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The Health Benefits of Saffron

The beautiful golden hue, exotic aroma and enticing, sweet, earthy notes brought by saffron make it an important ingredient in a number of gourmet dishes. The reddish-orange strands of the saffron come from the stigma of the beautiful flower crocus sativus. Deriving saffron from these flowers is a delicate, labor-intensive manual process, making it one of the most expensive spices.

Woven into the culinary traditions of many cultures ranging from Greek to Persian to Indian, saffron is hailed as a miracle spice for its diverse health benefits. A storehouse of antioxidants and various nutrients like vitamin A, folic acid, B12, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium and zinc, saffron has unparalleled potential to boost your health,vitality and wellness.

  1. Balances tridoshas and boosts immunity. Saffron has the ability to reduce all the vitiated doshas and eliminate toxins from the body. Laden with antioxidants this herb with hot potency helps fight cough, cold and fever and boosts immunity which not only helps one keep seasonal ailments at bay but also fight contagious diseases like flu caused by microbes like viruses. Saffron with honey also helps in treating asthma attacks by helping clear swollen airways and restoring the respiration.
  2. Supports eye health. Saffron is an exceptionally rich source of carotenoids like crocin and crocetin that play an important role in protecting retinal cells. These carotenoids help in restoration of retinal cells damaged by oxidative stress in age related macular degeneration. Saffron also helps in protecting the photoreceptor cells of the retina from damage caused by exposure to intense light. In essence, saffron works wonders in improving eyesight and in maintaining it.
  3. Regulates blood pressure and supports heart health. Loaded with antioxidants, saffron helps in maintaining healthy arteries and blood vessels, and improves the pumping capacity of the heart. Potassium helps blood vessel dilation and in that way lowers blood pressure and prevents heart attacks and stroke. Crocin present in saffron significantly reduces cholesterol levels, while kaempferol, a natural flavonoid present in saffron, effectively reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack.
  4. Improves mental health and memory. Saffron is known to be an effective antidepressant. Vitamin B12 plays an extremely important role in maintaining mental health; its deficiency impairs the nervous system and can lead to mental ailments like schizophrenia and depression in addition to seizures and convulsions. Saffron is an incredible source of vitamin B12 and is a good option for vegans. Crocin and safranal present in saffron are helpful in stimulating ‘happy hormones’ like serotonin and dopamine which are important in recovering from anxiety and depression.

    Vitamin B6 present in saffron also improves the nervous system and can help boost brain performance. Neurotransmitters like dopamine improve memory and therefore saffron is also helpful in treating age related dementia. The antioxidants present in saffron reduce oxidative stress in the brain. Drinking saffron with milk reduces cortisol, a primary stress hormone and promotes relaxing hormones which makes it an effective treatment for insomnia. Saffron has been used as an effective anticonvulsant for centuries owing to its neuro-calming effects.

  5. A useful herb for reproductive health. Saffron has been used for its strong aphrodisiac properties since ages. Consuming a pinch of saffron with milk not only boosts libido in both males and females but also helps in treating infertility and age related sexual dysfunction in both genders which makes it a go-to herb for couples trying to conceive.

    Furthermore, for women suffering from menstrual problems like irregular cycles or painful periods, saffron is a boon. It helps in regularizing periods, balances hormones and helps in reducing PMS symptoms. Saffron may also have a protective effect on Endometriosis, a condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other areas where it does not belong-like fallopian tubes or ovaries.

    Also, it is advised to keep away from saffron consumption in early pregnancy, especially during the first five months when the womb is not totally stabilized.

  6. Anti-inflammatory. Saffron acts as an analgesic and its anti-inflammatory properties make it helpful in treating pain, swelling and stiffness. Crocin is effective in reducing the level of proinflammatory markers and in revitalizing the damaged cartilage and bone making saffron beneficial for individuals suffering from joints problems like osteoarthritis whereas its immunomodulatory and anti microbial properties also make it an effective treatment for painful auto-immune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
  7. Helps fight cancer. Crocin, the water soluble carotene along with crocetin present in saffron selectively kills various types of cancer cells while leaving the normal cells unharmed. In addition to boosting immunity, the abundant antioxidants help in neutralizing the harmful free radicals which otherwise would attack and damage the healthy cells.
  8. Helps control blood sugar. Saffron increases insulin sensitivity in the tissues which is an essential step in controlling diabetes. Manganese present in saffron also helps in controlling sugar levels in the blood. Regular consumption of warm milk with a 3–5 strands of saffron will help in preventing and controlling diabetes.
  9. Improves skin and hair health. Saffron does multiple things for your skin. It protects the skin against sun damage, imparts a healthy glow to the skin and fights acne, blemishes, eczema, skin infections and other skin ailments.

    Kumkumadi oil is an ayurvedic preparation that has been used since ages to improve skin texture and maintain skin health and glow. As the name suggests, one of the key ingredients of this miracle elixir of beauty is kumkum, which is a Hindi word for saffron. The antioxidants present in saffron are also helpful in repairing damaged hair follicles in addition to promoting healthy hair growth and preventing hair loss.

  10. Improves digestive system and metabolism. The carminative and anti-inflammatory gifts of saffron make it effective in relieving a number of gastro-intestinal disorders like gastritis, colitis and peptic ulcer. Additionally, its neuro-calming effects aid in fighting the problems stemming from anxiety which makes it an effective treatment option for Irritable bowel syndrome. The hepatoprotective properties of antioxidants like crocin and crocetin make saffron useful in healing from liver injury like alcohol and drug induced liver damage and viral hepatitis.
  11. Prevents fatigue and improves energy. Saffron increases haemoglobin levels in the blood and helps in relieving anaemia. It elevates energy levels and increases muscular strength, in addition to reinvigorating vital tissues.

Quick Tip: Saffron Milk 

  1. Bring a cup of milk to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and add 3–5 strands of saffron and a teaspoon of ghee (clarified butter).
  3. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring periodically.
  4. Pour the milk into a cup and let it cool down to a temperature your tongue can tolerate.
  5. Once the milk is at a suitable temperature, add a teaspoon of honey and mix well.

Drinking this saffron milk before bedtime will improve sleep quality, rejuvenate the body, and promote brain health and longevity.