Safflower Yellow Treats Sepsis and Septic Shock
Recent research finds that safflower yellow can treat sepsis infections and deadly septic shock illness.
What is safflower yellow?
The dried flowers of the safflower plant (Carthamus tinctorius) have an ancient history of healing.
Today most safflower is grown commercially to yield seeds that are pressed for the purposes of cooking oil. And yes, these oilseeds are significant sources of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid – also primary in olive oil. But the yellow and red flowers of the safflower plant are also known for their myriad of medicinal qualities in Traditional Chinese medicine, Greek medicine and Egyptian medicine.
For thousands of years these flowers have been cut, dried, tinctured and used for the purposes of reducing inflammation and pain. In Chinese medicine, the plant is related to the liver meridian and the heart meridian. It is known to stimulate circulation and reduce energy stagnation. It is also used to stimulate menstrual flow, and has been used in cases of painful menstruation along with post-partum bleeding. It has also been used as a poison antidote.
In fact, the Carthamus tinctorius plant as been used to treat various gynecological issues, as well as cardiovascular diseases including coronary heart disease.
In recent years, these qualities of safflower flowers and its tinctures have been examined scientifically and the plant has been determined to have anticoagulative effects, vasodilation effects, antioxidant effects, analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects in laboratory and human studies.
These effects come from a host of medicinal constituents in the flowers of the safflower plant. The medicinal constituents in safflower flowers include luteolin, safflamin C, caryophyllene, allyltoluene, acetoxytetralin, heneicosane, hydroxysafflor yellow A, safflor yellow A, carthamin, carthamidin, isocarthamidin. safflamin C, and others. As we have discussed with many plant medicines, the synergies of a plant’s biochemicals not only render a myriad of medicinal benefits, but balance each other to buffer and protect against side effects.
This said, the active constituent responsible for much of the cardiovascular effects of safflower flower has been identified as safflomin A – a part of a special safflower extract called Safflower yellow.
Sepsis can be deadly – and it is widespread
Sepsis occurs more frequently than heart attacks. Sepsis kills more people than cancer does. And in many countries, sepsis is the leading cause of death. This is because among undeveloped countries, emergency room treatment is less available. And sepsis typically requires emergency treatment.
In 2008, 1,141,000 people contracted sepsis in the U.S. And the CDC reported that more than 207,000 Americans died from sepsis in 2007. According to the CDC, the fatality risk of contracting sepsis is between 28 and 50 percent.
More than 750,000 Americans will contract sepsis in a year. And sepsis is one of the leading causes of deaths in hospitalized cases in the U.S. A 2010 study found that sepsis was involved in 52 percent of all hospital deaths in the U.S.
Sepsis is difficult to treat, and this is why it has such a high fatality rate. Within a day or two of a sepsis infection, a person can fall into septic shock. At that point, removing the source of the infection is extremely difficult. Infusions of antibiotics are often used, but these are increasingly being challenged by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
What about natural approaches?
Safflower Yellow treats sepsis
Because of safflower’s traditional success in treating blood and cardiovascular cases, researchers have recently been looking closely at the Safflower yellow extract to treat sepsis and septic shock.
This is what researchers from China’s Sichuan University and Hospital tested in a controlled, randomized clinical study of Safflower yellow on 100 sepsis and septic shock patients. The total study period lasted 41 months.
A total of 85 sepsis patients completed the study. These had infections of one or multiple bacteria. Most had infections of Klebsiella pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus.
Of these, 45 of the patients were treated with conventional medicine treatments for sepsis. The other 40 patients were also treated with conventional treatments, but with the addition of being given Safflower yellow extract.
During their treatment period, each of the 40 Safflower yellow patients received 100 milligrams of Safflower yellow extract intravenously every 12 hours. They were each treated for 72 total hours.
The researchers followed up with each of the patients for 28 days after treatment. The Safflower yellow treatment resulted in a reduction of deaths in the hospital by 68 percent. In fatalities from all causes among the patients, the Safflower yellow reduced deaths by 36 percent.
Safflower treatment also improves heart and blood health
The researchers also found that the patients receiving the Safflower yellow treatment also had a number of improvements related to their cardiovascular health and blood health.
Their heart rates decreased. Their respiratory rates decreased. Their counts of leucocytes, platelets, lactate, and serum creatinine levels all decreased. Their blood pressure went down and their kidney health improved.
Of the 40 patients treated, there was one adverse reaction to the treatment. This came in the form of an allergic reaction. No other adverse effects of the treatment were found.
Improvement of respiration providing mechanism
In their discussion, the researchers noted their findings along with the mechanisms of Safflower yellow in treating sepsis and septic shock:
“As we originally hypothesized, this study demonstrated that Safflower yellow significantly reduced 28-day mortality and increased survival in patients with severe sepsis and septic shock. Failure of multiple organ systems brings about the high mortality in sepsis and shock, and deterioration of cardiorespiratory function is particularly critical. In this study, we show Safflower yellow acts mainly by improving respiratory and cardiovascular function and tissue perfusion, as well as by decreasing inflammatory reaction.”
Safflower yellow helps treat heart disease
Other research has shown Safflower yellow’s cardiovascular benefits in treatment. A 2013 meta-analysis of clinical research on Safflower yellow in treating unstable angina pectoris – coronary heart disease – illustrated this. The researchers analyzed seven studies that included 1,134 heart disease patients.
The analysis showed that the infection of 80 to 100 milligrams of Safflower yellow had almost triple (295%) the success rate compared to conventional treatment alone.
How does Safflower Yellow work?
Safflower yellow has been studied for its ability to correct deficiencies among the blood and blood vessels in other studies. These have found that Safflower yellow will change the expression of angiotensin II and the progression of atherosclerosis. Basically, Safflower yellow helps prevent clots, and helps stiffening blood vessels become more flexible, and reduces the plaque that creates artery stiffness.
Safflower yellow also changes platelet-activating factor reception. This in turn affects the process of inflammation among the blood and the blood vessel walls.
Another anti-inflammatory mechanism of Safflower yellow is that it stimulates the expression of heme oxygenase-1. This inhibits the pro-inflammatory cytokine NF-kappaB. Safflower yellow also inhibits the expression of another pro-inflammatory cytokine process: necrosis factor (TNF)-α-mediated VCAM-1.
Yes, these mechanisms are quite complex. Safflower yellow and other medicinal herbs are very complex in terms of how they work within the body. Why is that?
Because nature is smart.
Xiao-jin Li, Ru-rong Wang, Yan Kang, et al., “Effects of Safflower Yellow in Treatment of Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2016, Article ID 3948795, 8 pages, 2016. doi:10.1155/2016/3948795
Asgarpanah J, Kazemivash N. Phytochemistry, pharmacology and medicinal properties of Carthamus tinctorius L. Chin J Integr Med. 2013 Feb;19(2):153-9. doi: 10.1007/s11655-013-1354-5.
Kong D, Xia W, Zhang Z, Xiao L, Yuan D, Liu Y, Yang G. Safflower yellow injection combined with conventional therapy in treating unstable angina pectoris: a meta-analysis. J Tradit Chin Med. 2013 Oct;33(5):553-61.
Zang BX, Jin M, Si N, Zhang Y, Wu W, Piao YZ. Antagonistic effect of hydroxysafflor yellow A on the platelet activating factor receptor. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 2002 Sep;37(9):696-9.
Jun MS, Ha YM, Kim HS, Jang HJ, Kim YM, Lee YS, Kim HJ, Seo HG, Lee JH, Lee SH, Chang KC. Anti-inflammatory action of methanol extract of Carthamus tinctorius involves in heme oxygenase-1 induction. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jan 27;133(2):524-30. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2010.10.029.
Liu Y, Tian X, Cui M, Zhao S. Safflower yellow inhibits angiotensin II-induced adventitial fibroblast proliferation and migration. J Pharmacol Sci. 2014;126(2):107-14.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn our health around. As I drove home that night, I realized this knowledge should be available to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.”