The safflower, sometimes incorrectly designated as ‘saffron’, has been cultivated and highly valued for many years in the Middle East and the Middle East. Formerly, the red dye was used as fabric dye. In 1887, the researcher Georg Schweinfurth identified it as a substance used in the Egyptian process of mummification, demonstrating the importance of the plant, since only the pharaoh had the right to cultivate safflower. Until recently, safflower was used for dyeing, mainly in the Alsace region, until it was replaced by aniline dyes.
The safflower is a simple herbaceous plant (depending on the density of plantation) that tolerates dry and saline conditions, and is rooted at a depth of <3 m. It prefers temperatures of 24-32 ° C and is currently grown in India, Mexico, the US, Ethiopia, Australia and Spain. The safflower is harvested when the plants are quite dry, but have not yet dried completely. Depending on the variety, the number of seeds goes from 1,000 to 2,500, but the oil content is only 15%. Since the husk constitutes a very high proportion of the fruit (45%), and has no use, the safflower is unsuitable for the extraction of oil if it were not for its high proportion of essential linoleic acid, which compensates for these negative qualities.
The safflower oil, which is obtained from the seeds once they have been peeled, conditioned, shredded and pressed or squeezed, has the highest content of linoleic acid (approximately 80%) of all vegetable oils. The other fatty acids include oleic and palmitic acid (10-15% and 5-8%, respectively). Generally, cold-pressed safflower oil is subsequently refined. The yellow oil, which has a characteristic and mild taste, is particularly indicated for biological diets based on whole foods. Safflower oil is also used in the production of dietetic foods (margarine, table oil) and in cosmetics. In the pharmaceutical market, it is used in dermatological preparations and in medicines that lower the level of cholesterol. Safflower oil has also gained importance as a raw material for coatings of surfaces and varnishes.