Saffron called as Kesar in Hindi is one of the most expensive spices in the whole world and has been in use from ancient times. Saffron imparts a golden yellow color to the dishes and has been mainly used a natural colorant but it also has wonderful medicinal uses and health benefits.
Saffron Common Names:
Saffron is called kungumapoo in Tamil, Kumkum puvvu in Telugu, Kumkumapoovu in Malayalam, Kesari in Kannada, Kesar in Punjabi, Keshar in Marathi, Zafran in Punjabi and Urdu. Saffron is got from saffron flowers whose botanical name is Crocus Sativus.
Where Does Saffron Come From & Why Is It So Expensive?
Saffron flower is light purple in color but the thread like stamen is a beautiful crimson red. It takes very careful picking of about 36000 saffron flowers to get 1 pound of stigmas and over 2 lakh stigmas to get just 500 grams of pure high quality saffron which makes it very expensive. Saffron was first cultivated in Greece but now Iran accounts for almost 90 % of the world production. Saffron has been used in both traditional ayurvedic medicine and in home remedies, it has been used as a sedative, as an expectorant for treating cough, to improve skin color and it is also regularly given to pregnant women.
Saffron Chemical Constituents:
Saffron contains more than 150 volatile compounds. The yellow color of saffron is mainly due to the presence of carotenoid compounds crocin and crocetin. The unique taste and smell of saffron is due to the presence of compounds called safranal and picrocrocin. In the dried saffron threads, safranal accounts for almost 70 % of the volatile compounds present in it. Saffron Nutrition: 100 grams of saffron has around 310 calories, 6 grams of fat, 11 grams of protein and 65 grams of carbohydrates. Saffron is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, vitamin B6 and calcium.
Saffron Medicinal Uses:
1. Anti Cancer Properties:
Saffron has wonderful anti cancer properties. Crocin, safranal and picrocrocin present in saffron greatly prevents the growth of cancer cells. Out of these three compounds, crocin has the most anti cancer effect.
2. Natural Aphrodisiac:
Saffron has been believed to be a natural aphrodisiac and this traditional belief has been backed by research. The main constituents of saffron are safranal and crocin and though safranal does not have aphrodisiac properties, crocin has significant aphrodisiac properties and you can read the study that supports this claim here.
3. Antidote For Poisoning:
Saffron has a protective effect and acts as a natural poison antidote. Crocin and safranal present in saffron has a protective effect and reduces the effect of poison in our body, you can read the study here.
4. Antioxidant & Anti Inflammatory Properties:
Saffron extract has wonderful antioxidant properties and it also helps reduce inflammation as it has anti inflammatory properties too. Since it has high antioxidant properties, it has radical scavenging properties thus greatly preventing premature ageing.
5. For Depression:
Saffron has been believed to have anti depressant properties and usually saffron milk is given as a remedy for it and this traditional remedy has been backed by research.
Saffron greatly helps people suffering from mild to moderate depression and even just 4 weeks of supplementation will help. This is due to its neuroprotective, antioxidant, serotonergic and anti inflammatory properties.
6. For Anxiety and Schizophrenia:
Saffron has neuro protective effect and greatly helps with mental diseases like depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. Safranal and crocin greatly helps reduce anxiety, you can read the study that supports this claim here.
It also greatly helps with learning and improves our memory.
7. Reduces Blood Pressure:
Saffron reduces blood pressure and the effect is dosage dependent. Out of the two major constituents in saffron, safranal has the most effect in reducing blood pressure. You can read the study here.
8. Macular Degeneration:
Saffron supplementation has been highly recommended for good eyesight and this traditional use has been proven through research. Just 3 months of regular supplementation with saffron has shown to improve the retinal function.
9. For Weight Loss:
As consumption of high fat processed foods increases, the risk of getting diseases like coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer, sleep problems and liver diseases also increases. Non alcoholic fatty liver disease is a liver disease the commonly affects overweight people. Crocin present in saffron greatly helps prevents non alcoholic fatty liver disease in obese people. Along with eating healthy, if we supplement with saffron we can prevent liver diseases caused due to obesity.
10. For Diabetes:
Saffron has a positive effect on diabetic patients and regular intake will greatly help prevent some of the complications of diabetes like oxidative stress, encephalopathy, cardio vascular damage, nerve damage etc. Due to it’s antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties, saffron prevents many of the diabetic complications.
Is Saffron Good For Skin Care?
Along with the above uses saffron has been used for skin care for centuries as it helps improve the skin complexion. Also it is a traditional Indian custom to give saffron to pregnant ladies as it greatly helps in digestion, has a calming effect and also keeps the pregnant women healthy and it is also believed to improve the skin complexion of new born babies.
How To Buy & Store Saffron?
Since saffron is expensive, always test a small amount before buying it in bulk. To test, take one saffron strand and put it water, if it is fake, the saffron thread will lose it’s crimson red color whereas original saffron will not.
Usually just a pinch or two of saffron is added to milk and that is the amount of saffron I took when I was pregnant too.
Saffron Side Effects:
If taken in normal dosage like mentioned below, it will not cause any side effects. But consuming large dosages for long duration’s of time might have side effects like dryness of the mouth, nausea, headache, etc….
5 Top Ways To Use Saffron (Kesar) For Skin, Hair & Health:
Saffron when used for lips lightens dark lips and keeps it moisturized. To use, take a small pinch of saffron and mix it in tsp of honey. Store this mixture in a small bottle and daily massage your lips with this mixture.
For the face pack, take a pinch of saffron and soak it in 2 teaspoon of milk, the milk will turn yellow. Now add this milk to 1 tbsp of gram flour and mix well to form a thick paste. Apply this pack all over the face, wait for it to dry completely and then wash it off.
Mix 2 pinches saffron to warm milk, add in honey and your simple saffron milk is ready. If you have time, try this rich kesar milk recipe: Soak 3 almonds in water and remove the outer skin. Now take the almonds along with 2 pinches of saffron, honey, milk and grind in a mixer to get wonderfully rich saffron milk. This kesar milk can be taken for reducing anxiety, depression and for improving our memory.
For treating skin problems like acne, pigmentation and dryness, soak a pinch of saffron in 1/2 tsp of milk. Now rub a sandalwood bark in a sandalwood stone along with the saffron infused milk till you get a thick paste and apply all over the face. Wait for it to dry completely and then wash it off.
Warm 1/4 cup of any pure unrefined oil, now add in 1/4 tsp saffron and switch off. Wait for the oil to cool down, the oil will take on a beautiful yellow color, now use this saffron oil to massage your skin and hair before bath. This massage oil will keep both our skin and hair moisturized.