The Safflower plant, known in India as Koosumbha and in China as Hoang-tchi, is extensively cultivated in India, China and other parts of Asia, also in Egypt and Southern Europe; but its native country is unknown. It grows about 2 to 3 feet high, with a stiff, upright whitish stem, branching near the top; and has oval, spiny, sharp-pointed leaves, their bases half-clasping the stem. Its fruits are about the size of barleycorns, somewhat four-sided, white and shining, like little shells.
Safflower is one of the oldest crops known. For most of its history, the florets were used as the source of a dye, until more stable sources were developed. Interest in the health benefits of unsaturated oils to lower cholesterol levels brought about a new popularity of the ancient food source. Safflower has been used in many herbal traditions worldwide including Native American, TCM, and Ayurvedic medicine.