Whether it is the Risotto from Italy, Paella from Spain, Bouillabaisse from France, Biryani and several desserts from the Indian subcontinent, saffron is an indispensable ingredient in many Multinational cuisines & recipes including rice, sweets and ice creams providing both color and a distinctive flavor to many dishes and features in many traditional festive dishes. A common ingredient in Saudi Coffee also known as Al-Qahwa, Saffron is sometimes mixed with other spices to give it a beautiful golden hue. It takes 150 crocus flowers to yield just 1gm of aromatic and colourful saffron. Popularly referred to as the sunshine spice, saffron is made by harvesting the stigmas from the crocus flower. Due to it’s delicate nature the stigmas are hand picked, air-dried and it’s no wonder then that saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, even more expensive then gold – gram for gram!
Saffron has many uses ranging from medicinal, religious, cosmetic and last but not the least culinary. Saffron is graded and priced according to its strength and color and its use pervasive across continents both as a culinary & medicinal herb. The spice has a long history. It’s believed that humans used saffron as early as 3,500 years ago. Historically, people used it to treat a long list of health conditions.
In the traditional medicine, saffron is used as a diaphoretic, eupeptic, tranquilizer, expectorant, aphrodisiac, abortifacient, emmenagogue and in the treatment of hepatic disorders, flatulence, spasm, vomiting, dental and gingival pain, insomnia, depression, seizures, cognitive disorders, lumbago, asthma, cough, bronchitis, colds, fever, cardiovascular disorders and cancer. Saffron is recognized as an adaptogen in Indian ayurvedic medicine.
Cultivated originally in Persia and Asia Minor, this legendary spice comes from a light purple flower with thread-like red-orange stigma that contains 150 bioactive components, including carotenoids, flavonoids, and other potent polyphenols. A rich source of riboflavin (vitamin B-2) and free-radical scavengers, saffron has a long history of use as a folk medicine for treating cancer, convulsions, headaches, skin conditions, asthma, ulcers, premenstrual distress, and other diseases. The Ebers papyrus (1550 BC) refers to saffron as a “cheering cardiac medicament” and a cure for kidney problems.
What are the health benefits of consuming saffron daily?
1. Antidepressant ( Mood Elevator) Saffron has been nicknamed the “sunshine spice.” And that’s not just because of its red and sometimes yellow coloring. The spice is believed to have mood-boosting properties. There may be some science behind these claims, too. One older study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found saffron to be as effective as the drug fluoxetine (Prozac) in treating mild to moderate depression. A review in the Journal of Integrative Medicine examined several studies involving the use of saffron for treatment of depression in adults over 18.
Animal studies show the compounds safranal and crocin in the crocus plant may exert anti-depressant effects by keeping balanced levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin found that saffron did improve symptoms for people with major depressive disorder.Clinical trials evaluated the anti-depressant properties of saffron and concluded that it was more effective than a placebo and equivalent to Prozac.
This may make the spice a good alternative for people who don’t tolerate antidepressant medications well.
2. Heart health Saffron has many different chemical components. Some of these may help to reduce blood pressure and provide protection against heart disease. A review of studies done on rats showed that saffron lowered blood pressure.
Other research using rabbits found the spice to be effective in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. One older human study in the Indian Journal of Medical Sciences found that saffron reduced the possibility that bad cholesterol would cause tissue damage. Researchers believe that the antioxidant properties of saffron might have a protective effect when it comes to heart disease.
3. PMS treatment Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, from mood swings to physical discomforts. Some women are affected more than others. For those who want relief but don’t want to rely on medications, saffron may be a good alternative. A review in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology looked at the use of herbal treatments for PMS and the more severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Both conditions cause discomfort to a woman in the one to two weeks before her period begins. Saffron is listed in the review as being an effective treatment for symptoms. Another study in the International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology looked at saffron as a treatment for PMS symptoms in women ages 20 to 45. Researchers found that 15 mg of saffron twice daily is effective in relieving PMS symptoms.
4. Boosts memory Saffron contains two chemicals, crocin and crocetin, which researchers believe may help learning and memory function. One study published in Phytotherapy Research using mice found that saffron was able to improve learning and memory problems. This promising research shows that saffron may have potential in treating diseases that affect the brain, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Scientific studies indicate that saffron improves learning and memory by inhibiting the breakdown of acetylcholine. Saffron also enhances the functioning of the GABA receptor, which explains in part its efficacy as relaxant and nerve tonic.
5. Cancer prevention Saffron is rich in both antioxidants and flavonoids. Antioxidants help protect the body from harmful substances. Flavonoids are chemicals found in plants that help the plant protect itself from fungus and disease. A 2015 review in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that the chemical makeup of saffron may be effective in preventing and treating several different cancers. But researchers point out that more studies involving humans are needed.
So either infuse it in your favorite desserts, regular food, juices , Tea-coffee or Turmeric milk, your body will surely bless you a healthy & disease free life.
See the Video on Benefits of Saffron: https://youtu.be/xE85xD0AzrU
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