Although saffron is most famously known as a culinary spice, used to flavor such classic European dishes as paella and bouillabaisse, and is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine, it has also been valued medicinally by eastern cultures for millennia.
In Ayurvedic medicine saffron is used as a mood booster and in the treatment of depression and anxiety. Saffron contains over 150 compounds, most notably crocin, crocetin and safranal, all three of which are potent antioxidants. There have been several clinical trials looking at the medicinal benefits of saffron, which have identified the great potential for saffron to help with many conditions.
In addition to being a mood-booster and treatment for depression and anxiety, these include:
1. anti-inflammatory properties
2. reduction in appetite and assisting in weight loss
3. improving mental function
4. relieving the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome
5. protecting brain cells from oxidative stress
6. aiding in erectile dysfunction and acting as an aphrodisiac
7. treating early stages of macular degeneration
8. prevention and treatment of Parkinson's Disease
9. reduction of cholesterol, among other cardiovascular benefits
10. lessening the effects of Alzheimer's Disease
11. the prevention and treatment of various types of cancer
12. improving sleep quality
13. improving skin condition
Only authentic high quality saffron exerts beneficial health effects.
Although saffron supplements are available, there is often no guarantee of the quality of the saffron used, nor that it hasn’t been adulterated. Because of the high value of saffron it is frequently tampered with and cut with other substances (such as turmeric or safflower) to bulk it out.
For this reason it is vital to purchase your saffron from a trustworthy source.
If you're looking for ways to simply reap some of the many benefits of consuming saffron, there's no easier way than making 'saffron tea' or 'saffron water.'
Adding a little saffron to your favorite recipes
To do this, add a few saffron strands to a small amount of your warm cooking liquid (white wine, water, broth, cream), thus pulling the flavor and color from the threads, then add the liquid and saffron to the dish at the end of cooking.
Remember, the rule of thumb with high quality saffron is that a little goes a long way.