Saffron scientific name is Crocus Sativus, some other common names are kesar, zafran, saffron crocus, and kunkuma. It is the most expensive and ancient incense known to man; saffron-based pigments were probably used to make stencil prints on the walls of caves by the earliest cave inhabitants around 30000 BC. But the earliest saffron dye pigments used in paintings probably go back to the Minoan periods.
Saffron was imported into ancient Egypt and surrounding areas from Crete, and its primary uses were as a dye and perfume. Saffron and other spices were often scattered on pillows and sheets for their aroma and freshness. The spice was mixed with olive oil to scent clothes and hair.
It was also one of the most valued and most expensive aromatic spices of Greco-Roman, times, the Greeks called it the “Blood of Hercules”. It was used as ritual incense and regarded as a protective amulet. It was associated with fertility and romance, and nobles used it to perfume clothes and baths.
Morphology of Saffron
Saffron plant resembles an onion, commercial saffron consists of the dried stigma and tops of the styles of the flowers. It is one of the world’s costliest herbs, saffron is more popular in the Tibbi than in Ayurvedic medicine.
Chemical Constituent of Saffron
The plant contains a volatile oil that consists of terpenes, terpene alcohol, and esters, the other constituents are crocin, picrocrocin, crocetin, carotenoids and riboflavin, and thiamine. Its key constituents are safranal, crocin, carotenoids, glycoside forms, terpene derivatives, anthocyanins, flavonoids, vitamins, riboflavin and thiamine, amino acids, proteins, and starch.
Habitat of Saffron
Saffron is widely cultivated in Iran, India, and Greece, in India, it is cultivated in Kashmir up to 2,000 m and in Chaubattia in Uttar Pradesh. It is also distributed across Asia, Iran, the Mediterranean, Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North America, in areas with hot dry summers and cold winters.
According to FAO statics, Iran is the largest producer and exporter of saffron, with 79,394 hectares in the Khorasan, Fars, and Kerman provinces devoted to saffron cultivation. In the Iranian saffron-producing areas, saffron accounts for up to 70% of household income. These regions annually produce about 239 metric tons of saffron.
Iran exports 84 percent of its saffron, nearly half of which goes to Spain, which is currently the world’s major reprocessing and packaging center for saffron. Reprocessing includes cleaning, sorting, drying, and packaging.
Health Benefits and Uses of Saffron
Saffron is widely used in indigenous medicine across India, it enjoys a great reputation as a drug to strengthen the functioning of the stomach and promotes its action. The drug also counteracts spasmodic disorders, that is sustained involuntary muscle contraction. It is a stimulant and promotes libido.
It has antidepressant, hypnotic, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, bronchodilator, aphrodisiac, labor inducer, and emmenagogue.
The plant has been used as medicine across all herbal medicinal systems. Traditionally, the species is used for stomach cramps, flatulence, respiratory ailments, blood disorders, heart diseases, and as an aphrodisiac. It is a folk remedy for headaches, and colds and has antidiarrheal, and anti-dysentery properties. It is useful in treating scanty menstruation and poor seminal mobility.
Saffron is one of the 770 medicinal plants mentioned in the Sushruta Samhita. In Ayurveda, saffron is used to improve skin tone, and reduce acne in skin creams and herbal facial masks, as well as in wound healing. When mixed with sandalwood paste, it cools the skin. Mediterranean and Mesopotamians associated saffron with fertility and sexual potency.
Hippocrates and Galen mention using saffron to improve digestion, reduce flatulence and colic and calm the nerves of adults and children.
Here are some uses and health benefits
Saffron is beneficial in the treatment of several digestive disorders, especially flatulent colic.
A paste of saffron is used as a dressing for bruises and superficial sores.
Saffron is useful in promoting and regulating menstrual periods, it soothes lumbar pains which accompany menstruation. Saffron is also beneficial in the treatment of other ailments concerning women such as leucorrhea and hysteria. Pessaries of saffron are used in painful conditions of the uterus.
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Side Effects of the Saffron
All Ayurveda herbs are plant-based and don’t have any side effects, but they may react with some allopathy or homeopathy medicine. It is better to consult the doctor if you are on any medications or have unique health issues.
Saffron should not be given in large doses to pregnant women as it may cause abortion. Those who are taking blood thinning medicines or women who experience heavy mensuration should avoid saffron at that time.