Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of botanical name Crocus sativus, commonly known as the “saffron crocus” which belongs to Iridaceae family. The vivid crimson stigma and styles, called threads, are collected and dried for use mainly as a seasoning and colouring agent in food. It has long been the world’s costliest spice by weight – 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. In hindi, it is known by the name Kesar.
Saffron is cultivated chiefly in Iran but is also grown in Spain, France, Italy (on the lower spurs of the Apennines Range), and parts of India.
Chemical Composition –
Saffron contains 0.5 to 1 percent essential oil, the principal component of which is picrocrocin.
It is rich in plant compounds that act as antioxidants, such as crocin, crocetin, safranal, and kaempferol.
Part Used –
The dried thread-like parts of the flower (stigmas) are used to make saffron spice, food coloring, and medicine.
It is commonly used as a spice and coloring agent in foods. As medicine, saffron extract has most often been used by adults in doses of 20-100 mg by mouth daily for up to 3 months.
• Powerful Antioxidant
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, anticancer properties, improve inflammation, reduce appetite, and aid weight loss.
Saffron supplements were significantly more effective than placebos at treating symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression that’s why it is nicknamed the “sunshine spice.”
It is high in antioxidants, which help neutralize harmful free radicals. Free radical damage has been linked to chronic diseases, such as cancer.
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.
This effect also applies to skin, bone marrow, prostate, lung, breast, cervix, and several other cancer cells.
• Reduce PMS symptoms
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a term that describes physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms occurring before the start of a menstrual period.
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.
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.
• Helps loosing weight
Snacking is a common habit that may put you at risk of gaining unwanted weight. Saffron may help prevent snacking by curbing your appetite.
It might lower blood pressure. Taking saffron along with medications that lower blood pressure might cause blood pressure to go too low. Monitor your blood pressure closely.
It might lower blood sugar levels. Taking saffron along with diabetes medications might cause blood sugar to drop too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely.
Side Effects –
Saffron is possibly safe when taken as a medicine in doses up to 100 mg daily for up to 26 weeks. Some common side effects include drowsiness, stomach problems, and nausea or vomiting. Allergic reactions are also possible.
Taking large amounts of saffron by mouth is possibly unsafe. High doses of 5 grams or more can cause poisoning. Doses of 12-20 grams can cause death.
It seems to be able to affect mood. It might trigger excitability and impulsive behavior in people with bipolar disorder. Don’t use saffron if you have this condition.
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