Saccharum offficinarum > SUGAR CANE SAFFLOWER
(Carthamus tinctorius) One of the oldest dyestuffs known. The fruits have been found in Egyptian tombs that are 3500 years old, and since then it has been grown, for centuries past, in India, the Middle East and East Africa, for the flower heads, and so for the dye obtained from them (H G Baker). There are in fact two dyes obtainable from them - safflower yellow, similar to true saffron, and often used as a substitute for it (Leggett), and carthamin, a red colour. Both are simple to extract, and direct, but not fast. China and Japan made early use of the dyes, at least from the end of the second century BC. It has long lost its predominance in Asia (Buhler), though it is still cultivated in India for local use (Leggett), such as in the dyeing of ceremonial clothes, or in the making of a brush paint for cosmetic rouge, and so on (Buhler) (one of the names given to the plant is Rouge Plant (Howes)). It was apparently introduced into the southwestern states of North America by the Mormons, in about 1870. They cultivated it in gardens that were irrigated by narrow trenches, but people like the Hopi Indians had access to the plant, for they used the flowers to colour their waferbread yellow (Weiner). Pomet, in the 18th century, noted that "this Saffron is in great vogue among the feather-sellers, and for making Spanish-red ..."
The dried flowers are used in Chinese medicine as a "blood invigorator" (Geng Junying), whatever that means, though one meaning is certainly to promote menstruation, which is presumably why the flowers have the reputation in China of causing abortion (F P Smith). In the Philippines, the flowers are used to treat jaundice, and the seeds serve as a remedy for apoplexy and dropsy (Perry & Metzger).
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