Hand-harvested once a year from the delicate pistil of the autumn crocus flower, Saffron enjoys an exotic reputation as being one of the world’s most expensive spices by weight. The Saffron crocus is a flower in the Iridaceae family that has been used traditionally in ancient Greek, Egyptian, Persian, and Indian systems of medicine, and has been propagated by humans as a clone for centuries. Each flower contains just three crimson colored stigmas, connected to the long style that contains the ovary of the plant, and these are the parts used for medicine. Saffron crocus is mostly grown in Iran, Greece, and Spain, and flowers for only 2-3 weeks in the fall, when the stigmas and styles are collected by hand. As one of the most expensive medicinal spices in the world, Saffron is also commonly adulterated with the undesired yellow stamens from the plant, and other spices such as turmeric, safflower, and paprika. Saffron’s aroma and flavor is described as grassy and hay-like, and adds a yellow orange coloring to foods. Cultures around the world utilize Saffron as a premium ingredient in important recipes, such as the famous Saffron rice in India, the important Spanish Paella, and Saffron cakes in England that are made to celebrate religious days. Saffron is used as a fabric dye, perfume, and important religious and medicinal herb in many different traditional systems of herbal medicine. Saffron was revered to be as precious as gold, and often used as a show of wealth and prosperity.
Saffron is considered a warming and stimulating herb, and was used in Traditional Iranian, Chinese, Indian, and Greek Medicine to invigorate and strengthen all systems of the body from head to toe. It was most commonly used to support healthy menstruation and cognitive function, and liver and lung function. Modern research has echoed these uses and found significant benefit of Saffron in men and women’s reproductive function, eye health, and brain health*. Saffron has shown promise for supporting healthy brain aging and focus as well as promoting a balanced mood.*
Uses of Saffron
This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.