Safflower, a dyeing material, the florets of carthamus tinctorius, also called bastard and dyer's saffron, and in this country, incorrectly, saffron. The genus carthamus (from kartam or quortom, the Arabic name of the plant) belongs to that tribe of compositoe which includes the thistles, and contains about 20 species, the most important being the safflower; this is an annual, which has been so long cultivated in the East that its native country is unknown; it is from 1 to 3 ft. high, the stem branching above, and furnished with oyal, half-clasping leaves, with spiny teeth; the flowers are in thistle-like heads at the ends of the branches, with a leafy and prickly involucre; the florets are all tubular, and of a dark orange color; akenes (popularly seeds) without pappus, four-sided, white or brownish, and very smooth. The plant will perfect itself in the northern states, and is often seen in the gardens of those who raise medicinal herbs. When the florets are fully expanded, they are pulled out of the head and dried. The principal supply of commerce is from the East Indies, where the florets are pressed into small cakes an inch or two in diameter, and dried in kilns; afterward they are packed in bales of about 2 cwt.
Formerly safflower was largely used in measles and other diseases accompanied by an eruption of the skin, and it is still kept in the drug stores, there being some demand for it in domestic practice; the home-grown, dried loosely, is preferred. It has at most a slightly diaphoretic effect. Safflower is sometimes used to adulterate the true saffron, a more expensive drug. (See Saffron.) - The chief use of safflower is as a dye, and before the introduction of aniline colors it was largely employed to impart to silk various shades of pink, rose, crimson, and scarlet; the colors, though fugitive, are very brilliant. It contains a yellow coloring principle, which is soluble in water and of no value, and a red coloring matter, carthamine or carthamic acid, which is insoluble in water, but soluble in alkaline liquids, from which it is precipitated by acids. When used as a dye, the yellow color is first extracted by kneading the safflower in bags under water; it is then treated with a solution of carbonate of soda; in the liquid thus obtained the silk, previously mordanted with lemon juice, is immersed. The pink saucers, sold for dyeing and for toilet purposes, are small white saucers with a thin coating of carthamine.
Rouge is also prepared from it. (See Rouge).
Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius).