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Safflower oil is a vegetable oil obtained from the seeds of safflower plant -- a member of the Asteraceae family. Safflower, scientifically known as Carthamus tinctorius, is a highly branched, herbaceous annual, that is characterized by long sharp spines on its leaves. Safflower plants grow between 30 to 150 cm in height and produce brilliant yellow-, orange- or red-colored flowers. This plant is mainly cultivated for the vegetable oil that is extracted from its seeds.

Minutiae

Safflower oil is a colorless and flavorless oil and is nutritionally similar to sunflower oil. It has a variety of uses. Safflower oil is used in cooking, in salad dressing, as an ingredient in various cosmetics, in medicines to treat various ailments, and it can also be taken as a nutritional supplement. Safflower oil began to grow in popularity in the 1960s. It is easily available in many health food stores and is one of the components of a wide variety of commercial products.

Safflower oil comes in two distinct varieties -- (1) Monounsaturated; and (2) Polyunsaturated -- each having different properties and uses:

» Monounsaturated safflower oil is rich in oleic acid and is quite shelf-stable. However, it has to be stored in a cool and dark place to prevent it from turning rancid.

» Polyunsaturated safflower oil has a high content of linoleic acid and is more prone to becoming rancid. It should not be used in high heat cooking, as this converts the oil into certain chemical compounds, which may add an unpleasant flavor to the food. However, as it contains high amounts of polyunsaturated fats, it helps in the production of prostaglandins in the body. Moreover, safflower oil is rich in omega-6 fatty acids and can be highly beneficial for our health.

Side Effects of Safflower Oil

Safflower oil is obtained from a plant that belongs to the Asteraceae family. Despite the several benefits and uses of safflower oil, there are some dangers associated with the use of this oil. Many people are allergic or hypersensitive to plants of the Asteraceae or Compositae family, such as daisy, ragweed, marigold, and chrysanthemum. Hence, patients who are sensitive or allergic to such plants, may experience allergic reactions to safflower oil.

Common Side Effects

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Belching
  • Loose stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Indigestion
  • Chills
  • Shivering
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Sleepiness
  • Sweating
  • Chest Pain
  • Back Pain

These side effects are mild and generally, disappear within a few days.

Serious Adverse Effects

Hyperthermia - This is a condition in which the body temperature rises -- becomes higher than the normal temperature of the body. Excessive use of safflower oil results in sudden increase of heat in the body, which may lead to medical emergencies.

Hyperlipemia - If safflower oil is consumed in huge amounts, then it can increase the amount of fat in the blood, which may result in hyperlipemia. It is a condition in which the lipoproteins/lipids in the blood increase, which may get serious.

Dyspnea - It's a condition in which one may experience shortness of breath due to excess consumption of oil. One may also feel tightening of chest and suffocation as well. It is always better to call emergency services in such cases to avoid complications.

Severe Chest Pain - Safflower oil if taken in little quantities does not harm the body, but if used in large quantities for cooking, it can lead to chest pain and eventually, heart problems as well.

Thrombocytopenia - Safflower oil causes the blood to thin down, which reduces the platelets present in the blood, leading to a condition called thrombocytopenia.

Hypercoagulability - Excess use of safflower oil can form fibrin in the blood that increases the risk of blood coagulation. It causes blood clots in blood vessels, which is known as hypercoagulability.

Transient Increase in Liver Enzymes - Liver enzymes are a special type of protein that cause necessary chemical reactions in our body. If there is a transient increase in these enzymes, then it may affect the function of liver and can lead to complications.

Enhances Bleeding Disorders: If you have ulcers or bleeding problems, safflower seed oil should not be consumed in combination with blood-thinning medications, as it enhances their effect, thus increasing the risk of bleeding.

Unsafe During Pregnancy: The flower of this plant is poisonous and hence should not be consumed during pregnancy. Also, supplements that may contain dried or powdered form of the flower should not be consumed, as it could lead to the death of the fetus.

Safflower oil, taken as a part of balanced diet, generally does not cause any severe side effects. However, if consumed in large amounts, it may lead to several complications. Safflower oil contains omega-6 fatty acids, and excess of these fatty acids in the body may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and noninsulin-dependent diabetes.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid the intake of safflower oil. It is advisable to consume safflower oil after consulting your health care provider, in order to avoid any adverse reactions.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical professional.