower) oil and safflower kernels.
      As for how much kernels you can eat, it is best to eat them with moderation. While they are healthy (rich source of unsaturated fatty acids, great for cardiovascular health and great source of B vitamins and essential minerals such as iron, magnesium and phosphorus), eating excessive amounts all the time might not be in your best interest. Fats accumulate and, whatever their type, they may cause problems over time. But a handful every now and then can have positive effects for your cardiovascular health, muscle tone, nervous system and bone health.

  2. What is an easy / simple way to separate the husk / shell from the seed?

    • Unless you find safflower seed kernels or possess a safflower seeds shelling machine, you can use a small hammer to separate the kernels from their shells manually. Place the seeds on a wide wooden chopping board and crack them open with the hammer, then just separate the seeds from their shells. Hope this helps.

  3. Can one eat safflower sprouts? How much? How often?

    • Hi, Janice. I have never eaten safflower sprouts myself, but I do believe they might be edible, considering you can eat the flower petals, seeds, very young leaves and seed oil. However, I wouldn’t eat too much of them. I think I would limit my consumption to maybe an amount used for seasoning, so very little. If it’s not too much, may I ask what benefits are you looking to obtain from eating safflower sprouts? Because there are surely many more food options out there that could provide you with almost any health benefit you can think of. Especially considering the safflower plant, while edible, has several contraindications. For example, pregnant women are advised to avoid it. Safflower is also a possible allergen and can trigger allergic reactions in predisposed individuals. Also, I would keep in mind that the plant is not usually eaten whole. Only the flower petals, seeds and seed oil are generally consumed, young leaves very little. It would also be great if you could ask an expert, maybe a doctor for more information. Eager to hear from you again.

  4. I would like to eat the sprouts, is this safe?

  5. Hi, not looking for any benefits, just wondering if I could mix safflower with my clover and alfalfa sprouts. I’m still learning about sprouting and anxious to try different seeds. So far I’m pretty much hung up on peanut butter toast topped with clover or alfalfa sprouts to which I sometimes add a tomato slice. Thank you for your information.

    • Hi, Janice. The fact that you can make an edible oil from safflower seeds means the seeds are edible too. However, they aren’t typically eaten by people, but instead used in seeds mixes for feeding birds. This is because safflower seeds taste rather bitter. They are usually consumed in limited amounts for their therapeutic properties and are said to help with constipation, improve blood circulation, thin blood or give you more energy. These uses are traditional and not necessarily effective or as effective as other natural remedies. What I think is important to remember about safflower seeds is that they have the potential to cause allergic reactions. The entire safflower plant has allergenic potential and is best avoided especially if you have known allergies to plants in the same family (like marigold, daisy or ragweed). Moreover, safflower is known for its blood thinning properties and not recommended for use during pregnancy because it can cause a miscarriage. It is also not recommended before having surgery or if you have conditions that involve bleeding problems (like ulcers). Overall, safflower is a complex plant, with both benefits and side effects. If you are just beginning, talk to a doctor about how safe it would be for you to use safflower in any form. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds are often great choices for good diets because they provide excellent benefits, so you can consider them too. Hope this helps.

  6. I continuously buy sunflower seeds for my cardinals. They love it. However my yard has a lot of rocky erosion going on. Suddenly where the seeds are at, a fatty type of micro green plants are sprouting and good dirt is coming up below the new groundwater that was once rocky and grossness. What is happening?
    God is good.

    • That’s great Barbara. I assume this is a good sign and your garden is regenerating and possibly soon support you own production of vegetables or a flower garden. Wishing you lots of health!

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