CARTHAMUS FLOWER (Carthamus tinctorius)

Latin: Carthamus tinctorius flos
Chinese: Hong hua
English: Safflower flower

WHAT IT DOES: Carthamus flower is pungent in taste and warming in action.  It promotes blood circulation and helps reduce pain.

RATING: Silver, due to minor limitations in usage
SAFETY ISSUES: Should not be used during pregnancy.  Use with caution if taking anti-coagulant medications.  Do not take during menstruation if bleeding is heavy.  

• Dried powder: three to nine grams per day
Note: To make a wine preparation add nine grams of concentrated powder to four ounces of wine and take in one-ounce doses throughout the day.

Carthamus flower has a beautiful red color.  It is one of my favorite herbs for promoting blood circulation, and it stops pain and can be used safely to treat poor circulation, dysmenorrhea and amenorrhea.  At our clinic we also include it in formulas for treating angina pectoris and other serious cerebrovascular diseases.  However, in such cases we only treat with carthamus or other blood thinners in coordination with a cardiologist to assure patient safety.

TCM doctors also use carthamus to reduce spleen and liver enlargement.  A rare special form of this flower from Tibet called tsang hong hua is considered to be the highest quality.  TCM doctors believe taking carthamus flower with wine strengthens the herb’s ability to break down blood stasis.  

Research Highlights

• Chinese laboratory studies have shown that carthamus flower can improve coronary blood flow and increase the time necessary for the blood to clot.  Clinical trials with a tablet made from an alcohol extract of carthamus resulted in reduced angina pain, improved endurance and improved EEG.  Intravenous infusion also proved very effective (reported in Dharmananda, 1994).

• Decoctions of carthamus flower with other blood moving and Qi invigorating herbs have also proven beneficial in patients with coronary artery disease.  In one study, patients reported significant reduction in symptoms, and 41% had an improvement in ECG after one month of treatment.  Following the four-month study, 90% of the patients were able to stop using nitroglycerin (reported in Bensky and Gamble, 1993).

• Carthamus flower has shown pharmacological actions in animal and in vitro experiments including dilation of the coronary artery, constriction on the kidney blood vessels, protection against brain injury from ischemia (lack of blood flow), and lowering of cholesterol (reported in Yeung, 1983).