Saffron – Introduction, Health Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects of Crocus Sativus

Table of Contents

1. Post Introduction
2. What is Saffron? 
3. Morphology
4. Chemical Compound
5. Habitat
6. Ayurvedic Properties of Saffron
7. Health Benefits & Uses of Saffron
8. Side Effects of Saffron

1. Introduction

Welcome to the captivating world of Saffron, where threads of luxury meet a plethora of potential health benefits and versatile applications. Known scientifically as Crocus Sativus, saffron has been treasured for centuries for its vibrant color, unique flavor, and a range of potential advantages.

In this post, we embark on a journey to uncover the secrets of Crocus Sativus, delving into its historical significance, the spectrum of benefits it holds, and the diverse ways it can enrich your culinary creations and well-being. From its potential to uplift mood and promote relaxation to its role in adding a golden touch to dishes, saffron stands as an unparalleled spice with a world of possibilities.

Join us as we unravel the layers of Crocus Sativus's allure, while also considering the potential side effects and considerations associated with its consumption. Whether you're a culinary enthusiast, a wellness seeker, or simply captivated by the splendor of natural treasures, saffron invites you to embark on this enlightening journey. Let's explore the aromatic wonders and potential virtues that Crocus Sativus has to offer, discovering its essence and richness together.

2. What is Saffron? 

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.

saffron flower


3. 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. 

4. 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.


5. 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.

6. Ayurvedic Properties of Saffron

Saffron, known as "Kumkuma" or "Kesar" in Ayurveda, is a highly valued spice with various medicinal properties.

Ayurvedic properties of saffron:

1. Rasa (Taste): Saffron is believed to have a bitter (Tikta) taste.

2. Virya (Potency): It is heating in nature (Ushna Virya).

3. Vipaka (Post-digestive taste): The post-digestive taste is pungent (Katu Vipaka).

4. Dosha Effects: Saffron is generally considered balancing for Vata dosha and Pitta dosha, but it can increase Kapha dosha in excess.

Ayurvedic Uses:

  1. Mood and Mind: Saffron is known to have mood-enhancing properties and is considered a natural antidepressant in Ayurveda. It is believed to support mental well-being and relaxation.

  2. Digestive Health: Saffron can be used to support digestion by enhancing appetite and promoting healthy digestion.

  3. Respiratory Health: It is used in Ayurveda to manage respiratory conditions like asthma, due to its warming and expectorant properties.

  4. Cardiovascular Health: Saffron is believed to support heart health by promoting healthy blood circulation and cardiovascular function.

  5. Reproductive Health: In Ayurveda, saffron is considered an aphrodisiac and is used to support reproductive health.

  6. Skin Health: Saffron is used externally in Ayurveda to promote healthy and radiant skin. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory and complexion-enhancing properties.

7. 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

Digestive Disorders

Saffron is beneficial in the treatment of several digestive disorders, especially flatulent colic.

Skin Disorders

A paste of saffron is used as a dressing for bruises and superficial sores.

Women’s Aliments

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.


8. 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.


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