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kausumbha - Carthamus tinctorius Linn.

kausumbha :

Close-up of the flowers Photograph by: Pseudoanas Carthamus tinctorius L., known as Kafesheh (Persian) and safflower (English) is vastly utilized in Traditional Medicine for various medical conditions, namely dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, postpartum abdominal pain and mass, trauma and pain of joints. It is largely used for flavoring and coloring purposes among the local population. 


Safflower is one of the oldest cultivated crops, its use dating back to ancient Egypt.

Taxonomical Classification

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Streptophyta
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Order: Asteraless
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Carthamus
Species: Carthamus tinctorius

Allied species:

Classical Categorisation 
1. Bhava prakasha - hareetakyadi varga, dhanda Varga
2. Dhanvantari Nighantu  - suvarnadi varga
3. Kaiyyadeva Nighantu  - dhanya Varga,  drava varga
4. Raja Nighantu  - ksheeradi Varga 


Sanskrit: agnishikha, cusumbha, gramyakunkuma, kamalottara, kamlottama, kukkutashikha, kusamba, kusambabijam, kusumbha, kusumbhah, lohita, maharajana, padmottara, papaka, pita, rakta, vanishikha, vasraranjana
English: safflower, parrot seed, wild saffron
Hindi: Kusum, Kusumba, Kusuma, Hubulkhurtum
Urdu: Gul rang
Telugu: Kushumba
Bengali: Kusum, Barre
Marathi: Kardai, Kardi
Oriya: Kusum
Gujarathi: Kusumbo
Tamil: Kusumba
Malayalam: centurakam, chendurakam, kuyimpu
Kannada: kusambe, kusambi-bija, kushibe, kusibe, kusube, kusube enne kaalu, kusubeegida, kusubi, kusumba, kusumbe, kusumbhi, kusume, kusume kaalu, maharajana
Punjabi: Kasumba
Sindhi: Pavari
Arabic: Asfur, asfoor, Osfur, Usfar
Spanish: Alazor, Alazor bastardo, Azafrán bastardo, Cártamo.
Assamese: Kusum, Kusum-phul
Japanese: Beni bana, Beni hana
Chinese: Da hong hua
French: Carthame des teinturiers, Fleur de carthame, Graine de carthame, Safran bâtard.
German: Deutscher saflor, Färberdistel, Färbersaflor, Falscher Safran , Saflor.
Persian: Gulrang
Sinhalese: (කුසුඹ)
Greek: Knikos


1. White
2. Red

Safflower has mainly two types of varieties-
1. spiny and 
2. spineless.


Middle French safleur; originally from Arabic اَصْفَر‎ (aṣfar, “yellow”) but influenced by safran (“saffron”) and fleur (“flower”).


Synonyms in Ayurveda: kusumbha, varddhaki, pita, alakta, vastraranjani, kamalottara, kusumba

Vahnishika- the flower is reddish like fire
Vastraranjaka - oil is used for dyeing of cloth
Peetam - yellow coloured flowers

Rasa: Katu
Guna: Guru Teeskhsna Ushna
Veerya: Ushna
Vipaka: Katu
Karma: Kaphahara Pittahara Vatahara

Safflower is an indispensable element of Iranian folklore medicine, with a variety of applications due to laxative effects. Also, it was recommended as treatment for rheumatism and paralysis, vitiligo and black spots, psoriasis, mouth ulcers, phlegm humor, poisoning, numb limbs, melancholy humor, and the like. 


Safflower is a cool (rabi) season crop. The optimum temperature for germination is about 15.5oC. The day temperature in the range 24-32oC at flowering are congenial for higher yields. It is cultivated from sea level to an elevation of 1000 m above sea level. The seed yield and oil content reduces with increasing elevation. When flower buds are being for med or flowering has just commenced, temperature below 0oC may cause considerable damage in the form of sterile heads. At seedling stage, however, the crop can tolerate much lower temperatures (-12 to –10 o C). High temperatures at the time of flowering are harmful to the crop. At all the stages of growth, excessive rainfall or humidity increases the infestation of fungal diseases. It is a day neutral plant. However, temperatures are more important than photoperiod in safflower. Short day lengths prolong rosette stage.

The crop is not fit for tracts of heavy rainfall. The crop grows well in areas having rainfall between 60-90 cm. Waterlogging due to poor drainage or prolonged rains can cause substantial reduction in yield. Frost is also harmful to the crop, especially at seed formation.


Seed - sow in situ. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 4 weeks at 15°c


The crop is ready for harvest when the leaves and most of the bracteoles become dry and brown. Hand gloves may be used to protect legs and hands against spines. Effect of spines could also be minimized by harvesting of crop before rising of sun. Multi-crop threshers and combine harvester could be used for harvesting and threshing.


Flowers yield a coloring principle, carthamin.
- Seeds contain a fixed oil, 28.7%; proteins, 14.11%; cellulose, 30.6%.
- Flowers yielded eight compounds: palmitic acid, 1-O-hexadecanolenin, trans-3-tridecene-5,7,9,11-tetrayne-1,2-diol, trans-trans-3,11-tridecadiene -5,7,9-triyne -1,2-diol, coumaric acid, daucosterol, apigenin and kaempferol.
-Flower petals have yielded carthamin, safflor yellows A and B, Safflormin A and C, isocarthamin, isocarthamidin, hydroxysafflor yellow A. A water fraction yielded four compounds, viz., 6-hydroxykaempferol 3-O-glucoside (1), 6-hydroxykaempferol 7-O-glucoside (2, a new compound), kaempferol 3-O-rutinoside (3) and quercetin 3-O-glucoside (4). 
- Study isolated a new phenylpropanoid derivative, carthamusin A, along with two known compounds ß-daucosterol and stigmasterol


IMPORTANT FORMULATIONS – Kusumbham Guna, Kusumbhatailaguna, Kusumbha Tail Guna, Kusumbha Guna, Kusumbh Guna

Parts used for medicinal purpose

Flower, Seed, ,


Dried leaf - 3 -6 g
Safflower  oil - 10 - 15 ml


Used as an antidote to poisoning


a less costly substitute for saffron


used as a substitute and adulterant for saffron 


There is still controversy over whether C. oxyacantha or C. plaestinus is the wild progenitor of C. tinctorius (Ashri and Knowles, 1960, Kumar, 1991, Zohary and hopf, 2000)

Commercial value:

Oil, seeds, supplements in the cybermarket
Oil has been producedcommercially and for export for about 50 years, first as an oil source for the paintindustry, now for its edible oil for cooking, margarine and salad oil


This herbaceous plant is a summer annual (in Illinois) that forms a low rosette during the spring, but by summer it bolts to become 1-4 tall. A typical plant is unbranched below and branched above with ascending lateral stems. The stems are light green to light yellowish tan, terete, glabrous, and stiff. Alternate leaves occur at intervals along these stems. These leaves are 2-6" long, ½-2" across, and stiff; they are lanceolate, lanceolate-oblong, ovate, or ovate-oblong in shape. The leaf bases are sessile or they clasp the stems. Leaf margins are mostly smooth (entire) with scattered yellow spines, although lower leaf margins are sometimes spineless and slightly dentate (although in some uncommon cultivars, all leaves may be spineless). Both the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves are dark green and glabrous; minute pubescence may occur along the lower surfaces of the central leaf veins
Each upper stem terminates in 1-5 flowerheads. The flowerheads of each branch are usually clustered together on short peduncles. Each flowerhead is ¾-1½" across (excluding the outer phyllaries), consisting of 20-100 disk florets. These florets are ¾-1" in length, although their bases are hidden from view. The corollas of these florets are yellow to red (rarely white), narrowly cylindrical below, and 5-lobed above; these lobes are linear in shape and spreading. The styles are strongly exerted from the corollas. Around the base of the flowerhead, there are several outer phyllaries (floral bracts) up to 1½" long that are widely spreading and stiff; they are elliptic or lanceolate in shape, while their margins are smooth (entire) with scattered yellow spines. The surfaces of these outer bracts are dark green and glabrous. The inner phyllaries are mostly erect and appressed together; they are light green, ovate or lanceolate in shape, and covered with appressed hairs. The margins of the inner phyllaries are mostly smooth (entire) and ciliate, although their tips are spiny. However, in some uncommon cultivars, both outer and inner phyllaries are spineless. The blooming period occurs from mid-spring into the fall (in Illinois), lasting about 1-3 months. Afterwards, fertile florets are replaced by achenes. The achenes are 6-8 mm. long, white or light brown, oblanceoloid in shape, bluntly 4-angled, and often longitudinally striped. Usually the apices of these achenes lack tufts of hair, although in some uncommon cultivars short stiff bristles are present. The root system consists of a stout taproot up to 3-4 long and some lateral roots. This plant reproduces by reseeding itself.


TS oval in outline, pericarp enclosing the seed; pericarp differentiated into epicarp consisting of a single layer of thick walled, pitted, lignified cells with semilunar thickening on outer radial walls; mesocarp consists of stone cells of varying shapes and sizes, 5 to 6 cells deep in the middle and 18 to 20 cells deep at the chalazal end; endocarp 3 or 4 cells deep and differentiated from mesocarp by a single layered oil containing cells; testa single layered with thick palisade like cells, with prominent linea lucida, followed by tegmen; tegmen consists of a single layered parenchymatous outer epidermis, followed by 4 to 6 cells deep reticulated parenchymatous mesophyll with prismatic crystals; inner epidermis of tegmen lignified and single layered; a single vascular bundle extends upto the micropyle; the endosperm cells rectangular.

Geographical distribution:

India: Cultivated Throughout

Local Distribution


Poor dry soils in full sun.

Plant conservation:

This species has not yet been assessed for the IUCN Red List 

General Use:

Taken hot, safflower tea produces strong perspiration and has thus been used for colds and related ailments. It has also been used at times for its soothing effect in cases of hysteria, such as that associated with chlorosis. Powdered seeds made into a poultice used to ally inflammation of the womb after child birth. Flowers of this herb is useful for jaundice

Therapeutic Uses:

Heart disease, Cholesterol, Tumours, Stomatitis, Fever, Eruptive skin complaints, Inflammation, Wound, Rheumatism

Systemic Use:

Flower: used in preparation of medicines for poliomyelitis, paralysis of brain and spine, other nerve disorders, heart diseases; Corolla-extract: effective in coronary occlusion in animals; Seed(50% EtOH extract): spasmolytic; Seed-oil: lowers blood cholesterol in human, increase plasma insulin


Seed, oil


Considered tonic, laxative, diaphoretic, abortifacient.
- Seeds and oil considered purgative and laxative.
- Flowers considered tonic and emmenagogue

Clinical trials:

1. Effects of defatted safflower seed extract and phenolic compounds in diet on plasma and liver lipid in ovariectomized rats fed high-cholesterol diets.:J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2004 Feb;50(1):32-7.Cho SH, Lee HR, Kim TH, Choi SW, Lee WJ, Choi Y

2. Antioxidative flavonoids from leaves of Carthamus tinctorius.:Arch Pharm Res. 2002 Jun;25(3):313-9.Lee JY, Chang EJ, Kim HJ, Park JH, Choi SW

3. A study on the teratogenic and cytotoxic effects of safflower extract.:J Ethnopharmacol. 2000 Dec;73(3):453-9.Nobakht M, Fattahi M, Hoormand M, Milanian I, Rahbar N, Mahmoudian M.

4. Hypotensive effects of safflower yellow in spontaneously hypertensive rats and influence on plasma renin activity and angiotensin II level:Yao Xue Xue Bao. 1992;27(10):785-7.Liu F, Wei Y, Yang XZ, Li FG, Hu J, Cheng RF


1. Antidiabetic effect of hydroalcoholic extract of Carthamus tinctorius L. in alloxan-induced diabetic rats / 
Sedigheh Asgary et al / Journal of Research in Medical Sciences

2. Carthamus tinctorius Enhances the Antitumor Activity of Dendritic Cell Vaccines via Polarization toward Th1 Cytokines and Increase of Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes / Jia-Ming Chang, Le-Mei Hung, Yau-Jan Chyan, Chun-Ming Cheng, and Rey-Yuh Wu / Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 274858, 10 pages / doi:10.1093/ecam/nen068

3. Hepatoprotective Effect of C. tinctorius L. aginst Carbon-tetrachloride Induced Hepatotoxicity in Rats / Hind Salah Yar et al / Pharmacie Globale (IJCP), 2012, 9(02).

4. The effects of the extracts from Carthamus tinctorius L. on gene expression related to cholesterol metabolism in rats / Teerakul Arpornsuwan*, Khaimuk Changsri, Sittiruk Roytrakul and Tadsanee Punjanon / Songklanakarin J. Sci. Technol. 32 (2), 129-136, Mar. - Apr. 2010


Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Dont take safflower flower during pregnancy. Safflower flower is LIKELY UNSAFE. It can bring on menstrual periods, make the uterus contract, and cause miscarriages. 

There isnt enough reliable information to know if safflower oil or flower is safe to use when breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Children: Safflower oil is POSSIBLY SAFE in children when a specific safflower oil emulsion (Liposyn) is administered IV (intravenously) by a healthcare professional. There isnt enough reliable information to know if safflower flower is safe for children or what the side effects might be. 

Bleeding problems (hemorrhagic diseases, stomach or intestinal ulcers, or clotting disorders): Safflower can slow blood clotting and might increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders. 

Allergy to ragweed and related plants: Safflower may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. Members of this family include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many others. If you have allergies, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking safflower.

Diabetes: Safflower oil might increase blood sugar. There is concern that safflower oil might interfere with blood sugar control in people with diabetes.

Surgery: Since safflower might slow blood clotting, there is a concern that it could increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using safflower at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery. 

Toxicity studies:

When taken by mouth: Safflower oil is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth. Safflower flower is POSSIBLY SAFE to take by mouth
When applied to the skin: Safflower oil is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin.

When given by IV: Safflower oil is POSSIBLY SAFE when a specific safflower oil emulsion (Liposyn) is administered by a healthcare professional.

Use in other system of medicine:

- Dye from flowers used as substitute for saffron, for coloring food. Not valued as a spice. 
- Oil from the seeds is a valuable and edible oil.
- In China, young shoots eaten in time of scarcity.
- Hot infusion of dried flowers used as a diaphoretic in jaundice, nasal catarrh and muscular rheumatism.
- Cold infusion used as a laxative and tonic in measles and scarlatina to favor efflorescence of eruptions.
- In Indochina, flowers are given for dysmenorrhea and paralysis, as tonic and emmenagogue.
- In China, plant is used as abortifacient and to expel retained placenta.
- Plant boiled in sesamum oil is used as remedy for itches.
- Medicated oil prepared from the plant used as external application for rheumatism and paralysis.
- Flowers used for hair growth. 
- In Punjab, seeds used as diuretic and tonic.
- In Thailand used as herbal tea to reduce cholesterol and prevent atherosclerosis. 
- In Korea, seeds used as folk medicine to enhance bone formation or prevent osteoporosis.
- Dye: Dye is impermanent; colors silk a brilliant scarlet, but is not permanent. Used in the preparation of toilet rouges. for which it is mixed with powdered talc.
- Oil: Oil from the seed used in making soap and candles; also used as lubricant and in candle-making.
- Ice cream pigment: The addition of carthamidin (0.06 mL) in ice cream scored higher overall acceptability. 
- Cosmetics: Safflower oil, rich in essential omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid is included in skin care products and bath oils


Carthamus tinctorius L., widely accepted as Safflower or false saffron, belongs to the Compositae or Asteraceae family. This thistle-like species typically thrives in an arid climate, namely Southern Asia, China, India, Iran, and Egypt . It is found with six species in Iran . It was introduced into western countries, such as Italy, France, Spain, and the United States during the 5th to the 14th centuries. The vernacular name of this plant in Iran is “Golrang”, “Kajireh”, and “Kafesheh”, which has been vastly cultivated for its flower petals containing the red and orange pigments. The other well-known names for safflower are “Zaffer”, “Fake Saffron”, and Dyer’s Saffron” . It has been shown that the scavenging activities of safflower petals can produce a range of colors from orange to white with various intensities 

Photos of kausumbha -

KEY WORDS: Carthamus tinctorius , kausumbha

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