Guide to Saffron: Benefits, Side Effects, Uses and More!
A Comprehensive Guide on Saffron: Benefits, Uses and Everything Else
Saffron is a valuable spice known for its distinctive flavor, aroma, and vivid orange-reddish hue. It is derived from the dried stigmas of the Crocus sativus flower, which blooms for only a few weeks each year. Saffron has been used in culinary and medicinal applications for centuries and is still highly valued today, particularly in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisine.
Because of its labor-intensive harvesting process and limited supply, saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world. To give you some context, saffron is worth half the price of gold in weight equivalent. That said, it’s also known as red gold.
Its unique flavor and color make it a sought-after ingredient in many dishes, from rice and curries to custards and desserts. Plus, it has a long history of use in traditional medicine to treat various ailments.
Saffron is one of the most prized spices in the world, thanks to its cultural and culinary uses and medicinal properties. Here are some areas where saffron holds great significance.
Saffron is widely used in cuisines worldwide, particularly in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian dishes. It is a crucial ingredient in many traditional dishes, such as paella, biryani, and risotto, and is often used to add flavor, aroma, and color to food. Saffron has a deep, woody smell, but its essence changes to sweet and earthy when added to the food. Remember that adding too much saffron to the food may give you a bitter taste. So, in terms of quantity, a pinch of saffron is enough to elevate the flavor in a meal for two.
Saffron has been used in traditional medicine for various health benefits for hundreds of years. It is known to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant properties and may also positively affect brain function and vision. The antioxidant properties of saffron can help protect your cells from free radicals and improve your body’s response to stress. Also, if you are trying to lose weight, saffron can help control food cravings, so you are only tempted to eat if you are really hungry.
Saffron is one of the costliest spices known to humankind. The reason is its labor-intensive harvesting process and limited supply. It is a significant source of income for many farmers and producers in countries such as Iran, Spain, and India. One of the finest varieties of saffron is harvested in Kashmir, India. However, the future of saffron cultivation looks grim. A couple of decades ago, a piece of land could produce 200kgs of saffron in a good season; the same amount of land now produces only a fraction due to climate change. Nonetheless, it still supports the livelihood of small farmers in India, Iran, and Mediterranean countries.
Saffron has been a part of the cultural heritage in many regions for a long time, especially in Iran and India, where it is used in religious ceremonies and festive rituals. Saffron is also considered a symbol of wealth and luxury in various cultures. It’s a key ingredient in traditional Indian sweets that mark an auspicious occasion – a festival or family milestone.
Properties of Saffron
Saffron has unique properties that make it a valuable and sought-after spice. But what makes this spice so unique and expensive?
To find out, let’s put it under the microscope and understand its physical and molecular properties.
Saffron has a distinct, slightly bitter taste with a floral, honey-like aroma. Its flavor is described as earthy and metallic. If you are buying saffron for the first time, avoid the fake stuff. Some sellers might sell you a completely different product that looks and feels like saffron. Stigmas obtained from the safflower plant are often used to adulterate genuine saffron and sell it for a price too good to be true.
Saffron imparts a bright golden-yellow color to dishes. That is why it is used in rice, desserts, and curries. However, saffron has a color of its own, prominently crimson with an undertone of golden yellow. If it looks pale red or orange, it’s probably fake.
Saffron is a rich source of antioxidants, which may help protect the cells against damage from free radicals and control inflammation.
Saffron has been an integral part of traditional medicine for thousands of years. It is used to treat many diseases and is believed to have anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and neuroprotective properties.
Saffron Health Benefits
Saffron is widely used in dishes and desserts. Chances are you’ve had it at some point in your life. As an unwitting consumer of saffron, you may not be aware of its health benefits and medicinal use. So, let’s dive right into it.
Saffron benefits for skin
Saffron is often associated with skin benefits and advertised as an active ingredient in skincare products, and rightly so. The benefits of applying saffron on face will make you want to ‘spice’ up your beauty routine. From treating acne and pigmentation to acting as an anti-aging agent, saffron can help you improve your complexion and look your best.
Saffron benefits for male
Thanks to its aphrodisiac properties, saffron offers exclusive benefits for men. It is known to help with erectile dysfunction resulting from psychological stress or performance anxiety. It may also improve sperm motility and count, reducing men’s infertility risk.
Saffron benefits for female
Ladies, don’t feel left out. You, too, can benefit from saffron, especially when dealing with PMS. It can help reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, such as irritability, mood swings, and cravings.
Saffron benefits for hair
Applying a saffron mask on the scalp can stimulate hair growth. You can prepare a scalp mask at home by adding a pinch of saffron to milk and licorice. Massaging this mix gently into your scalp can also help reduce stress and lift your spirits.
Saffron for depression
If you feel low without any apparent reason and no amount of positive reinforcement seems to work, consider taking a small dose of saffron daily.
Saffron for weight loss
If you have been struggling to get rid of stubborn fat for a long time, you know you need a multi-faceted approach to losing weight. Apart from exercise and diet, adding saffron to your routine may help reduce cravings and promote weight loss by increasing feelings of fullness.
Also read: Ayurveda’s Comprehensive Guide on Weight Management!
Different Uses of Saffron
Saffron has various medicinal and culinary uses. Thanks to the high nutritional value of saffron, it can be used to garnish a dish or dessert and is also added to herbal formulations to treat diseases and improve overall health. Here are a few common saffron uses.
Cooking with saffron has its charm, as it has been the crown jewel among Indian and Middle Eastern spices. It is the primary ingredient in royal dishes and desserts in various cuisines. Even the top-rated chefs use saffron in their culinary creations. Be it food or beverage, saffron is considered the symbol of royalty as it gives the dish a rich, yellow glow. Some of the popular dishes that are prepared using saffron include:
- Spanish Paella
- Cardamom Saffron Sponge Cake
- Persian Saffron Rice
- Swedish Saffron Buns
- Milanese Risotto
Saffron in Herbal Remedies
Saffron is more than just a kitchen spice. Its many health benefits make it a sought-after ingredient in herbal formulations and modern medicines. Saffron may help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiac arrest. Plus, Ayurveda deems saffron beneficial for digestion, skin, hair, and mental well-being. And that’s the reason it is used in various herbal medicines.
Saffron in a Beauty Routine
Your beauty routine doesn’t have to be full of chemicals. There are healthier alternatives like saffron, which offer various skin benefits without side effects. Here’s one of the easiest ways to use saffron in your beauty routine:
- Add a few threads of saffron to a bowl of water or milk and let it seep overnight.
- Use the solution to wash your face and massage gently with your fingertips.
- Rinse it off after a few minutes and pat dry.
This simple skincare routine can help you reduce breakouts, improve your complexion and treat pigmentation.
Kerala Ayurveda Products with Saffron
At Kerala Ayurveda, we use premium-grade saffron threads in various herbal formulations that you can buy online and have delivered anywhere in India.
If you are looking for saffron in its purest, raw form, then this product is for you. Kerala Ayurveda offers 100% organic saffron threads obtained from dried stigmas of Crocus sativus. We source saffron threads directly from Kashmir and package them carefully with a seal of authenticity so that you receive the most value for money. You can use these saffron threads as a culinary spice or topical remedy.
Kumkumadi oil is a 100% natural cosmetic product with saffron as one of the primary ingredients. It helps rejuvenate and nourish the skin to give you a radiant complexion. You can use this product to treat acne, dryness, pigmentation, and wrinkles without exposing your skin to harmful chemicals.
Your skin looks radiant and youthful when well-rested. So, why not give your skin the additional nourishment it needs while asleep? Swarnamukhi cream by Kerala Ayurveda contains saffron and sandalwood, among other natural ingredients that work overnight to give your skin a natural glow, minimize blemishes and improve your skin’s natural complexion.
Swarnamukhi Face Pack
Swarnamukhi Facepack by Kerala Ayurveda packs the goodness of saffron, yavya, and several other herbs help exfoliate your skin and improve skin health.
Some people are allergic or sensitive to herbs that are hot in potency. Saffron is one of those herbs.
It is recommended to consume saffron in small quantities or avoid it altogether during the summer to avoid saffron side effects.
People with elevated pitta dosha should use caution when consuming saffron daily.
If you have sensitive skin, mix saffron with milk for topical application.
It is safe to consume 100 mg of saffron daily for up to 26 weeks or as prescribed by your Ayurveda practitioner. Exceeding the recommended dosage may cause side effects, such as drowsiness, vomiting, etc.
Saffron is among the most valuable spices, with usage ranging from culinary and skincare to medicinal and cultural ceremonies. It is available in different forms: saffron powder, saffron seeds and saffron extracts.
Saffron has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and aphrodisiac properties, making it beneficial for medicinal purposes.
Saffron is good for the skin, weight loss, hair, mental well-being, and menstrual health. It is also known to support sexual health in men and help with performance-related issues.
At Kerala Ayurveda, we recognize the significance of saffron in health and well-being and use it in various herbal formulations for treating skin concerns. Some of our saffron-based products include Swarnamukhi cream, Kumkumadi Tailam(oil), Swarnamukhi Face Pack, and Saffron threads available in raw form.