6 Health Benefits of Saffron You Should Know
Costing at around $5000 per pound, Saffron is perhaps the costliest spice on Earth. It takes around 75,000 blossoms to produce a single pound of Saffron which explains why it is the costliest spice in the world. Saffron is not only popular as a spice but it also offers numerous health benefits. Read on to know about the health benefits of saffron and its side effects!
Saffron is actually the dried stigma or threads of the flower of the Crocus sativus plant and has distinct colour and flavour. The distinct flavour of Saffron comes due to the presence of chemical compounds such as picrocrocin and safranal. The golden yellow hue of it comes due to a carotenoid called crocin. It acts as an antioxidant and neural protective agent.
Saffron was known to man in the early stages of civilization. Over 3 millennia ago, Saffron was honoured as a sweet-smelling spice in various biblical stories and legends. The Sumerians used it in their potion for magical and medicinal use. In Iraq, 50,000-year-old cave paintings have been found where drawings were made with Saffron.
This exotic spice was probably first cultivated near Greece and today it is cultivated in many parts of the world. Iran is the largest producer of Saffron in the world. In India, it is grown in the hilly regions of Jammu and Kashmir.
Did you know?
– Some historians believe that Saffron came to China with Mongol invaders by way of Persia
– The Egyptian queen, Cleopatra used it in her baths and cosmetics to enhance her beauty
-When the Roman emperor, Nero, entered Rome, Saffron was spread on the roads and halls to enhance the aroma
This noble spice is also an excellent source of minerals like potassium, copper, calcium, manganese, selenium, iron, zinc and magnesium. Saffron helps to control heart rate and blood pressure due to its potassium content. Manganese and copper work as cofactors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production.
Additionally, it is also rich in many vital vitamins including vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid, riboflavin and niacin which are essential for optimal health.
Saffron is not only a food ingredient, but it also has its uses as a medicine and natural dye in ancient India and China. You can also use saffron for the treatment of various diseases like asthma, cough and insomnia.
Health Benefits of Saffron
Let’s have a look at the health benefits of saffron.
Protects against cancer
Researchers have discovered that Saffron and its active components have the ability to inhibit human malignant cells. Not only this, but it also stimulates the formation of the immune cells called lymphocytes that help destroy cancer cells.
Saffron contains many non-volatile compounds like zeaxanthin, lycopene, α- and ß-carotenes. One of the most important carotenoid compounds is crocin, a powerful antioxidant also responsible for giving the golden yellow colour to saffron. Crocin triggers programmed cell death also called apoptosis in different types of human cancer cells, leukaemia, ovarian carcinoma, colon adenocarcinoma, and soft tissue sarcoma. Other active chemical compounds present also acts as an antioxidant that helps in restricting or eliminating any oxidant-induced stress which causes cancer.
The anti-carcinogenic properties of saffron is due to the presence of flavonoids in it. Saffron contains beta-blockers and flavonoids that delay tumour growth.
The flower pistil of Saffron also contains several essential volatile oils like safranal, cineole, phenyl ethanol, pinene, borneol, geraniol, limonene, p-cymene, linalool, terpinen-4-ol, etc. One of the most important volatile oil is safranal. Researches have shown that safranal has antioxidant properties and cytotoxic effects on cancer cells. It also has anti-convulsant and anti-depressant properties and can be used as a mild sedative.
Promotes memory retention and learning
Crocin present in Saffron is useful in the treatment of age-related mental impairment. The crocin and crocetin present in the saffron has the potential to improve memory and cognitive skills. In fact, in Japan, saffron encapsulation helps in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, memory loss and inflammation.
Aids in stomach and liver function
Picrocrocin, a chemical compound present in saffron gives off a bitter taste and is responsible for the characteristic flavour of saffron. This chemical component stimulates appetite and digestion by increasing digestive, salivary and gastric secretions.
Crocetin in saffron stimulates the production of bile in the liver. It also helps in the digestive process and prevents the formation of gallbladder stones. Saffron also protects the liver from possible damage caused by aflatoxins that we may ingest.
The chemical compound called safranal present in saffron has sedative properties. It helps to reduce nervousness and anxiety that causes insomnia.
It has a powerful aphrodisiac property that is in use since the ancient Romans. In case of low libido, saffron aids as a sexual stimulant and one can drink it with milk at bedtime.
Protects against cold and fever
Saffron is a stimulant tonic and it is very effective in treating cold and fever. It may relieve toothaches that babies get when their first tooth shows up.
Massaging gums with honey and saffron can ease the pain as it acts a natural antiseptic. In Chinese medicine, it is also used as a painkiller for cramps and asthma.
How to use of saffron?
Some ways to use saffron are:
- Drinking a mixture of milk and saffron can help in improving digestion and increasing the appetite. It even boosts your immunity.
- Consuming a small amount of saffron can help build stronger bones due to its manganese content. Manganese helps to absorb calcium and makes the bone stronger. Saffron contains 400% of the daily recommended value of manganese.
- Saffron is not only rich in manganese but also potassium. Potassium helps to balance fluids in the cells, which if low can cause muscle cramps.
- You can use it to treat acne, blemishes and blackheads. Applying a paste of 5-6 basil leaves with 10-12 strands of saffron on the face helps to get an acne clear skin.
- The antioxidants present in saffron can help in preventing hair loss. Soak a few strands of saffron in milk and add liquorice to it. Apply this mixture on the hair to stop hair fall and promote hair growth.
Saffron Side effects
The major saffron side effect is that it acts as a uterine stimulant and in severe cases has the possibility to cause miscarriage. High dosage of saffron i.e. greater than 10g may be harmful. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid the use of this spice in their diet. other saffron side effects may include dry mouth, dizziness, drowsiness, anxiety, change in appetite, nausea, and headache. Allergic reactions can also occur in some people.
100g of saffron provides 310 Calories, Carbs – 65g (Dietary Fiber – 3.9g), Protein – 11g, Fat – 5.9g, Sodium – 148mg
And a percentage daily value of Vitamin A – 11%, Vitamin C – 135%, Iron – 62%, Calcium – 11% (based on a 2,000 Calorie diet).