Health Benefits of Saffron
Saffron offers health benefits that extend beyond its rich aroma and color.
What is saffron?
Saffron is the most expensive among spices. It is highly prized for its rich color and aroma it imparts to oriental cooking. In India, there is another popular use of saffron. It is believed that if pregnant women had saffron-mixed milk at bed time, the new born baby would have a fair complexion. So saffron is usually gifted to pregnant women by friends and relatives. Saffron is also used in many cosmetic preparations for enhancing and lightening the skin.
Saffron, a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), is native to Southwest Asia. The stigmas and the styles—stalks connecting stigmas to the host plant—are dried and used in Middle Eastern and Asian cooking for imparting color and flavor. Saffron has also been used by traditional medicines in these countries in various ways from relieving stomach aches to treating depression.
Benefits of Saffron
Research has indicated that Crocin, Safranal and Picrocrocin from saffron may be involved in ant-cancer activity by inhibiting the growth of human cancer cells in vitro.
Historically, saffron tea has been used to treat depression. ingesting large amounts of the tea and spice has been reported to cause feelings of happiness and joy. According to eMedTV, one study suggested that ingesting saffron tea has as much anti-depressant benefits as taking certain over-the-counter medication.
Benefits for the Heart
In traditional Chinese system, saffron has been used to improve blood circulation and cure bruises. Saffron contains Crocetin, a carotenoid that contributes the most health benefits of saffron. Crocetin has been shown to enhance the oxygen diffusivity through plasma and other liquids, increase alveolar oxygen transport and enhance pulmonary oxygenation. They also lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides in the body and help in the treatment of atherosclerosis and arthritis. In a study of hyperlipemia rats, crocin decreased cholesterol, triglyceride and low density lipoprotein levels, and increased the content of high density lipoprotein.
Antioxidant Action and Eye Care
Safranal, a constituent of saffron, exhibits high antioxidant and free radical scavenging activity. Studies show that saffron improves vision and is an effectual weapon to prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the commonest cause of blindness in the elderly. They are also reported to be good memory enhancers.
Other Reported Benefits of Saffron
In ancient cultures, saffron was used to relieve stomach aches and kidney stones.
They regulate the production of stomach acids and promote contractions of the uterine muscles.
Saffron is also used to massage the gums in order to reduce inflammation and tenderness. Saffron oil can be used to treat insect bites and stings, heal throat irritation due to cough.
It takes more than 4,500 flowers to yield a single ounce of the spice. The expense and efforts may be well worth considering the possible health benefits the spice offers. However, saffron must be used in moderation, as high doses are known to be toxic.