Saffron Benefits and Recipes
What Is Saffron?
Saffron threads are the strings of the Crocus Sativus Linnaeus. Because of saffron health benefits, its price, and aromatic qualities, it is called “Queen of Spices.”
Saffron is harvested from Crocus Sativus, which is better known as Saffron Crocus. Each bloom of the crocus produces 3 to 15 yellow styles, each of which ends with a crimson-red thread. The combination of gold style and crimson-red stigma constitute what know as saffron threads. These threads are plucked by hand and dried naturally. Finally, this process ends up with a fragrant and beautiful thread (saffron) which is the world most expensive spice.
In Afghanistan, it is called, “Red Gold.” Its ethereal flavor makes a perfect enrichment for savory and sweetened plates. It takes 225,000 stigmas (or 75,000 blossoms) to make a pound of saffron. It comes from the internal part of the amethyst-colored saffron crocus and must be hand-harvested due to its fragility.
Why Afghanistan Saffron?
The Afghanistan climate is warm, windy, and semiarid; this is the best climate for saffron to grow. In the last eight years, the International Taste and Quality Institute of Brussels awarded Afghan saffron the first high quality saffron in the world.
According to Afghan Officials, the saffron flower in Afghanistan produces up to 14 leaves, while saffron from Spain and other countries can produce up to 5 leaves in one plant.
Our saffron is tested according to ISO 3632-2 with color strength (Crocin) 272+. Currently we have the finest and highest quality saffron in US market.
Health Benefits of Saffron?
Here are 6 impressive health benefits of saffron.
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world — with 1 pound (450 grams) costing between 500 and 5,000 U.S. dollars.
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 (Source).
1. 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 (Source).
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 (Source).
Safranal gives saffron its distinct taste and aroma. Research shows that it may help improve your mood, memory, and learning ability, as well as protect your brain cells against oxidative stress (Source).
Lastly, kaempferol is found in saffron flower petals. This compound has been linked to health benefits, such as reduced inflammation, anticancer properties, and antidepressant activity (Source).
2. May Improve Mood and Treat Depressive Symptoms
Saffron is nicknamed the “sunshine spice.”
That’s not just due to its distinct color, but also because it may help brighten your mood.
In a review of five studies, saffron supplements were significantly more effective than placebos at treating symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression (Source).
Other studies found that taking 30 mg of saffron daily was just as effective as Fluoxetine, Imipramine, and Citalopram — conventional treatments for depression. Additionally, fewer people experienced side effects from saffron compared to other treatments (Source, Source, Source).
What’s more, both the saffron petals and thread-like stigma appear to be effective against mild-to-moderate depression (Source, Source).
While these findings are promising, longer human studies with more participants are needed before saffron can be recommended as a treatment for depression.
3. May Have Cancer-Fighting Properties
Saffron is high in antioxidants, which help neutralize harmful free radicals. Free radical damage has been linked to chronic diseases, such as cancer (Source).
In test-tube studies, saffron and its compounds have been shown to selectively kill colon cancer cells or suppress their growth, while leaving normal cells unharmed (Source).
This effect also applies to skin, bone marrow, prostate, lung, breast, cervix, and several other cancer cells (Source).
What’s more, test-tube studies have found that crocin — the main antioxidant in saffron — may make cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy drugs (Source).
While these findings from test-tube studies are promising, the anticancer effects of saffron are poorly studied in humans, and more research is needed.
4. May Reduce PMS Symptoms
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a term that describes physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms occurring before the start of a menstrual period.
Studies show that saffron may help treat PMS symptoms.
In women 20–45 years of age, taking 30 mg of saffron daily was more effective than a placebo at treating PMS symptoms, such as irritability, headaches, cravings, and pain (Source).
Another study found that simply smelling saffron for 20 minutes helped reduce PMS symptoms like anxiety and lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol (Source).
5. May Reduce Appetite and Aid Weight Loss
Snacking is a common habit that may put you at risk of gaining unwanted weight.
According to research, saffron may help prevent snacking by curbing your appetite.
In one eight-week study, women taking saffron supplements felt significantly more full, snacked less frequently, and lost significantly more weight than women in the placebo group (Source).
In another eight-week study, taking a saffron extract supplement helped significantly reduce appetite, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and total fat mass (Source).
However, scientists are unsure how saffron curbs appetite and aids weight loss. One theory is that saffron elevates your mood, which in turn reduces your desire to snack (Source).
6. May 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 a placebo in men with antidepressant-related erectile dysfunction (Source).
Additionally, an analysis of six studies showed that taking saffron significantly improved erectile function, libido, and overall satisfaction but not semen characteristics (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 (Source).
The health benefits article is brought to you from Health Line.
What Are Some Popular Saffron Recipes?
Here are seven traditional and tasty uses of saffron:
Saffron shines in dishes with mild flavors, which is why so many rice recipes require it. Rice is the perfect blank slate for the delicate flavors of saffron but only if you use the spice in moderation. Saffron requires constant heat and moisture to release its flavor and color; you also need constant heat and moisture to cook rice properly, which is why it is such a great saffron vehicle. Among the famous saffron and rice dishes are:
Risotto is an Italian rice dish that most likely came from Spain. A great risotto depends on two things: its texture and the flavor of saffron. You achieve the texture with the technique of constantly stirring the rice while it cooks. The same method helps to break up and separate the saffron strands and allows them to release more flavor.
Biryani is an Indian rice dish with roots in Persia. It features several whole and ground spices along with spice blends like garam masala. Saffron is one of those spices. Saffron’s mild flavor pairs well with that of the other spices while bringing an appetizing yellow color to the dish.
Saffron is one of the essential ingredients for authentic paella. Paella is a Spanish rice dish known for the bright yellow color it gets from saffron threads. Like the other rice dishes, it gets much of its distinctive flavor profile from saffron.
Provence on France’s Mediterranean coast is the home of bouillabaisse, one of the iconic French dishes. Some sources consider bouillabaisse a soup, others consider it a stew. In either case, this brightly colored dish is famous for its hearty combination of seafood flavored with saffron and other spices. The classic version uses a combination of saffron, fennel, and orange.
Saffron is one of those spices that work well in both sweet and savory dishes. Saffron ice cream is Persian and is called bastani in Farsi. Most versions include rose water along with the saffron. The saffron gives an earthy background note to rose water’s strong floral flavor. Saffron ice cream is — as you may have guessed — a brilliant yellow, a color it gets from saffron and from egg yolks used in the base.
One of the lesser-known facts about saffron is that you can use it to make tea. People consume it this way mainly for its health benefits. Saffron tea is said to be an effective antidepressant and may help to lower blood pressure and protect against heart disease. The tea consists of saffron threads steeped in hot water for about 20 minutes.
Mohammad Salahy is the CEO & Co-Founder of Heray Spice which has partnered with Pasha International to bring you the highest quality saffron in the world.