Safflower oil (Distel oil) is obtained from ripe seeds taken from the Carthamus tinctorius L. (Asteraceae). It is produced by pressing (cold-pressed safflower oil) or extraction, followed by refining (refined safflower oil).
The safflower plant, sometimes referred to incorrectly as 'saffron', has been cultivated and highly valued since ancient times in the Near and Middle East. Long ago, the red pigment was used as a fabric dye. In 1887, the researcher Georg Schweinfurth identified it as a substance used in the Egyptian mummification process, showing how important the plant was, since only the Pharaoh had the right to cultivate safflowers. Until recent times, safflowers were used in dyeing, mainly in the Alsace region, until their position was challenged by the discovery of aniline dyes.
The unassuming safflower, a herbaceous plant (depending on how closely planting is carried out) that tolerates dry and saline conditions and puts down roots to a depth of <3m, prefers temperatures of 24-32°C and is cultivated nowadays primarily in India, Mexico, the USA, Ethiopia, Australia and Spain. Safflowers are harvested when the plants are actually quite dry, but have not yet dried out completely. Depending on the variety, the number of seeds ranges between 1000 and 2500, but the oil content is only 15%. Since the shell accounts for a very high proportion (45%) and is, furthermore, of no value, safflowers would actually be unsuitable for oil extraction were it not for an extremely high proportion of essential linoleic acid, which compensates for these negative attributes.
Safflower oil, which is obtained from the seed once it has been peeled, conditioned, flaked and pressed or extracted, has the highest linoleic acid content (approx. 80%) of all vegetable oils. Other fatty acids include oleic and palmitic acids (10-15% and 5-8%, respectively). Usually, cold-pressed safflower oil is then refined. The yellow oil, which has a characteristic, mild taste, is particularly well-suited to a biological wholefood diet. Safflower oil is also used in foodstuffs used for dieting (margarine, edible oil) and in cosmetics. In the pharmaceuticals trade, it is used in dermatological preparations and in medicines that lower the cholesterol level. Safflower oil has also acquired importance as a raw material for surface coatings and varnishes.
INCI Name: Carthamus Tinctorius Seed Oil