Safflower or Carthamus is characterized by being an oleaginous plant, that is, it has seeds or fruits from which safflower seed oil is extracted, whose uses can be culinary or industrial.
Although in its beginnings it was cultivated to be used as a colorant, spice or substitute for aniline, from the fifties it began to be cultivated to extract the oil from its seeds.
Both edible oil and essential oil have interesting benefits. While the former is a source of unsaturated fatty acids, the latter is able to help treat skin disorders such as acne and eczema.
Nutritional characteristics of safflower seed oil
There are 2 types of safflower seed oil: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Each of them contains active compounds that attribute specific nutritional characteristics to it. Let’s see in detail.
Monounsaturated safflower oil
It is known to be rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid of the omega 9 series that has the ability to withstand high temperatures without losing its nutrients.
The smoke point of monounsaturated safflower oil stands out from other more popular oils, such as corn, olive or canola, making it a healthy substitute.
Similarly, there are those who are of the opinion that it could be better for cooking, since its taste, color and smell are neutral.
Polyunsaturated safflower oil
This oil, for its part, is rich in linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid of the omega 6 series that is more sensitive than the previous one and, therefore, should not be exposed to high temperatures.
Instead, if you want to avoid oxidation, you should store it in cold places like the refrigerator and avoid exposing it to light. Polyunsaturated safflower oil is generally sold as a nutritional supplement, as its linoleic acid levels are high.
Keep in mind that although omega 6 is essential for the proper functioning of the body, it is necessary to obtain it through food due to our inability to produce it.
What are its uses?
Safflower seed oil can be used to make oil paints in white and other light shades. But there are many more uses, even linked to medicine. Find out more about this substance.
Because it is credited with potential skin health benefits, safflower oil is often found on the ingredient lists of a variety of cosmetics. If you intend to use them, you just have to follow the instructions.
Now, in its pure, edible and body versions, it can be applied directly to the skin. If it is essential oil, it must be diluted before being used. How do you do it? Adding a few drops to the carrier oil. Jojoba and grapeseed oil are recommended for their effectiveness for oily skin.
Finally, because it is considered safe oil, it can be applied daily. Also remember that essential oils are more powerful, so their use is short-term.
In the kitchen
Monounsaturated safflower oil has a smoke point of approximately 232 degrees Celsius, which makes it resistant to oxidation. Therefore, it is an excellent option for cooking at high temperatures, whether it is frying, roasting or baking. In the same way, it stands out for changing the taste and aroma of food and preventing the formation of free radicals.
For its part, polyunsaturated safflower oil is often used to dress salads and other raw dishes, as well as to cook over low heat. In the latter case you must be careful, as it tends to oxidize quickly.
Health benefits of safflower seed oil
So far some of the benefits of safflower seed oil have been peeking out. Here are the proven ones, according to science.
1. Rich source of fatty acids
Safflower seed oil is a source of unsaturated fatty acids (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) that play a fundamental role in the functioning of the body.
These types of good fats are involved in hormonal regulation, in memory processes and in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. In addition, they are capable of creating a greater feeling of satiety.
On the other hand, safflower oil also has saturated fats, often considered unhealthy or bad. However, its levels are much lower than those of other popular oils, such as olive, avocado and sunflower.
Now, a diet high in good fats and low in bad fats is the key to many health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and improving heart health.
2. Stabilizes blood sugar levels
A study published in the journal PLOS Medicine showed that a diet rich in MUFA facilitates maintaining glucose levels under control.
According to the study, replacing saturated with unsaturated fats (especially polyunsaturated fatty acids) significantly improved blood sugar levels, secretion, and insulin resistance.
Likewise, a study published in Clinical Nutrition found that consuming 8 grams of safflower oil daily for 4 months can decrease inflammation and improve glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.
For this reason, the researchers conclude that combining a diet high in good fats with diabetes treatments is effective in reducing the complications of the disease.
3. Lowers cholesterol levels and promotes heart health
The same study published in Clinical Nutrition found that using safflower oil for 4 months was able to lower cholesterol levels. This certifies that unsaturated fats can lower LDL or bad cholesterol.
However, this is not the only way this substance can support heart health. The unsaturated fatty acids in safflower oil cause platelets to clump less, preventing clots associated with an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
4. Natural anti-inflammatory agent
Chronic inflammation can cause heart disease, autoimmune disease, and even cancer. Fortunately, there is scientific evidence that safflower oil has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce important markers associated with hyperactive cell reactions.
5. Improves skin health
Since it can hydrate and soothe itching, as well as other symptoms of dry skin, it is a popular ingredient in dermatological care products.
It has anti-inflammatory properties and is a source of vitamin E. A nutrient that, according to a study published in the Indian Dermatology Online Journal, can help treat skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis and eczema, as well as improve wound healing.
Safflower oil side effects
Safflower oil is safe as long as recommended dosages are not exceeded. In adults they are the following:
- Women between 19 to 30 years: 6 teaspoons.
- Women over 30 years: 5 teaspoons.
- Men ages 19 to 30: 7 teaspoons.
- Men over 30 years: 6 teaspoons.
On the other hand, people with bleeding disorders and about to undergo surgery should avoid consuming this oil, as it can affect coagulation and increase the risk of bleeding.
Regarding its topical use, it is recommended to do a test to determine how sensitive the skin is . To do this, a small amount is placed on the forearm and waits for 24 to 48 hours. If you do not develop any rash or irritation, you can continue using it.
Important source of unsaturated fats
Traditionally, this plant was cultivated to be used as a colorant. However, currently the focus is on its seeds, which make it possible to obtain highly coveted oil.
The reason? It is rich in unsaturated fatty acids and can be found in 2 forms: monounsaturated (able to withstand high temperatures without losing its nutrients) and polyunsaturated (the oil with the highest source of linoleic acid on the market).
These unsaturated fats, along with other compounds, are responsible for benefits such as controlling blood sugar levels, lowering LDL cholesterol, and improving skin health.
With regard to its contraindications, it is safe as long as it is consumed within the range of recommended doses and the patch test is performed during topical use. People with bleeding problems and plans to have surgery should avoid it.