Safflower is a popular component of traditional Chinese medicine. Safflowers consist of long, tubular stems, with flowers that are orange, red or yellow in appearance. In China, safflowers are grown in the Henan, Hubei, Sichuan and Zhejiang provinces. The flowers are picked from the plant in the summer, after the petals turn bright red, and are dried in the shade for herbal medicine.
Safflower contains several fatty acids, including linoleic acid and linolenic acid. In traditional Chinese medicine, safflower is considered pungent and warm, and is associated with the Heart and Liver meridians. Its functions are to invigorate the blood and release stagnation, to promote circulation, and to promote menstruation. Modern uses for safflower include abdominal pain and swelling, postpartum pain, dysmenorrheal and amenorrhea. It is often used with peach seed, angelica root and red peony as part a larger formula.
The typical dosage of safflower is between 3 and 10 grams, depending on the condition being treated. Some practitioners also recommend safflower oil, but in much smaller doses (less than 1 gram).
Safflower should always be taken with caution. The American Herbal Products Association has given safflower both a class 2B rating (meaning it should not be used during pregnancy) and a 2D rating (indicating that it should not be used by patients with hemorrhagic disease or peptic ulcers). Safflower may also prolong the coagulation time of blood, so it should be used with caution by people on blood thinners. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking safflower or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.