Optimization of extraction yield of carthamine and safflower yellow pigments from safflower (Carthamus tinctorious L.) under different treatments and solvent systems

Document Type : Original paper


1 Molecular Physiology Department, Agriculture Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran (ABRII), Karaj, Iran.

2 Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran.


Background and objectives: Safflower (Carthamus tinctorious L.) florets contain valuable red and yellow pigments and are used in food, textile dying, and pharmaceutical industries. Red carthamine pigment is formed from a yellow precursor, precarthamine, through an oxidation reaction at the end of flowers' maturation stage. The present study was conducted to find out the most effective procedure for extraction and purification of yellow and red pigments from safflower florets. Methods: Two different experiments were designed to assess the suitability of oxidant reagents (KMnO4 and H2O2) on the reddening of florets and different alkaline and organic solutions were used as the solvents (KNO3, Na2CO3, ethanol/hexane, methanol, and NaOH) in order to extract and purify the pigments. All obtained pigments were characterized chromatographically and spectrophotometrically for calculating the yield and evaluating purity of the extracted materials. Results: The results showed that KMnO4 and H2O2 treatments were significantly effective for increasing carthamine yield from safflower; but KMnO4 decreased the amount of yellow pigment extraction during the washing process of treated petals before extraction. Ethanol/hexane demonstrated to be effective in the extraction of yellow pigments, but it was not a good solvent for carthamine extraction. Except for the degassed bicarbonate which showed a high pigment yield, the other three solvents especially KNO3 did not appear to be of practical use for red pigment preparation. Conclusion: The present results showed that pretreatment of petals with hydrogen peroxide and then extracting by degassed solvents resulted in higher yield of red carthamine pigment, and also using reconditioned cellulose or cotton, instead of fresh cellulose, would reduce the cost.


[1]  Fatahi N, Carapetian J, Heidari R. Spectrophotometric measurement of valuble pigments from petals of safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) and their identification by TLC method. Res J Biol Sci. 2008; 3(7): 761-763.
[2]  Kazuma K, Takahashi T, Sato K, Takeuchi H, Matsumoto T, Okuno T. Quinochalcones and flavonoids from fresh florets in different cultivars of Carthamus tinctorius L. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2000; 64(8): 1588-1599.
[3]  Meselhy M, Kadota R, Momose S, Hatakeyama Y, Kusai N, Hattori A, Namba T. Two new quinochalcone yellow pigments from Carthamus tinctorius and Ca2+ antagonistic activity of tinctormine. Chem Pharm Bull. 1993; 41(10): 1796-1802.
[4]  Asgary S, Rahimi P, Madani H, Mahzoni P, Kabiri N. Effects of hydroalcoholic extract of Carthamus tinctorius on activity of hepatic transaminases in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. J Shahrekord Univ Med Sci. 2010; 12(1): 46-52.
[5]  Bai Y, Ping L, Han C, Yu C, Chen M, He F, Yi D. Hydroxysafflor yellow A (HSYA) from flowers of Carthamus tinctorius L. and its vasodilatation effects on pulmonary artery. Molecules. 2012; 17: 14918-14927.
[6]  Wu S, Yu Y, Tian H, Li Z, Li X, He W, Ding H. Carthamus red from Carthamus tinctorius L. exerts antioxidant and hepatoprotective effect against CCl4-induced liver damage in rats via the Nrf2 pathway. J Ethnopharmacol; 2013; 148(2): 570-578.
[7]  Kazuma K, Takahashi T, Sato K, Takeuchi H, Matsumoto T, Okuno T. Chalcones and flavonoids from fresh florets in different cultivars of Carthamus tictorius L. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2000; 64(8): 1588-1599.
[8]  Cho MH, Paik YS, Hahn TR. Enzymatic conversion of precarthamin to carthamin by a purified enzyme from the yellow petals of safflower. J Agric Food Chem. 2000; 48(9): 3917-3921.
[9]  Saito K. Glucose oxidase, a potential contributor towards flower colour modification in the capitula of Carthamus tinctorius L. Biochem Physiol Pfl. 1993; 188(6): 405-417.
[10]  Saito K, Takahashi M. A new technique for the chemical processing of reddened florets from dyer's saffron capitula. Food Chem. 1993; 48(4): 387-389.
[11]  Saito K. A new method for reddening dyer's saffron florets: evaluation of carthamine productivity. Z Lebensm Unters For. 1991; 192(4): 343-347.
[12]  Ogawa I, Yamano H, Miyagawa K. Application of deaerated water in extraction of colorants from dyer's saffron florets. J Appl Polym Sci. 1999; 74(7): 1701-1704.
[13]  Fatahi N, Carapetian J, Heidari R. Comparing stability of carthamine and safflower yellow pigments at pH, temperature and light, from safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) florets. Res J Biol Sci. 2009; 4(3): 250-253.
[14]  Saito K, Matsuhisa Y, Naruse A, Kanehira T. Successive entrapping of red and yellow quinoid chalcones from aqueous extracts of dyer's saffron florets: a newly established and practically approved technique. Z Lebensm Unters For. 1989; 189(5): 418-421.
[15]  Saito K, Yamamoto T, Miyamoto KI. Isolation and partial purification of carthamine: an instrumentation manual. Z Lebensm Unters For. 1992; 195(6): 550-554.
[16]  Saito A, Fukushima A. An improved method for large-scale isolation of a water-soluble safflor pigment from dyer's saffron flowers. Food Chem. 1989; 32(4): 297-306.