Traditionally, saffron which is also known as Crocus sativus L. has been used as medicinal plant in Ayurveda and naturopathy. The term saffron derived from the Arabic word “Za’faran” which mean “yellow”. (1)
Saffron is extracted as the stigma of saffron flower which is native to tropical and subtropical regions. It is widely cultivated in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Mediterranean region and in India (Jammu & Kashmir). (2, 3)
However, the saffron produced by India is of highest quality and most expensive among other varieties. Saffron is the most expensive spice across the world where 1 kg of it can cost you nearly 10,000 USD. (4)
The highest quality of saffron constitutes the upper part of the stigma, while poor quality derived from bottom part of the saffron. Due to its high demand there are several varieties of cheap and fraudulent saffron available in the market.
More than 150 compounds are present in the stigma of saffron which includes major components like crocin, picrocrocin and safranal. Due to its richness in varieties of compounds it has been observed to be helpful in varieties of health condition. (2, 3)
Health Benefits of Heavenly Saffron
It has been effective in treatment of CVD, hypertension, metabolic disorders, dysmenorrhea and cognitive impairments. In addition to this it also has anti-inflammatory, anti-atherosclerotic, antigenotoxic and cytotoxic properties. (2, 3)
Cardiovascular diseases are the major cause of death across the globe. In 2015, the death caused by CVD was around 17.7 million which accounts for the 31% death across the world.
The major risk factor of CVD includes overweight, obesity, hypertension, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, metabolic disorders and diabetes. Over and above the genetic causes can’t be ruled out.
In recent studies carried out in vitro and vivo found out the consumption of saffron helps in protection through modulation of oxidative stress, calcium arteries blocking effects, hypotensive and hypolipidemia properties.
Saffron is known to have rich in antioxidants which helps in removing chronic oxidative from the body otherwise it may cause several diseases such as cancer.
It is also rich source of carotenoids which is known to have anticancer properties which helps body to fight against the onset of cancer.
In vitro studies suggest that saffron extracts are effective in eliminating colon cancer cell at the same time keeping the healthy cells untouched. These studies hold true for the other cancers as well.
The main oxidant presents in the saffron is crocin which is sensitive to chemotherapy. People who consumed saffron during there therapy had better effects than placebo.
Saffron contains antioxidants such as crocin, picrocrocin and safranal and kaempferol. Whereas the first three present in the stigma and later one in the flower petal.
Crocin and Picrocrocin are the important carotenoids which gives saffron the unique color. Both compounds have anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory which protects brain cell damage and improves metabolism and subsequently weight loss.
Safranal gives saffron the rich color, taste and aroma, which made it unique ingredients in royal cuisines of Indian kings. Saffron in dishes is representation royal treatment.
The compound kaempferol has linked to the anti-depressant, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
The crocin and kaempferol present in the saffron have shown the effects as antidepressant as increases the mobility of the subjects both in laboratory and clinical studies.
The saffron supplementation was able to improve the mood of the group of people than the other who didn’t have access to saffron. However, the effects of saffron petals were moderate in improving the mood.
Short term administration of saffron (30 mg/day) to the patients having major depressive disorder (MDD) have the same effect as the anti-depressant medicine ﬂuoxetine (40 mg/day).
However, some of the side effects were observed but not of very serious medical condition which suggest it may require additional studies in this field.
In traditional medicine such as Ayurveda, saffron has been used as herbal sedative, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, diaphoretic, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic, anticatarrhal, eupeptic, gingival sedative and emmenagogue.
Experimental studies have shown that saffron is effective in relieving the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). After the administration of saffron its effect was in seen in cycles of 3 and 4 in the Total Premenstrual Daily Symptoms and Hamilton Depression Rating Scale which validates the efﬁcacy of C. sativus in the treatment of PMS.
Traditionally, C. sativus has been uses in the treatment of many disorders which also includes its aphrodisiac properties. It is effective in increasing the libido.
Due to its antidepressant and aphrodisiac properties, C. sativus is found to be very effective in people having antidepressant erectile dysfunction. It is also known to increase the sexual vitality in couples.
In Indian marriage, there is tradition for newly married couple to drink saffron milk on their first night. It is believed that the consumption may help in improving the mood of the couple and increases their sexual vitality and experience.
The miraculous effects of C. sativus against neurodegenerative disorders such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases is under the study.
Administration of saffron 30 mg/day (15 mg twice daily) has the same effect as the donepezil for the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s diseases with similar side effects except vomiting.
In Iranian folk medicine and Indian Ayurveda medicine, saffron has been used anticonvulsant herb. The experimental studies show the similar effects on the rats however more studies are required to establish its effects on human beings.
Side Effects (4)
Besides the various benefits of the saffron there are some of the side effects which should be known to the consumers before use of saffron.
- The daily intake of 1.5 grams of saffron may not have any side effects
- The daily consumption of more than 5 grams of saffron may be toxic
- Pregnant women should avoid high doses of saffron as it may cause miscarriage.
The traditional uses in different medicine and modern experimental studies in vitro and vivo suggests the efficacy of saffron in the treatment of varieties of health conditions which may otherwise thought to be untreatable. It does have several health benefits along with some side effects associated with high daily intake. “Eat Healthy, Stay Healthy”.