Saffron health benefits and therapeutic value

Saffron petals cupped in two hands

Saffron (Crocus sativus) is a bulb plant that blooms in fall and produces the spice that is the most expensive on the market.

Native to Greece and to the Middle East, saffron was already prized by the Greeks and Romans, and it even was hailed in the XVIIIth century as the “King of Plants” and the “Friend of the Lung”.

Health benefits of saffron

Centuries of experience have allocated to saffron a great many therapeutic uses: aphrodisiac and stimulating, narcotic and soothing, saffron was prescribed to treat painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea) or to soothe cough. It was even said to be the key to joy.

Today, its therapeutic benefits are largely set aside and saffron is mostly used for its culinary properties.

  • Saffron is still used to soothe painful tooth growth for children (the famous Delabarre gel is produced from saffron).
  • Saffron is recommended for its antigenotoxic and anti-carcinogenic effects.
  • Invigorating saffron helps combat exhaustion and overwork. It also helps recover after playing sports. Saffron stimulates the appetite and excites the stomach.
  • Since it eases digestion and stimulates the liver, this spice notably decreases the impact of alcohol.
  • In China, saffron is a regular product in pharmacies. It is recommended there against abdominal pain, to provoke menstruation and also to treat pulmonary embolism.
  • Infusions prepared from saffron, 1 g or 40 saffron stamens for 1 quart (1 liter) water are used for their aphrodisiac or hypnotic properties. Drink 2 to 3 cups a day.
  • When rubbed in a massage, saffron appeases gum irritation and pain felt by babies when their teeth are growing. You can friction their gums with saffron syrup or saffron tincture mixed with water.

Growing saffron for its health benefits

  • Saffron is easy to grow. To grow, it requires warm, dry and full sun exposure. It will thrive in the poorest of soils, be it sandy or rocky but in all cases well-drained.
  • In a pot at least 6 inches (15 cm) deep filled with sandy soil, your saffron will grow just fine, but it will always produce more when planted in the ground.
  • To harvest it, delicately snip off the pistils with your fingers or tweezers, rest them on a sheet of paper to dry them (no direct sun) and place them in an airtight container.
  • Watch out for mice and other rodents that love nibbling saffron bulbs in every season!

Saffron, such a precious spice!

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, but finding a truly pure product is getting more and more difficult. The flowers only live for 24 hours, and must be harvested on the day they bloom. Nearly 150 flowers are needed to collect a single gram of this precious spice.

Watch out: saffron is so expensive (up to 30,000 € / 30 000 US$ per kilogramme (2.2 pounds)) that scammers can’t resist mixing worthless spices together with the precious pistils. Some sellers even use food coloring to imitate saffron!

Cooking saffron for its health benefits

Saffron is one of the oldest known pigments: the Egyptians used it already over 3000 years ago to dye the cloth for wrapping mummies. And it was also used as food coloring to change the color of butter, cheese, pasta and various pastries.

Fish is the dish that pairs best with saffron: fish soup, paella and bouillabaisse are its most amazing contributions!