Saffron is one of the most exotic and expensive spices, known for its deep auburn color and sweet flavor. It is the dried “stigma” or threads of the flower of the S. crocus plant.
Its distinct flavor comes from chemical compounds, such as picrocrocin and safranal. It also contains a natural carotenoid, known as crocin, that gives saffron its rich color. Due to the unique combination of color and flavor, saffron is a valuable ingredient in many cuisines worldwide.
Saffron also has several therapeutic and health benefits. It has a variety of chemical components, such as vitamin A, folic acid, copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc, magnesium, riboflavin and thiamine. Additionally, it has oil-soluble pigments, such as lycopene, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin.
When taken in small doses, saffron is highly beneficial for your health. But when taken in excess, it can lead to side effects like vomiting, drowsiness, appetite reduction, nausea, and may worsen certain heart conditions. Plus, this herb may not be suitable for pregnant women and those suffering from bipolar disorder.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of saffron.
1. Helps Digestion
Saffron is effective for relieving gas and acidity-related problems as it helps digestion. Furthermore, it has carminative properties, which means it helps reduce flatulence and suppress stomach cramps.
Have a cup of saffron tea daily to improve digestion and reduce gas. To make the tea, add a pinch of saffron to a cup of water and boil it. Add a little raw honey as per your taste and then drink it.
2. Treats Insomnia
You can also use saffron to treat sleep disorders like insomnia. Its mild sedative properties help relax the nerves and calm your mild. This in turn promotes sound sleep.
Before going to bed, drink a glass of warm saffron milk. To make the milk, steep 2 strands of saffron in a cup of warm milk for 5 minutes. Add some raw honey and drink it daily at night before going to bed.
3. Supports Eyesight
According to a 2009 study conducted at the University of Sydney by a visiting scholar based at University of L’Aquila in Italy, saffron has remarkable effects on the genes that regulate the performance of the eye’s key vision cells.
Plus, saffron protects the vision cells (photoreceptors) from damage, as well as helps slow and reverse the course of blinding diseases like age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.
To improve eyesight, you can take saffron extract as a dietary supplement. Consult a doctor for the correct dosage.
4. Improves Memory
Saffron is believed to help inhibit the aggregation and deposition of amyloid β in the brain, thus helping in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics found that saffron improved cognitive function in study participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. However, a more controlled study is required.
Saffron also has a positive impact on learning behavior, concentration and memory.
To improve your memory, regularly drink saffron milk or saffron tea.
5. Improves Heart Health
Saffron also helps improve cardiac health. Animal studies have found that it may help lower cholesterol levels and reduce high blood pressure.
Its antioxidant properties help prevent plaque formation and keep the arteries and blood vessels in good health. Its anti-inflammatory properties also benefit cardiovascular health.
To improve your heart health, take saffron in supplement or dietary form. Before starting a supplement regimen, consult your doctor.
6. Treats Asthma
Saffron may also help those with asthma in which airways become narrow and make it difficult to breathe normally. It helps reduce inflammation in the lungs, making it possible for more air to pass through the lungs. This facilitates easy breathing that helps reduce the severity of asthma attacks.
Along with asthma, saffron can help treat other respiratory-related illnesses.
Drink a few cups of saffron tea for a few days to reduce the severity of an asthma attack.
7. Relieves Menstrual Discomfort
According to a 2008 study published in the journal BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, saffron can be used as an alternative treatment for relieving symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
For PMS, take 15 mg of saffron extract twice daily, but only after consulting a doctor. This will help reduce symptoms of PMS like bloating, cramps, mood swings, irritability, acne, breast tenderness and fatigue.
You can also drink saffron tea or saffron milk to get relief from menstrual discomfort, such as abdominal pain and heavy bleeding.
8. Fights Depression
Saffron is high in carotenoids and B vitamins that help increase the levels of serotonin and other chemicals in the brain that are associated with depression.
A 2005 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found saffron to be as effective as fluoxetine (Prozac) in reducing mild to moderate depression.
Saffron, when taken correctly, is effective in reducing symptoms of depression. Take 15 mg of dried saffron extract twice daily. You can also use saffron in cooking, milk shakes or smoothies.
9. Improves Skin Complexion
Saffron has natural skin-lightening properties that can help you get a radiant, smooth and fairer skin complexion.
- Soak a couple of saffron strands in 2 teaspoons of milk for 15 to 20 minutes. You can also add a little honey. Apply the mixture on your skin and leave it on for 20 to 30 minutes before washing it off. Follow this remedy daily to get glowing and fairer skin.
- To prepare a face mask for improving skin complexion, mix 1 teaspoon of sandalwood powder, 2 or 3 strands of saffron and a few teaspoons of milk, enough to make a paste. Apply it on your face and neck, allow it to dry for 20 minutes and rinse it off. Use this face mask once or twice a week.
10. Slows Aging
Saffron contains antioxidants that protect the skin from free-radical damage that can cause premature aging. In addition, it is effective for treating acne, blemishes, age spots and blackheads that can damage your skin and make you look older than your age.
- Mix a pinch of saffron with raw papaya pulp. Apply it to your face and neck 15 minutes before taking a shower. When used on regular basis, it can help prevent wrinkles and blemishes.
- To get rid of acne, blemishes and pimples, massage the skin with saffron soaked in milk twice a day.