Saffron Or Kesar - Health Benefits And More Of The Most Expensive Spice

About Saffron

Latin name : Crocus sativus

Indian names : Kesar, zafran, kumkuma

English name : Saffron

The saffron or kesar plant is about 8 to 12 inches in height. The plant sprouts purple colored buds in autumn. The buds develop into light to dark lilac colored, sweet smelling flowers that have a style that divides into 3 crimson colored stigmas. The style is yellow in color.

The stigmas constitute the saffron or kesar spice. Sometimes, in saffron of inferior quality, the styles are also used along with the stigmas but the best quality saffron constitutes of only the stigmas.

Saffron is native to Southwest Asia and Greece though it is cultivated in many countries around the world including India, Iran, Italy, Greece, Spain and Turkey. It has a history of 3000-4000 years of cultivation and use.


Saffron or Kesar

stigmas of saffron or kesar
stigmas of saffron or kesar | Source

Saffron Bulbs, Plants, Flowers

Click thumbnail to view full-size
saffron is grown from bulbs (corms)Saffron field.kesar or saffron flower.close up of the saffron flower showing the 3 crimson colored stigmas.
saffron is grown from bulbs (corms)
saffron is grown from bulbs (corms) | Source
Saffron field.
Saffron field. | Source
kesar or saffron flower.
kesar or saffron flower. | Source
close up of the saffron flower showing the 3 crimson colored stigmas.
close up of the saffron flower showing the 3 crimson colored stigmas. | Source

The Saffron Plant And Saffron Quality

The saffron plant prefers to grow best in full sun and does not do well in shade. Saffron is grown from bulbs or corms as they are called which are the underground swollen stems. A single corm produces up to 10 cormlets that are used to grow new plant in the next growing season.

The planting depth and spacing between corms along with the weather determine the yield of saffron. As a rule, deeper planted corms produce a higher quality saffron but fewer cormlets-the corm offsprings.

Saffron quality is dependent on the color, taste, aroma as well as the floral waste (the non stigma content) and ash content of saffron.

Adulteration of saffron has a long history so it is best not to buy powdered saffron but to go for the one with whole strands.

About 100,000 flowers produce about 400-500 grams of saffron. Since the stigmas are plucked by hand and because of the huge requirement of flowers, saffron is the costliest spice in the world.

Iran produces 90% of the world's saffron. The saffron from Kashmir, India is the highest quality saffron in the world and its stigmas are also bigger than those found elsewhere.

Saffron strands have a bitter flavor and a pungent aroma.

Saffron's color is due to the carotenoid crocin, the taste due to picrocrocin and the flavor is due to the volatile oil safranal.


Uses Of Saffron

Saffron is widely used in many cuisines around the world, including India. It is used in Indian sweets and sweet dishes, to make syrups, to color food and flavor both food and beverages.

Saffron is also used in the cosmetic and perfume industry. It is used to dye fabrics. In India, it is a part of religious and marriage festivities.

Ayurveda, Unani and Chinese medicine have used saffron traditionally for healing and even Western medicine uses it to treat certain health conditions.

According to Ayurveda saffron balances the tridoshas and increases body heat.


How To Buy & Check Saffron Quality

Do not buy powdered saffron as it could be adulterated. Buy only with the red/crimson stigmas.

Good quality saffron when put in water imparts an orange reddish color and has a pungent aroma. Saffron without the aroma is past its prime.

How To Store Saffron


Store saffron in an airtight container away from bright light and moisture and it will stay potent and good for a number of years. You can even keep it in the fridge provided the container is airtight.


Saffron soaked in water

saffron soaking in water
saffron soaking in water | Source

How To Make Saffron Paste

Add 25 grams of saffron to 50 grams of hot ghee and mix well. To this mix in 50 grams of powdered candy sugar. Whip this mix well. This can be refrigerated and used @ 1/4 tsp in a glass of hot milk, tea, water or it can even be consumed as it is.
Having the paste at hand makes the job of using saffron easier and faster. Hence, this note.

Note : Do not consume anything cold after taking this for at least an hour.

Nutrients In Saffron

  • Saffron contains over 150 volatile oils that yield aroma of which safranal is the one that gives it its hay like flavor.
  • Among the non volatile compounds, alpha-crocin gives saffron its distinct yellow orange color.
  • It also contains, lycopene. zeaxanthin, alpha and beta carotenes etc.
  • Saffron is extremely rich in manganese and has very good amounts of vitamin C, iron, potassium, phosphorus and copper.
  • It has good levels of folates, niacin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and Vitamin A.


Health Benefits Of Saffron

Saffron has an amazing number of health properties among them are anticarcinogenic, antimutagenic, antipoisonous, cardiotonic, carminative diuretic,stimulant, lactogogue, sedative, aphrodisiac, immunomodulating and antioxinant properties.

Saffron can be taken in foods or beverages to derive its health giving benefits. If preferred saffron can be consumed in pill form also. Saffron tea is a popular way of getting these benefits. Some of the health benefits of saffron are enumerated below.

  1. Saffron can be used to suppress appetite to control weight. This can be beneficial to those who wish to control their overeating habits.
    8 to 10 strands of saffron can be steeped in a cup of warm water for 20 minutes to make a saffron tea like drink. that will provide this benefit. 1 gram of saffron can make 50-60 cups of this saffron tea.
  2. The crocin, safranal and picrocrocin have cancer inhibiting properties as studies have shown. Saffron also has chemopreventive and tumoricidal properties.
  3. Saffron can treat effectively mild to moderate depression. Both saffron stigmas and petals are effective.
  4. The antioxidants lycopene and crocetin have shown to positively benefits in heart disease. They also strengthen the circulatory system.
  5. Saffron is effective in treating premenstrual syndrome symptoms.
  6. The active compound crocin in saffron reduces memory loss, improves learning capacity and can therefore effectively treat neurological disorders and long term memory loss and is safe for treating mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.
  7. Saffron can reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms of morphine addiction due to its crocin and safranal content.
  8. It improves vision and prevents age related macular degeneration.
  9. It relieves inflammations of the mouth and tongue and calms down the burning sensation.
  10. Saffron checks the cholesterol and triglyceride levels from rising.
  11. It can benefit in conditions of enlarged liver and infections of the bladder and kidneys. It increase flow of urine and benefits in cases of urine retention.
  12. Saffron can aid in reducing the consumption of salt by increasing the flavor of the food so that less of salt is needed to be added.
  13. It aids in alleviating respiratory infections, helps to decongest mucus in the chest and also aids in expelling it.
  14. In males, saffon can benefit the reproductive system by treating erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and increasing sperm count and motility.
  15. In females, it eases the menstrual flow, controls spasms and thus benefits in dysmenorrhea, primary amenorrhea and aids in easy childbirth in pregnant women if given from 7th month onwards.
    (Note : It should not be given in early pregnancy as it may induce abortion)
  16. Saffron is a complexion builder. It can improve skin tone, reduce under eye dark circles, acne, pimples, dark pigmentation of the skin and makes the skin glow.
  17. It reduces indigestion, acidity, controls vomiting and diarrhea.
  18. Saffron boosts immunity and increases energy levels.
  19. Saffron eases childbirth and in post delivery women, it can increase strength and well being faster.
  20. Saffron is also useful in asthma, arthritis, insect bites and stings, mental disorders, edema etc.
  21. For facial issues, soak 2-3 strands of saffron in 1 Tbsp sandalwood paste for 5 minutes. Mix well and apply on the face and neck. Leave overnight.
    You could also regularly drink saffron milk. To make this, soak 4-5 strands of saffron in a glass of hot milk for 5 minutes. Then mix and drink.
  22. A paste made of saffron heals wounds, cuts, injuries and burns, while a paste made of saffron and sandalwood applied on the forehead reduces fever and headache.
  23. To rejuvenate the male and female reproductive organs drink kesar badam milk (Almond-Saffron milk).
    To make almond saffron milk soak 5-6 almonds in water overnight. Next morning remove their skins. Grind the almonds and mix in 1 cup of milk. Add 4-5 strands of saffron and 1 tsp honey. Blend and drink.
    This drink will remove sexual weakness, increase strength and keep one healthy. Even healthy people can drink this to stay healthy.
  24. For under eye dark circles and spots/blemishes on the face, soak 4-5 strands of saffron in a cup of water. Keep for about 10 minutes. Then massage with this.
  25. For migraine, keep 4-5 strands of saffron in the palm. Add a drop or two of pure ghee to this and rub the strands in this for a minute or so. Remove the strands and put a drop of this oil in each nostril. Pull the drop in. This provides a lot of relief in migraines.


Please rate this hub. Thanks.

4.4 out of 5 stars from 12 ratings of Saffron Or Kesar - Health Benefits And More

References

  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20579522
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8620447/
  • http://www.ayurhelp.com/plants/saffron.htm
  • http://ebm.rsmjournals.com/content/227/1/20.full
  • http://www.theresearchpedia.com/health/health-benefits-of-foods/saffron-health-benefits
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC517724/
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2542367/
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saffron
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3466873/
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18271889
  • http://www.royalsaffron.com/medicine.htm
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10815004
  • http://www.ayurhelp.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=10998#.UXNpxLV-Yko
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20831681
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19827024/

Disclaimer

The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or health care provider before taking any home remedies, supplements or starting a new health regime.

How to Prepare Saffron

Sweet Saffron Bread

Saffron risotto - Italian recipe

Almond Saffron Milk (Badam Milk) Recipe

© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly

More by this Author


Comments 32 comments

dwachira profile image

dwachira 3 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

Hi Rajan,

I never knew anything like Saffron before this article, leave alone its many benefits. Thanks for sharing with us all these great food information. I would like to try the sweet Saffron bread, it looks unique and special. If i ever want to reduce some weight, i will remember Saffron to suppress appetite and control weight. Great article, voted up and useful.


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

Safron one of my favorites. I remember we were on a cruise and stopped on an island and they had safron for fairly cheap. I bought as much as I could. It is so expensive...Good to know all the health benefits. Great as always. Voting up, pinning and tweeting.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

@ Danson- thanks for stopping by. Glad you like the info and good to see you.

@Carol-I'm glad you got a good deal. Thanks for stopping by. Appreciate the votes and shares.


hawaiianodysseus profile image

hawaiianodysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

Prior to reading this article, my only other experience with saffron was listening to Donovan sing about it (her) in his sixties song, "Mellow Yellow." Because of you and your most interesting and informative hub, Rajan, I know so much more. The recipes in the videos look fantastic! Thanks for putting together another award-winning article! Aloha!

Joe


Kathryn Stratford profile image

Kathryn Stratford 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

I have only ever had the powdered variety, and have never even seen what it looks like whole. I didn't know they grew on a flower! I also enjoyed reading about all of the many health benefits, and the accompanying recipes. This is a very good read.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

And yet another item we do not use. Have heard of it, of course, but never thought to use it in cooking. Once again, thanks for the information my friend.


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom

Another interesting and useful hub from you Rajan. I know about saffron being used in desserts, but learning from your hub that its health benefits are so many.

Thank you for sharing this with us. Voting up and sharing!


BlissfulWriter profile image

BlissfulWriter 3 years ago

I bought saffron once. Just once though, because it was soooo expensive.


mr-veg profile image

mr-veg 3 years ago from Colorado United States

Rajan Nice and detailed hub on Saffron. I think it would have been interesting to add in the fact that our Indian National Flag has the saffron Color and it stand for courage and Strength !!!


wetnosedogs profile image

wetnosedogs 3 years ago from Alabama

Another great presentation. I like how you tell us how to figure if the saffron is still good quality.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

This was fascinating. I knew nothing of saffron prior to reading this. Very nice hub.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 3 years ago from malang-indonesia

Brother, you always come up with something great for us. Every time I visit your hub, I find surprise like this one. Very well written. It's more than the expensive spice but full of benefit for health. Thank you very much. Vote up (useful, interesting, awesome) :-)

Prasetio


sweetie1 profile image

sweetie1 3 years ago from India

Thanks Rajan for the very informative hub.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thanks for sharing this very interesting information about saffron! It sounds like a fascinating spice. The recipes look interesting, too.


mariasial profile image

mariasial 3 years ago from united kingdom

Very well researched hub... although i know about its benefits but still some of the information are completed new rated up and useful


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

@Joe-thanks and I appreciate your visit and support, my friend. Aloha!

@Kathryn-glad you found this info useful. Thanks

@Bill-thanks for stopping by once again.

@livingsta-I appreciate your visit and comments. Thanks.

@BlissfulWriter-I realize its exhorbitantly expensive. Good things don't come cheap.

@mr-veg-you are right but this hub was only on the spice.

@wetnosedogs-glad you like these small tips as well. Thanks.

@FlourishAnyway-good to know you gained some unknown info. Thanks for stopping by.

@prasetio-thanks my friend. It is good to see you.

@sweetie-thanks.

@Alicia-thanks for stopping by.

@maria-glad you benefitted by reading this. Thanks.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 3 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Thanks for sharing this interesting and informative hub. I agree saffron is expensive but it is so good too. I love adding it to different foods while I still have a bit left. Didn't know it had so many other health benefits. Passing this on.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

An expensive spice for sure and as usual you did this so perfectly informative and useful thanks


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

@Rasma-thanks for appreciating and for sharing.

@Devika-thanks.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

My husband uses saffron primarily when he makes risotto. I had no idea that it had so many other benefits beyond color and flavor. Too bad it is so expensive! I like the videos showing other recipes. Another 5 star hub, many up votes and will share.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

Very interesting about saffron. It is really expensive here. I needed some one time for a recipe and couldn't believe the price. Thanks for sharing.

Voted up and shared.


Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 3 years ago from Oklahoma

Great information. I knew about some of these but learned new reasons to use saffron.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Embarrassed to say I'm a "Mellow Yellow" fan too, but now I am loaded with good information from you. I like that it suppresses appetite but even more interesting is how long you can store it! The videos are top notch Rajan.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

@Peggy-glad yo like this info on saffron. Thanks for the votes and sharing.

@moonlake-yes, it is expensive but one needs just a few strands to get the color, flavor and benefits. Thanks for reading and passing it on.

@Pamela-glad this hub provided some useful info to you. Thanks.

@Mary-thanks for appreciating and commenting.


yumhealthyfood profile image

yumhealthyfood 3 years ago from Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

nice hub..!! Great information..

i wasn't knowing of so many benefits of saffron. Thanks for sharing.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

Thanks Shruti. Glad you liked the information.


radhikasree profile image

radhikasree 3 years ago from Mumbai,India

We use saffron or' kumkumapoovu' as a condiment. The naural color it imparts is exclusive which no other artificial food colors can do. The recipes in these video clips look delicious.

Up, useful, beautiful, interesting and sharing.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

You are right Radhika, the natural color of saffron cannot be duplicated by the artificial colors. Thanks for commenting and for all the votes and sharing.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 3 years ago from Northern California, USA

I'm really amazed at how many health benefits saffron provides. Long ago, when I attended my first home economics class, the instructor mentioned how expensive and sacred saffron was. She said, at that time, that if we were to purchase a jar of saffron at the store, there would only be an order form in the jar and we would have to submit a copy of the receipt along with the order form and then the company would send the saffron. My home economics teacher said the reason they had to do it that way was because people would steal saffron off the shelves because it was so valuable. I wonder if that is still part of the process, or is the saffron now in the bottle at the store.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

Well, Marlene, I haven't seen saffron selling in a bottle. It is way too expensive. Usually a few strands are all that are necessary and it is usually stored in 1 gm size and costs about 6 $ and is usually sold in the smaller stores where stealing it is very difficult.

And of course it provides tremendous health benefits.


kashmir-ladakh profile image

kashmir-ladakh 3 years ago from usa

Saffron is abundantly grown in kashmir, it is considered the purest after Iranian or Spanish saffron. I have had kashmiri kahwa with saffron which was an amazing drink. thanks for the hub found it very informative.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

Thanks kashmir-ladakh for reading and commenting.

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