We were given a packet of safflower by our dear friend. We have never used safflower before and we were researching into the uses. A lot of people mistake safflower for saffron. Beware of ebay buys as well. We have read of people buying saffron from the site, thinking they have got a good deal, but the product arrives to be safflower instead of saffron. A gram of saffron should retail about S$10 or US$7 on the average. But that also depends on the grade and origin of the stigmas.

Safflower was formerly valued more for the red and yellow dyes obtained from its flowers and not for the oil extracted from its seeds. Originally, for hundreds of years, the red dye material obtained from the safflower flowers was used as a reddish makeup for cheeks and also to tint silks. Safflower’s use in textile dying dates back to ancient times and it has recently been discovered that the materials used to wrap the mummies in ancient times were also dyed with the safflower flower ingredients. It is also said that around the 1700s, the Portuguese added the yellow safflower flowers to their foods as a replacement for the saffron.Since the safflower does not possess the true essence of saffron, it has been often nicknamed as ‘false saffron’ and ‘bastard saffron’.

Chinese herbal medicine practitioners recommend the safflower flowers to encourage menstruation and also treat abdominal pains. In addition, the safflower flowers are also said to be effective in cleaning and healing open wounds and bruises. They are also used as a remedy for measles. On the other hand, Anglo-American herbalists use the flowers to treat fevers and different types of skin disorders, including rashes. At the same time, the raw oil extracted from the safflower seeds is said to function as an excellent purgative.

As mentioned earlier, ancient people cultivated the safflower plant for its flowers that were used as textile dyes as well as in food preparation. However, currently, the plant provides oil from the seeds, meals for animals, and food for caged birds as well as foots which is basically the residue collected from the oil processing and used for the food and manufacturing products markets. Despite all these, the herb is now primarily grown for the oil content in its seeds.

Safflower flowers are occasionally used in cooking as a cheaper substitute for saffron, and are thus sometimes referred to as "bastard saffron." Safflower seed is also used quite commonly as an alternative to sunflower seed in birdfeeders, as squirrels do not like the taste of it.

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