Exotic and Elite, Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Known mostly for its culinary use, saffron comes with numerous medicinal and health benefits as well. Saffron has the distinct flavor because of the chemical components in it picrocrocin, and Safranal. It also contains a natural Carotenoids chemical compound, Crocin, which gives saffron its golden-yellow hue. These traits along with its medicinal properties make it a valuable ingredient in many foods worldwide.
The dried “stigma” or threads of the flower of the S. Crocus plant. The plant is a bulbous perennial plant that belongs to the family of Iridaceae of the genus, Crocus and known botanically as Crocus Sativus. The Crocus Sativus plant grows to about 15-20 cm in height and bears lavender colored flowers during each season, which lasts from October until November. Each flower consists of a stalk, known as “style,” connecting to the three “stigmas” or threads to the rest of the plant. These orange-yellow colored stigmas along with the style constitute “saffron” which is used as spice.
Saffron is found in:
This exotic spice is a native of Jammu & Kashmir state of India, Iran, and Spain and is now cultivated worldwide in many countries, like Italy, France, Greece, and Turkey.
This novel spice is a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper are used by the body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as co-factor forcytochrome oxidases enzymes.
Additionally, it is also rich in many vital vitamins, including vitamin A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, Vitamin-C that is essential for optimum health.
Saffron, in about 100 grams of its quantity contains 310 kilo calories, 65.37 grams of carbohydrates, 11.43 grams of protein, 5.85 grams of fat and 0 mg of cholesterol. Dietary fiber content is 3.9 grams with other minerals like calcium 111 mg, copper, 0.328 mg, iron 11.10 mg, magnesium 264 mg and manganese 28 mg contributing to its mineral base.
- Saffron is a source of Carotenoids, which is good in maintaining healthy eye condition by protecting it from muscle degeneration and cataracts.
- Crocin and crocetin are powerful antioxidants in saffron which help in improving memory of a person. Diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s can be kept away by its intake.
- Saffron helps in improving the mood of a person. Saffron contains 5-hydroxytryptophan which helps in the production of serotonin which helps in elevating the mood as it really triggers the feeling that makes you feel good and relaxed.
- Saffron has been beneficial in treating arthritis and helps in reducing bone erosion and in healing joint pains. It also has anti-inflammatory effects and reduces swelling in the joints.
- Saffron helps to increase appetite, lowers down indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea and provides relief from acidity and gas related problems.
- Saffron helps to cure sleep disorders like Insomnia. Taking a pinch of saffron in warm milk before going to bed helps to great an extent.
- Saffron is considered as a blood purifier and increase the oxygen content of blood.
- Saffron helps to induce menses and can help to relieve pain associated with monthly periods. It also helps to reduce chronic problems with bleeding of the uterus. But one should always consult their health care provider before using any herb.
- Saffron is beneficial for maintaining dental health. It helps in making the gums strong and it reduces inflammation and swelling in the mouth.
- Saffron paste when applied on the injury helps speed up healing process.
- Saffron contains other Carotenoids, including zea-xanthin, Lycopene, α- and β-carotenes which are important antioxidants that help protect the human body from oxidant-induced stress, cancers, infections and acts as immune modulators.
- Saffron kills bacteria, making it ideal for treating acne.
- Because of its anti-bacterial and exfoliating properties it helps in creating brighter and clearer complexion.
- Saffron can help in toning up your skin. All you need to do is soak saffron strands in rose water and apply it on your skin after scrubbing.
Saffron Side Effects:
The intake of saffron needs to be monitored. In case this spice or saffron supplements are consumed in excessive amounts, there is the fear of some minor side effects which include:
- Food cravings or appetite reduction
The side effects of saffron could be dangerous when its intake is not properly monitored. Saffron could also cause allergic reactions in certain individuals and therefore one need to be careful of such situations. People who are allergic to plants like Lolium, Olea (includes olive), and Salsola might also be allergic to saffron.
Saffron milk is recommended during pregnancy due to its healing effects, but the dosage needs to be monitored. At most 2 strands of saffron in a glass of milk once in a day is sufficient. Also saffron intake should be started from the first trimester of pregnancy and it is advisable to consult your gynecologist before you include saffron in your diet.
Doctors also advise breast feeding mothers to avoid medium to large doses of saffron, as the effects on a newborn baby are unknown.