Submitted To,

Dr. M. K. Mandavia.


Dept. of Biochemistry,

College of Agriculture, J.A.U.,

Junagadh 362001

Submitted by,

Deshmukh Shubham Babanrao

M.Sc. (Biochemistry) Student,

Dept. of Biochemistry,

College of Agriculture, J.A.U.,

Junagadh 362001


Sr no. / Title / Page no.
1 / Introduction / 1
2 / botany


Safflower (CarthamustinctoriusL.) is commonly known as kusum in India and Pakistan and honghua (red flower) in China (Chavan, 1961). Its use as a less costly saffron is indicated by the names false saffron, bastard saffron, thistle saffron and dyer's saffron (Weiss, 1983). The common names of safflower vary with country, region, language and use (Chavan, 1961; Smith, 1996).

Safflower is one of humanity's oldest crops, with its use in China reported over 2,200 years ago. Safflower seeds are reported in Egyptian tombs over 4,000 years ago. However, safflower cultivation remained a backyard crop for personal use and as a result it remained a minor and neglected crop with world seed production in 1989 estimated at 908,000 tons (Rowland, 1993). Safflower oil has been produced commercially and for export more than 50 years ago (Dajue and Mundel, 1996). Crop is also now grown commercially as a cut flower, vegetable and medicinal plant. India is the main safflower producer (Ekin, 2005). The other producing countries of safflower are USA, Mexico, Ethiopia, Argentina, Australia, China, Kenya, Canada, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Morocco and Russia (Dajue and Mundel, 1996). Safflower has great potential to be developed as an important oilseed crop, cut flower, medicinal plant, vegetable and animal feed. Therefore, the objective of this manuscript is to create awareness of the potential of safflower so that the international scientific community should research on theagronomy, physiology, ecophysiology, high yielding varieties and hydrids with high oil seed content and clinical and pharmacological trials to elucidate the effectiveness of safflower in the treatment or prevention of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, inhibition of thrombus formation and dissolving thrombi, lowering blood cholesterol, male sterility and dead sperm excess disease, infertility in women, etc.


Safflower (CarthamustinctoriusL.) — an oilseed crop — is a member of the family Compositaeor Asteraceae. Carthamus is the latinized synonym of the Arabic wordquartum, orgurtum, whichrefers to the color of the dye xtracted from safflower flowers. The English namesafflowerprobablyevolved from various written forms ofusfar,affore,asfiore, andsaffioretosafflower. Safflower hasbeen grown in India since time immemorial. It is mentioned askusumbain ancient scriptures.Presently, in India it is most commonly known askardaiin Marathi andkusumin Hindi. In Chinait is known ashonghua.Safflower, a multipurpose crop, has been grown for centuries in India for the orange-red dye(carthamin) extracted from its brilliantly colored flowers and for its quality oil rich in polyunsaturatedfatty acids (linoleic acid, 78%). Safflower flowers are known to have many medicinal properties forcuring several chronic diseases, and they are widely used in Chinese herbal preparations (Li andMundel, 1996). The tenderleaves, shoots, and thinnings of safflower are used as pot herb and salad.They are rich in vitamin A, iron, phosphorus, and calcium. Bundles of young plants are commonlysold as a green vegetable in markets in India and some neighboring countries (Nimbkar, 2002).Safflower can be grazed or stored as hay or silage. Safflower forage is palatable, and its feed valueand yields are similar to or better than those for oats or alfalfa. Thus, each part of safflower has avalue attached to it. Safflower has high adaptability to low moisture conditions. Therefore, itsproduction all over the world is mainly confined to areas with scanty rainfall.Carthamushas25 species, of which onlyC. tinctoriusis the cultivated type, having 2n = 24 chromosomes. Thoughthe crop has tremendous potential to be grown under variedconditions and to be exploited for variouspurposes, the area under safflower around the world is limited largely due to the lack of informationon its crop management and product development from it.The research and development on different aspects of safflower, despite its adaptability to variedgrowing conditions with very high yield potential and diversified uses of different plant parts, havenot received due attention. This probably is the main reason for its status as a minor crop aroundthe world in terms of area and production, compared to the other oilseed crops. However, interestin this crop has been rekindled in the last few years due to three major reasons:

1. A huge shortfall in oilseed production in countries having a sizable area with scanty rainfall, to which safflower is most suited.

2. The preference of consumers for healthy oil with less amounts of saturated fats, for which safflower is well known.

3. The medicinal uses of flowers in China and extraction of edible dyes from flowers have become more widely known.


Safflower (CarthamustinctoriusL) is a herbaceous annual and a member of theAsteraceae/Compositae (sunflower) family. It is native to parts of Asia, the MiddleEast, and Africa. It was grown mainly for its flowers, which were used in making dyesfor clothing and food. Today, it is grown mainly for its oil.Safflower evaluations in theU.S. started in 1925 in the GreatPlains, but commercial productiondid not begin until the 1950s.Production is concentrated in thewestern United States and theCanadian prairie provinces.California grows about50 percent of U.S. safflower. NorthDakota and Montana are the nextmajor areas of commercialproduction. South Dakota, Idaho,Colorado, Arizona, and Nebraskaalso produce the crop, but on smallacreage.


Vavilov (1951) proposed three centers of origin for cultivated safflower (CarthamustinctoriusL.).One in India (his center II) was based on variability and ancient culture of safflower production.A second center was proposed in Afghanistan (his center III), which was based on safflowerdiversity and proximity to wild species. A third center of origin, in Ethiopia (his center VI), wasprimarily based upon the presence of the wild safflower species in the area. The centers of safflowerorigin as proposed by Vavilov were reported by Kupzow (1932) in Russia after carrying out adetailed investigation of the safflower collections made in many areas. However, contrary to theabove, Ashri and Knowles (1960) and Hanelt (1961) indicated the center of origin to be in theNear East. This assumption was based on the similarity of cultivated safflower to two closelyrelated wild species:C. flavescensreported from Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon andC. palaestinus found in desert areas of western Iraq and southern Israel. Knowles (1969) described the safflowercenters of cultivation as the “centers of similarity,” and not as the centers of origin or diversity,as there is a conspicuous similarity between the types existing in some or most of the centers.

These centers are:

1. Far East (Vavilov’scenterI — Chinese): China, Japan, and Korea

2. India–Pakistan (Vavilov’scenter II — India): India and both West and East Pakistan (East Pakistanis now Bangladesh)

3. Middle East (Vavilov’scenters III and IV — Central Asiatic and Near Eastern): Afghanistan toTurkey, southern USSR to the Indian Ocean

4. Egypt (Vavilov’scenter V — Mediterranean): Bordering the Nile north of Aswan.

5. Sudan (the southern reach of Vavilov’scenter V): Bordering the Nile in northern Sudan andsouthern Egypt

6. Ethiopia (Vavilov’scenter VI — Ethiopian)

7. Europe (western portion of Vavilov’scenter V): Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Romania, Morocco,and Algeria

Safflower biology, production and genetics

2.1 Biology

Safflower (CarthamustinctoriusL.) a member of the family Compositae or Asteraceae, is a branching, thistle-like herbaceous annual or winter annual plant, with numerous spines on leaves and bracts (Fig. 1), mainly grown in dry hot climates as an oilseed, birdseed or for its flowers, used as dye sources and for medicinal purposes. The typically white achenes, averaging from 0.030 to 0.045 g, are smooth (in some varieties varying amounts of pappus, tufts of hairs may be present on the end adjacent to the plant) and four-sided, with a thick pericarp (Figs. 1, 2). Germination is followed by a slow-growing rosette stage, during which numerous leaves are produced near ground level, strong taproots develop and begin to penetrate deep into the soil, but no long stems form. During this rosette stage, young safflower plants are resistant to cold, even frost, but the crop is very vulnerable to fast-growing weeds. Subsequently, stems elongate quickly and branch extensively (Fig. 3). Branch to stem angles range from 30 to 70º and the degree of branching is genetically and environmentally controlled. Each stem ends in a globular flower capitulum, enclosed by clasping bracts, which are typically spiny (Fig. 4).

In fully developed safflower plants, with soil of adequate depth, the taproots penetrate 2-3 m, with numerous thin horizontal lateral roots. The deep root system enables the plant to draw moisture and nutrients from a considerable depth, conferring on safflower the ability to survive in areas with little surface moisture. Flowering begins in the primary capitulum, then the secondary capitula and so forth. Within a capitulum, flowering begins in the outer circle of florets and progresses centripetally towards the centre of the capitulum over several days, up to a week. The total bloom stage may last for 4 weeks or more, greatly influenced by growing environment. Shades of orange, yellow and red flowers are most common in early bloom, but post-bloom colours are darker. White flowers occur rarely. The florets are tubular and largely self-pollinating with generally less than 10% outcrossing (Knowles 1969). Pollination occurs as the style and stigma grow throughthe surrounding anther column at the base of the clasping corolla (Fig. 1). Anunpollinated, elongated stigma may remain receptive for several days. Bees,bumblebees and other insects seek out safflower blossoms for both pollen and nectarand can increase levels of outcrossing. Wind-pollination does not contribute tosafflower seedset. Developed capitula contain 15-30 or more achenes (Fig. 5), whichmature from 4 to 5 weeks after flowering.

Production issues

Over the past few decades, fact sheets and production guides have been providedfor safflower growers in different countries. A sampling of those published in thepast 5 years in North America is given in the literature section.Safflower is generally considered a daylength-neutral, long-day plant. However,the origin of varieties is very important in this connection: summer crop varietiesfrom temperate regions, sown during shortening days as a winter crop in subtropicalor tropical regions, have a very long rosette phase (several months), withgreatly delayed maturity.Seeding rates vary greatly around the globe, in part related to variety growthhabits, growth environments and cultural methods, particularly row spacing. As longas soil moisture reserves are present, safflower compensates for low plant populationsby increased branching and other yield component adjustments (Mündel 1969).Seeding rates for optimum production vary from around 10-15 kg/ha in very droughtproneregions, or those where branching is to be encouraged, up to 40-45 kg/ha or even more for irrigated environments, in regions and with varieties showing minimalbranching. Germination of safflower seed occurs at temperatures as low as 2-5º C.During the rosette stage, the growing point of the young safflower plant is protectedfrom cold by multiple layers of young leaves and leaf primordia, and temperaturesas low as –7ºC do not kill the plant (Mündelet al. 1992). The first fewleaves emerging after a frost may show some injury, but the plant recovers andcontinues to grow quite normally. However, during the elongation phase, even alight frost can cause substantial damage. At the other end of the plant’s development,frost just after flowering (during kernel filling) can dramatically lower yieldsand oil levels, or kill the seed completely.

During the early stages of growth, especially during the rosette stage, saffloweris a poor competitor with weeds. Numerous weed species, left unchecked, canbecome taller than safflower and effectively shade the crop, competing for sunlight,nutrients and soil moisture. Weeds can cut safflower yields greatly and can causecomplete crop losses. Only a limited number of chemical herbicides are registeredfor use on safflower, mainly because of the high cost of testing required in a numberof countries for this minor crop. In Canada the trifluralins and ethalfluralins areregistered for pre-plant incorporation to control a variety of grass and broadleafweeds; a sethoxydim has been registered for post-emergent control of grassy weedsand volunteer cereals (Blackshawet al. 1990). Seeding safflower into a firm moistseedbed not only enhances its emergence and stand, but also improves vigour andallows the crop to compete more effectively with weeds. Mechanical or manualcontrol of weeds emerging prior to safflower emergence is advised.

World Distribution and Production

Traditionally, safflower has been grown for centuries from China to the Mediterranean region and all along the Nile valley up to Ethiopia (Weiss, 1971). Presently it is grown commercially in India, the U.S., Mexico, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Australia, Argentina, Uzbekistan, China, and the Russian Federation. Pakistan, Spain, Turkey, Canada, Iran, and Israel also grow safflower to a limited extent. Safflower acreage and production around the world have witnessed wide fluctuations in the past. Safflower seed production in the world rose from 487,000 MT in the year 1965 to 1,007,000 MT in 1975, and subsequently it decreased to 921,000 MT in 1985 (Anonymous, 2002). Mexico was the largest producer of safflower in the world until 1980, when it occupied an area of 528,000 ha with a production above 600,000 MT in the year 1979–1980. However, the area and production of safflower in Mexico decreased significantly in later years, becoming only 10% of the area and production recorded for the year 1979–1980 (Cervantes-Martinez, 2001). Commercial production of safflower in the U.S. was started in the 1950s, and the area rapidly increased to 175,000 ha mainly in the states of California, Nebraska, Arizona, and Montana. Presently it is grown over an area of 100,000 ha (Esendal, 2001). Safflower in China is presently occupying an area ranging from 35 to 55,000 ha, producing 50 to 80 MT seeds annually. Xinjiang is the largest safflower producer state, which accounts for 80% of total afflower production in China. Other safflower-producing states in China are Yunnan, Sichuan, Henan, Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang (Zhaomu and Lijie, 2001). Presently, India is the largest producer of safflower in the world, followed by the U.S., Mexico, and China. The safflower area in India in the year 2004–2005 was estimated to be 387,000 ha, with a production of 154,000 MT of seed (Anonymous, 2004–2005). In India, Maharashtra and Karnataka states account for 72 and 24% of safflower area and production, respectively. The other safflower producing states are Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, and Bihar. Safflower production in India is mostly confined to rain-fed conditions during winter.


Medicinal importance:

Carthamin is extracted from its flowers and it is used for treatment in the form of infusion forcirculatory system related diseases20. In addition to the colouring properties, safflower petals are used for curing several chronic diseases such as hypertension, coronary heart ailments, rheumatism, male and female fertility problems. The chief constituent Carthaminhas uterine stimulating, coronary dilating and hypotensive2. It also has the cytotoxic, antigenic and anti-platelet activities.

Uses of safflower:

Safflower is a multipurpose oilseed crop grown mainly as cut flowers, vegetables and for its high quality oil. The uses of safflower have been recorded in China approximately 2,200 years ago (Dajue and Mundel, 1996). Traditionally, safflower was grown for its seeds, for colouring and flavouring foods, as medicines and for making red and yellow dyes, especially before cheaper aniline dyes became available (Weiss, 1971). In Egypt, dye from safflower was used to color cotton and silk as well as ceremonial ointment used in religious ceremonies and to anoint mummies prior to binding. Safflower seeds and packets and garlands of florets have been found with 4000-year-old mummies (Weiss, 1971).

Medicinal uses: In traditional Chinese medicine, safflower petals are regarded as a stimulant for blood circulation and phlegm reduction, healing of fractures, contusions and strains and for various female maladies. Production of safflower has yielded many medicinal solutions. Thus safflower in China is a medicinal plant. In Europe and the Middle East, petals are sometimes used as an adulterant for saffron. In Pakistan, the seed decoctions are used to produce heat and dryness in the body. When sugar is added it acts as a laxative (Knowles, 1965). The seeds can also be boiled and taken as a remedy for problem in menses to increase blood flow. Ground safflower seeds mixed with mustard oil reduce rheumatic pain (Knowles, 1965). In Kashmir, a decoction of whole or ground seeds is used to flush out the urinary tract, improve the liver and reduce hives (Knowles, 1965). Knowles (1965), Wang and Li (1985) reported that safflower seed is used for the treatment of urinary calculi. It has been realized that a nasal drop of safflower and other herbs speed blood flow in the medial cranial artery (Duo et al., 1992). It is also used to treat cerebral thrombosis and has lowered blood pressure in over 90% of the patients (Dajue and Mundel, 1996).

According to Liu (1985) it can be used to induce labour and is more effective than western medicine. When boiled in wine along with other flower decoctions is recommended to encounter retained afterbirth and retained stillbirth Wang and Yili (1985). Women in Afghanistan and India use a tea made from safflower foliage to prevent abortion and infertility (Weiss, 1983). Herbalists in these countries sell all parts of safflower to cure various ailments and as an aphrodisiac (Knowles, 1965).

In April 2007 it was reported that genetically modified safflower has been bred to create insulin (SemBiosys, 2006). A pharmaceutical company called SemBioSys Genetics is currently using transgenic safflower plants to produce human insulin because the global demand for the hormone has grown (SemBiosys, 2006). Safflower-derived human insulin is currently in the PI/II trials on human test subjects. Insulin (SBS-1000) that was extracted from safflower plants and wascreated by Sembiosys, has been injected into people for the first time. The hope is that plants will provide a cheaper source of insulin for people with diabetes (SemBiosys, 2006).