Safflower stamens are categorized in Chinese medicine as an herb that regulates and invigorates blood. This herb is classified as warm and spicy and affects the Heart and Liver meridians.
The most significant uses for safflower supplements in TCM are the treatment of gynecological issues like amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea (irregular periods and painful periods). Topical preparations of safflower extract have also been historically used to treat bruising and help speed wound healing. Today, we have an even better understanding of the wide variety of possible uses for safflower supplements and topical treatments. These include the alleviation of and prevention of blood clots (as in bruises), plus additional anti-aging, anti-fatigue, and immune-boosting properties. As a result, safflower supplements and extracts find themselves included in many different TCM recipes and remedies.
Additionally, safflower extracts and essential oils have many beneficial uses as a topical treatment, ranging from helping reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles to diminishing the appearance and irritation associated with dry skin. It’s also often used in cooking as a substitute for saffron.
PREPARATION & ADMINISTRATION
Safflower supplements make use of the flowers, buds, and stems of safflower plants. Safflower essential oil is available for purchase, or can be created at home by steam distilling raw safflower stamens. Infused oils made with safflower can be made at home and are less restrictive in use. Safflower extract creams and salves, as well as safflower granules and powders are also available for purchase. Depending on which you buy, different products are best used either topically or orally. Keep in mind that safflower oil, used in cooking, is different from safflower essential oil. The essential oil should not be consumed orally.
Given their antiplatelet and anticoagulant properties, safflower supplements are not ideal for folks who are taking blood-thinning medications. Limited evidence has also come to light potentially indicating that safflower supplements may interact with aspirin. It’s advised to consult with your healthcare provider and consider supplementation with care when also taking aspirin. Additionally, safflower in medicinal doses is unsafe for use during pregnancy, as one of its primary effects — inducing menstruation — may cause miscarriages.
You should consult with a certified herbalist, physician or other qualified healthcare professional before taking safflower.
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Lim, Jia Wei, et al. “Traditional Chinese Medicine: Herb-Drug Interactions with Aspirin.” Singapore Medical Journal, Singapore Medical Association, May 2018
“Safflower: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning.” WebMD, WebMD
Zhou, Xidan, et al. “Towards a Better Understanding of Medicinal Uses of Carthamus Tinctorius L. in Traditional Chinese Medicine: a Phytochemical and Pharmacological Review.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2014