(From the Arabic term kartham). Bastard saffron. Called also cnicus; crocus Sara-cenicus; carthamum officinarum; carduus sativus, saffron flower; carthamus tinctorius Lin. Sp. Pi. 1162. Nat. order cynarocephali of Jussieu. It agrees with the thistle in most of its characters, but its seeds are destitute of down. The leaves are oval and pointed: on the tops grow scaly heads, with saffron coloured fistulous flowers; these are followed by smooth white seeds, of an oblong roundish shape, yet with four sensible corners remarkably heavy, so as to sink in water.
This plant is annual, a native of Egypt, and cultivated in other places on account of its flowers, which are used in dyeing. It does not arrive at much perfection in England.
The seeds have an unctuous sweetish taste, which on chewing are acrid and disagreeable. With water they form an emulsion by trituration; and to spirit they give out a little nauseous, acrid matter. They are cathartic in doses of one or two drachms; supposed also to be diuretic and expectorant, particularly useful in humoral asthma, and similar complaints. The flowers are difficultly distinguished by the eye from true saffron, when they are well prepared; but they have neither its smell nor taste. They give to spirit of wine a deep saffron tincture, and to water a paler yellow. After the yellow matter is extracted by water, the flowers appear of a red colour, and communicate to spirit of wine a deep red.
Some have the art of preparing the seeds of melons and of cucumbers, so as to resemble the excoriated seeds of bastard saffron; but the genuine seeds are not so white as the artificial.
The carthamus lanatus is considered in France as a febrifuge and sudorific. (See Carduus and Atrac-tylis). The carthamus gummiferus of naturalists is the atractylis gummifera of Linnaeus. Its juice is milky, and it concretes in the form of a gum.