Last week’s post looked at an introduction to safflower oil and how it is used in aromatherapy practice. In the second post of the current trilogy, we are taking a quick look at how safflower is useful in the aromatic garden. Safflower was a new plant to me in Georgie’s Garden this year, but I found it to be easy to grow and it produced some beautiful orange blooms.
Description of Safflower as a Plant
Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius), like borage, doesn’t actually have an aroma. However, it is used as a carrier oil in aromatherapy and it does have medicinal uses in herbal medicine. It is not a tall plant and, when planted next to taller plants like sunflower (which I did this year in the aromatic garden), you may miss it. Therefore, I would advise planting it in a mix of smaller herbal plants such as oregano, basil, and mint.
Its unique feature is its orange, thistle-like flowers, which emerge from a rosette shaped bud. Plant a few safflower plants together for the full, visual effect. The flowers do not last long and the seeds form about four weeks after flowering has ended.1 Seeds contain about 30 to 45% of oil1, which is extracted via cold expression to produce safflower oil.
I would advise getting “up close and personal” with safflower to truly appreciate its botanical features, as part of an aromatic garden. A botanical profile of safflower was discussed in the first post of this series.
How to Grow Safflower
Safflower is an annual plant, meaning that it will bloom once and it will need to be replanted the following year. If you let it go to seed, like any plant, there is the possibility it will grow again from the new seeds produced, although conditions would have to be right for it to grow successfully. I would advise sowing new seeds in the spring, after the average last frost for your area, to produce plants in the places that you wish them to grow.
Safflower is traditionally considered an oilseed crop, but it is also used as a cover crop by farmers (and gardeners) for the benefits listed below.
Safflower as a Cover Crop
Safflower has a number of great benefits for the aromatic gardener as a cover crop. A cover crop essentially protects and enriches the soil for the benefit of the next plant crop. If you aren’t harvesting this plant for its oil or seeds, consider the following benefits of safflower as a cover crop:
a deep taproot which breaks down hard soil, and encourages air and water movement. The taproots of safflower can also reach nutrients in the soil that other plants’ roots fail to reach.2
resistant to root lesion nematodes.2
low pest presence in the garden and attracts beneficial pollinators and insects such as lacewings and spiders.2
Permaculture with Safflower
Permaculture draws on the natural world to design a holistic “health care” system for the garden to create and sustain food and resources in harmony with its environment. A simple example is that of organic gardening.3 Safflower has a place as a permaculture worker in the garden.
Safflower is a good biomass crop4 which means that it may help to supply nitrogen to the soil, add organic matter to the soil, or help to surpress weeds in the garden. The roots of the safflower (as mentioned above) are the key to this plant’s permaculture benefits.
Safflower Benefits in Herbalism
Safflower has the following uses in herbalism, if you harvest it from your aromatic garden for this purpose:
useful for amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea
invigorates the blood and it is useful in many blood-related disorders.5
Consult a certified herbalist for dosage and methods of application for safflower in herbalism.
Learn More About Safflower as a Carrier Oil in Aromatherapy with Sedona Aromatherapie
If you would like to learn more about carrier oils such as safflower, consider the Sedona Aromatherapie Linguistics of AromaticsTM home study program!
Purdue University website, Alternative Field Crops Manual: Safflower, accessed from: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/safflower.html
Green Cover Seed website, Safflower, accessed from: https://www.greencoverseed.com/product/1074/
Deep Green Permaculture website, What is Permaculture?, accessed from: https://deepgreenpermaculture.com/permaculture/
Toby Hemenway website, A Permaculture Guide to Choosing Cover Crops, accessed from: http://tobyhemenway.com/1285-permaculture-cover-crops/
Mdidea website, Functions and Clinical Uses of Safflower, accessed from:https://www.mdidea.com/products/new/new01503.html
Author is a 20 year veteran in the health care and aromatherapy industry and a UK-certified aromatherapist. She is both a published author and editor in aromatherapy, a consultant, custom blend formulator and herbal studies student. She is the author of Authentic Aromatherapy and the current chief editor of the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal. She works from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona, where she is in the process of creating her own aromatic stillroom on her one acre homestead and aromatic gardens.