Saffron or Kesar is one of most expensive spice in the world. Originated from Greece, Saffron is also grown mostly in South Asia, India, China and Europe apart from Greece. The stigmas of saffron flower are the most precious part of the plant, which are carefully graded by hand and stored. The rich aromatic flavor, appealing color and high nutritious qualities make saffron very special. The brilliantly hued flowers range from light pastel shade of lilac to a darker and more striated mauve and possess a sweet honey-like rich aroma.
A most special feature about saffron is that it contains more than 150 volatile and aroma yielding compounds and also certain non-volatile compounds. Saffron is rich in carotenoids such as zeaxanthin, picrocrocin and lycopene, which is mainly responsible for the deep orange and golden hues. A volatile oil Safranal, which is responsible for the rich fragrance of saffron is an anticonvulsant, antioxidant with huge qualities of scavenging away free radicals. Safranal possess the properties of curing and preventing cancers.
Saffron is mainly grown in Spain, Italy, Iran and Kashmir. Kashmiri saffron can be identified by its dark maroon-purple hue. It is among the world’s darkest, strongly flavored, highly aromatic with deepest coloring effect.
Amazing Benefits of Saffron
I. Saffron for Health
- Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases:- A double blind study revealed that Saffron is more effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease and beat out placebo in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease dementia symptoms. This tasty spice was compared to donepezil, a leading drug for treating Alzheimer’s disease and proved to yield good results comparatively. Saffron consumption can reduce cellular stresses and protect the central nervous system. It helps in recollection of data and aids in memory.
- Heart Health:- Cholesterol and lipoproteins clogs the arteries by causing the accumulation of fats. The rich antioxidants of saffron can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. The Crocetin present in saffron reduces the lipoproteins in the blood stream and helps in unclogging the arteries. It also improves the pumping of oxygen which can keep the circulatory system healthy and removes plaque from the arteries, helping the heart to be healthy.
- Cancer:- Crocin and safranal present in saffron can inhibit the growth of tumors and cancer cells in the body. The high carotenoid levels in saffron can prevent several cancers in ovaries, liver, colon or blood.
- Depression:- Saffron contains 5-hydroxytryptophan which aids in the production of serotonin that works as a neurotransmitter. Serotonin levels are mostly responsible for maintaining mood balance and if it is deficit, it leads to depression. Consumption of saffron daily can help in maintaining the serotonin levels and works as a great anti-depressant.
- Eye Health:- The high carotenoid levels present in saffron can keep the eyes healthy when consumed regularly. It is found to be helpful to fight age-related muscular degeneration and cataract. Consumption of saffron can help in maintaining the fatty acid levels of the cell membranes and keeps the eyes strong. It can also protect the eyes from harmful radiation of sun’s rays.
- Arthritis:- Saffron helps in preventing arthritis. It prevents bone erosion and heals joint pains. The anti-inflammatory properties of saffron can reduce swelling of joints.
II. Benefits of Saffron For Skin
- For Glowing Skin:- Due to daily pollution, harsh weather and several other factors, skin tends to become dull and lifeless. Topical application of saffron over the skin can bring back the lost glow on the face. Add 3-4 strands of saffron to 1-2 tbsp of very hot water in a small bowl. Cover and leave for at least half an hour. Before bed crush the strands well using your fingers to extract saffron solution. Add half tbsp honey and mix well. Apply a layer of this solution over clean skin. Leave for 10-15 minutes and wash with plain water. Do not use soap.
- For Brightening Skin:- Add a few strands of saffron to 2 tbsp hot milk. Leave for at least half an hour. Crush the strands well. Add one tbsp of pure sandal powder to it and mix well to make a smooth face mask, by adding little more milk as required. Apply this over clean skin and leave for at least 15 minutes. Wash with plain water.
- To Remove Sun Tan:- Soak a few strands of saffron strands in one tbsp hot water for at least half an hour. Crush the strands. Add a tiny amount of fresh cream to it and mix well. Apply this over clean face and leave it over night. Wash with gentle face wash in the morning. Use honey instead of cream if your skin is oily.
- To Tone the Skin:- Saffron serves you as a great natural toner. Soak 2-3 strands of saffron in a little rose water and crush to get the color. Dab it over clean face with a cotton ball. It keeps your skin, fresh, healthy and younger. It may also be added to bath water.
- To improve complexion:- Saffron is a most popular skin lightening ingredient used in many cosmetic products. 1) To make a skin lightening mask, keep 2-3 strands of saffron in a little water in the morning. At night, crush the saffron strands and add a pinch of sugar, one tbsp milk, a few drops of olive oil to it and mix well. Apply this over the skin and massage gently. Leave for 10-15 minutes and wash with a gentle face wash. This face mask improves blood circulation, nourishes the skin and lightens the complexion on regular use. 2) Soak a few sunflower seeds and 2-3 saffron strands in little milk overnight. Grind it in the morning to make a smooth paste. Apply this over clean face and neck and leave for at least 15 minutes. Wash with plain water. Regular use will make the skin fairer. 3) Drinking a glass of milk with 3-4 strands of saffron daily once or twice is known to improve skin complexion.
II. Benefits of Saffron for Hair
- Hair Mask:- Hair loss can be combated using saffron since it is loaded with abundant quantity of anti-oxidants. It repairs hair follicles and promotes hair growth. It was found to be a best treatment of alopecia. Soak well a few strands of saffron to milk and add licorice powder to it. Mix well to make a smooth paste. Apply this over the scalp and hair. Leave for few minutes and wash gently. Regular use can arrest hair fall and promote growth of new hair. It restores hair damage and makes it healthy.
- Saffron Infused Hair Oil:- Add one teaspoon saffron strands crushed or a little saffron powder to almond oil or olive oil in a bowl. Heat on low flame for 5 minutes. Once it attains room temperature, pour it into a bottle and store. Day by day, the beneficial ingredients present in saffron gets mixed with the oil gradually. Shake the bottle well and apply a little quantity over the scalp and hair regularly. This will protect the hair from damage and promotes hair growth as well as arresting hair fall. This infused oil can also be used for skin. Saffron infused in extra virgin olive oil can be used for cooking and seasoning.
How to Select Saffron?
High quality saffron appears dark red or maroon in color. All the strands should be of same color. Yellow strands are less beneficial. The smell should be very rich and powerfully aromatic. Though it is available in powder form also, it is not possible to assess the quality of powdered saffron by looking at the color.
How to Powder Saffron Strands?
You can make powder from saffron strands at home. Place the strands in a small pan and heat on very low flame for 10 seconds. Immediately place them in a bowl and crush with your fingers until it becomes a coarse powder. Or if you want to powder more quantity and store it, you can blend it in a mixer into fine powder. Saffron powder is very easy to use for skin and hair care, since it is very easy to soak and can effectively extract the beneficial ingredients.
Always store saffron in an airtight container. Keep away from direct sunlight in a cool and dark place. Humidity can reduce the shelf life of saffron. Saffron usually don’t get spoiled even after expiry date but the potency gets reduced gradually. If you find the aroma to be weak, then its time to replace with new strands.
- Saffron have strong effects on reproductive system. So it is warned against use by pregnant women to avoid miscarriage during early pregnancy. Always consult your gynecologist before using saffron during pregnancy.
- Saffron should always be consumed in very meager quantities. The spice is very powerful and huge quantities may affect kidneys due to high crocin levels in it.
- It is recommended that a person should not exceed three grams of saffron consumption in a month. More than this limit may cause side effects.
# Consuming saffron in limited quantities have huge benefits and it is very good for over all health.