Carthamus tinctorius. Dyer's Saffron.

Botanical name: 

Nat Ord. — Asteraceae. Sex. Syst. — Syngenesia Aequalis.


Description. — Carthamus Tinctorius, sometimes known as Safflower, Bastard Saffron, etc., is an annual plant, with a smooth stem growing from one to two feet high, striate, and branching at top. The leaves are alternate, ovate-lanceolate, sessile, spinose-denticulate, sub-amplexicaul, smooth and shining. The flowers are compound, in large, terminal solitary heads. The florets are of an orange-red color, with a funnel-shaped corolla, of which the tube is long, slender, cylindrical, and the border divided into five equal, lanceolate, narrow segments.

History. — This plant is a native of the Levant and Egypt, and is cultivated in many parts of Europe and America. The florets are the officinal part. They are generally met with in flaky masses of a red color, intermixed with the yellow filaments ; their odor is peculiar and aromatic, and the taste slightly bitter. The cultivated safflower in this country, is usually sold impressed, as American Saffron. They contain two coloring matters— one of which is yellow and soluble in water; the other is red, insoluble in water, slightly soluble in alcohol, and very soluble in alkaline solutions, and is called Carthamine or Carthamic Acid; it is this latter which renders safflower valuable as a dye, especially of silk, and when mixed with finely-powdered talc it forms a rouge. Safflower is often used to adulterate saffron, but may be detected by its tubular form, and the yellowish color of the style and filaments.

Properties and Uses. — Emmenagogue, laxative in large doses, and diaphoretic. Used as a diaphoretic among children in warm infusion, and as a substitute for saffron, in colds, measles, scarlatina, and other exanthematous diseases. To be taken tolerably freely. The infusion may be made by adding two drachms of the flowers to a pint of boiling water. The seeds are white and angular, and have been much used as purgative and emmenagogue. They yield an oil by expression, which has been used as a local application in rheumatic and paralytic affections, also for bad ulcers.

The American Eclectic Dispensatory, 1854, was written by John King, M. D.