Health Benefits of Safflower Oil

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on July 14, 2023
2 min read

Safflower oil comes from the seeds of the safflower plant. While it’s more expensive than other oils used for cooking, safflower oil may be a healthier alternative. But what exactly are the health benefits, and how does it differ from other oils?

‌Safflower plants are used for many purposes. They were originally grown for their yellow and red flowers and used to make dyes. Today the plant is primarily grown for its oil, although it also supplies meal and birdseed.

Safflower oil has almost 75% linoleic acid, which may help to lower blood cholesterol levels and improve heart and circulatory conditions. The linoleic acid content in safflowers is much higher than other oils such as:

  • Corn
  • Soybean
  • Cottonseed
  • Peanut‌
  • Olive  

Safflower oil high in linoleic acid is primarily found in margarines and salad dressings. Other varieties of safflower plants produce oil that is high in oleic acid. This type of safflower oil is a heat-stable option better suited for cooking.

Cooking. Use safflower oil in recipes as a substitute for vegetable oil or other frying oils. In recipes that call for butter, you can look for margarine products derived from safflower oil. You can also read the ingredients on salad dressing bottles to look for products that contain safflower oil.

Skincare. Plant oils are increasingly popular for skincare. You can purchase safflower oil and apply it to your skin directly, or look for over-the-counter skincare products that list safflower oil as an ingredient.

Keep in mind that there is always the possibility of an allergic reaction, so test a small area of your skin before applying safflower oil all over your body. Some studies show that safflower oil has therapeutic benefits from topical application that may:

  • Be anti-inflammatory
  • Offer antioxidant effects
  • Promote wound healing
  • Repair your skin barrier 
  • Reduce pain in your joints and muscles
  • Help with arthritis pain and discomfort
  • Alleviate menstrual cramps

Safflower oil for treating inflammation. Safflower oil’s anti-inflammatory properties can calm your skin when applied topically.

Safflower oil for high cholesterol.  

High LDL levels put you at a greater risk for heart attack and stroke. A diet that is high in saturated and trans fat raises your bad (LDL) cholesterol. Safflower oil helps to lower your LDL levels without adversely impacting your good (HDL) cholesterol. Substituting other oils in cooking and meals with safflower oil can help your cholesterol levels.

As a final reminder, you should always talk to your doctor before self-diagnosing or self-treating any health conditions. There is a chance that safflower oil may interact with medications you are taking. While safflower oil in moderation can provide health benefits to improve conditions, you may also need other resources to help manage symptoms that are persistent.