Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world — with 1 pound (450 grams) costing between 500 and 5,000 U.S. dollars. in this article we discuss Health Benefits of Saffron
The reason for its hefty price is its labor-intensive harvesting method, making the production costly.
Saffron is harvested by hand from the Crocus sativus flower, commonly known as the “saffron crocus.” The term “saffron” applies to the flower’s thread-like structures or stigma.
It originated in Greece, where it was revered for its medicinal properties. People would eat saffron to enhance libido, boost mood, and improve memory.
Saffron, often referred to as the ”golden spice” has been used as a seasoning and coloring agent in food for several years. Modern research suggests that saffron can be used as an antioxidant, to improve the immune system and to boost energy levels. Continue to read on to discover the various other health benefits of saffron.
What is Saffron?
Saffron, also known as Za’faran, is a spice derived from the Crocus sativus plant. Alluding to its yellow color and high cost, saffron is often referred to as the Golden Spice. Saffron has been used seasoning in food and as a coloring agent for over 4 millennia. Today, over 90% of the worlds saffron supply stems from Iran.
The Crocus sativus flower consists of thread-like, crimson-colored structures known as stigmas. The stigmas are collected and dried, resulting in the saffron spice.
Saffron is composed of a variety of chemical compounds that give rise to its taste, color and health benefits. Historically, saffron was used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments including:
Similarly, saffron was often included in various preparations used for pain relief.
In modern medicine, saffron has gained popularity for its wide range of therapeutic benefits, including (but not limited to) :
- Anxiety relief
- Treatment of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Insulin resistance
- Neurodegenerative disorders
- Learning disabilities
Although the role that saffron plays in mediating these benefits has not been completely understood, saffron has been proven to improve certain conditions like sexual dysfunction, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and Alzheimer’s, among others
Formulations of Saffron & Health Benefits of Saffron
To observe health improvements from saffron, doses much higher (30 to 50 mg) than that found in food are required. Today, a number of saffron formulations exist containing doses that have been proven to have a positive outcome. These include
- Itch cream
- Scar removal cream
- Infusion into a tea
The dose of saffron and its active components may vary amongst formulations, or even between different manufacturers of the same preparation. Therefore, the health benefits observed may differ depending on the quality of the plant, the dose in each formulation or the constituents overall.
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Privacy & Trust Info
What other names is Saffron known by?
What is Saffron?
How does Saffron work?
Are there safety concerns?
Are there any interactions with medications?
Dosing considerations for Saffron.
WHAT OTHER NAMES IS SAFFRON KNOWN BY?
Autumn Crocus, Azafrán, Azafron, Croci Stigma, Crocus Cultivé, Crocus sativus, Indian Saffron, Kashmira, Kesar, Kumkuma, Saffron Crocus, Safran, Safran Cultivé, Safran Espagnol, Safran des Indes, Safran Véritable, Spanish Saffron, True Saffron, Zafran.
WHAT IS SAFFRON?
Saffron is a plant. The dried stigmas (thread-like parts of the flower) are used to make saffron spice. It can take 75,000 saffron blossoms to produce a single pound of saffron spice. Saffron is largely cultivated and harvested by hand. Due to the amount of labor involved in harvesting, saffron is considered one of the world’s most expensive spices. The stigmas are also used to make medicine.
Saffron is used for asthma, cough, whooping cough (pertussis), and to loosen phlegm (as an expectorant). It is also used for sleep problems (insomnia), cancer, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), intestinal gas (flatulence), depression, Alzheimer’s disease, fright, shock, spitting up blood (hemoptysis), pain, heartburn, and dry skin.
Women use saffron for menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Men use it to prevent early orgasm (premature ejaculation) and infertility.
Saffron is also used for to increase interest in sex (as an aphrodisiac) and to induce sweating.
Some people apply saffron directly to the scalp for baldness (alopecia).
In foods, saffron is used as a spice, yellow food coloring, and as a flavoring agent.
In manufacturing, saffron extracts are used as a fragrance in perfumes and as a dye for cloth.
POSSIBLY EFFECTIVE FOR.
Alzheimer’s disease. Some research shows that taking a specific saffron product (IMPIRAN, Iran) by mouth for 22 weeks might improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease about as well as the prescription drug donepezil (Aricept).
Depression. Taking specific saffron extracts (Novin Zaferan Co, Iran) by mouth seems to improve symptoms of major depression after 6-8 weeks of treatment. Some studies suggest that saffron might be as effective as taking a low-dose prescription antidepressant such as fluoxetine or imipramine.
Menstrual discomfort. Some research shows the taking a specific product containing saffron, anise, and celery seed (SCA, Gol Daro Herbal Medicine Laboratory) reduces pain during the menstrual cycle.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Some research shows that taking a specific saffron extract (Department of Cultivation and Development of the Institute of Medicinal Plants, Iran) improves symptoms of PMS after two menstrual cycles.
Health Benefits of Saffron
A Powerful Antioxidant
Saffron contains an impressive variety of plant compounds that act as antioxidants — molecules that protect your cells against free radicals and oxidative stress.
Notable saffron antioxidants include crocin, crocetin, safranal, and kaempferol.
Crocin and crocetin are carotenoid pigments and responsible for saffron’s red color. Both compounds may have antidepressant properties, protect brain cells against progressive damage, improve inflammation, reduce appetite, and aid weight loss.
Safranal gives saffron its distinct taste and aroma. Research shows that it may help improve your mood, memory, and learning an ability, as well as protect your brain cells against oxidative stress.
Act as an Aphrodisiac
Aphrodisiacs are foods or supplements that help boost your libido.
Studies have shown that saffron may have aphrodisiac properties — especially in people taking antidepressants.
For instance, taking 30 mg of saffron daily over four weeks significantly improved erectile function over placebo in men with antidepressant-related erectile dysfunction (17Trusted Source).
Additionally, an analysis of six studies showed that taking saffron significantly improved erectile function, libido, and overall satisfaction but not semen characteristics (18Trusted Source).
In women with low sexual desire due to taking antidepressants, 30 mg of saffron daily over four weeks reduced sex-related pain and increased sexual desire and lubrication, compared to a placebo (19Trusted Source).
Can Boost Energy Levels
The active chemicals in saffron belong to a group of molecules called carotenoids. These molecules improve our energy supply and power (ergogenic effects).
In a study (DB-RCT) of 28 healthy men, saffron supplementation for 10 days increased muscle strength and improved reaction time. This is likely due to improved mitochondrial function in the cell (antioxidant activity) and the function of the region of the brain responsible for reacting to a visual and auditory stimulus (motor cortex).
Saffron improves blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles during exercise, which may also account for these effects.
Can Improve Sexual Function
A study of 20 male patients with erectile dysfunction found that saffron supplementation daily for 10 days increased the frequency and duration of erections.
Another study in 25 diabetic men with erectile dysfunction (a common symptom in diabetes) found that saffron gel significantly improved sexual function and increased the frequency of erections.
Certain medications can diminish sexual drive and cause pain during sex, like antidepressants. In a study of 38 women, saffron supplemented for 4 weeks improved sexual drive and reduced pain associated with sex. Saffron also increased lubrication, which helped minimize pain during sex.
Saffron also improved sexual activity in healthy rats. This effect was mediated by the active chemical crocin but was not seen with safranal.
Can Improve Mood Disorders
Saffron extracts can reduce depression and anxiety partly by increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine.
In meta-analysis saffron significantly improved mood.
In another study of 40 women with postpartum depression, saffron supplementation for 6 weeks was more effective in treating mild to moderate depression than the common antidepressant Prozac.
Furthermore, saffron supplementation improved symptoms such as low mood and anxiety in a study of 60 patients with anxiety after 12 weeks.
Saffron can also relieve anxiety in mice. One study in mice found that saffron extract reduced anxiety-like behaviors (elevated plus maze test) and increased sleeping time. This indicates that saffron may be effective in treating insomnia and other sleep-related disorders.
Similar improvements in depressive symptoms were seen in 61 patients with schizophrenia given saffron extract for 12 weeks. Saffron was well tolerated and is considered safe to use, but more research is needed to determine if saffron is as effective as the current therapies used in treating schizophrenia.