As a Nutrition Specialist and researcher, I am always reading the latest studies about how different foods and diet patterns influence health. As an Anthropologist (yes, I am both), I have a great respect for and fascination with the cultural knowledge passed down over dozens of generations about utilizing food as medicine, long before the discovery and fabrication of pills and syrups.
One of the herbs with which I have a growing fascination is saffron; along with other herbs spices like turmeric, cinnamon, mint, chamomile, and thousands of others, saffron has been used for hundreds of years, not only as a dye, but also as a supporting treatment for many ailments.
When I hear a food is spiced with saffron, images of exotic places, rich smells, and bright colors come to mind. It is a rich red color, and gives a distinct color to South East Asian and Mediterranean dishes. Like most traditional health philosophies, food and health are inextricably related.
One study published in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine cites that it has been valued “not only as a culinary condiment, but also as a dye, perfume and as a medicinal herb.”
If you are skeptical about how natural supplements can help support your health, don’t worry, so was I! But, you can take it from me. Saffron is a tried and true health supporting health-boosting spice that I will be describing here. I will also give you a recommendation for my favorite saffron supplement brand.
What is Saffron?
Saffron comes from a small part of the saffron crocus flower called the stigma. The flower is a lilac color, and each flower has three stigmas that emerge from the base of the petals. The stigmas are harvested and dried, and these are what are used for culinary, medicinal and supplementary purposes.
Spices, herbs, fruits and vegetables have been known to have health boosting and healing properties for centuries, and while Western Medicine used to scoff at the use of herbs for healing, even the western scientific method has demonstrated that these foods, like saffron, have powerful health properties.
Saffron has been used for over 3000 years by many cultures all over the world. As a medicinal herb, it has been used as a:
• Anti-stress agent
• Anti-anxiety agent
• To cure splenic disorders
• To treat vomiting
• To treat purpura
• To treat eczema
• To refresh skin
• To cure urinaty tract infections
• To treat alcoholism
• … and many more …
When I saw this list in this article, and to read that it has survived for thousands of years as an herbal medicine in different cultures, I felt there could be no doubt that saffron has powerful medicine.
So, that is when I asked this next question…
What are Saffron benefits?
As mentioned above, saffron has been historically used for a range of ailments, including for treating eye problems, genitourinary diseases, as a tonic agent, and as an antidepressant.
From a purely nutritional perspective, dried saffron is mostly composed of carbohydrates, then protein, and lastly, fats. The micronutrient it is richest in is manganese, which is important for healthy bones and metabolism. It is also rich in B vitamins, compared to other spices, and several minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
However, because we only consume saffron in small doses, the health benefits don’t come from vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients. Instead, the health boosting properties of saffron come from naturally occurring chemicals called phytochemicals.
One of the most powerful of these phytochemicals is alpha-crocin, which gives the pistils their natural golden flavors. Alpha-crocin is a carotenoid compound, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps to rid the body of cell-damaging free-radicals. In fact, this compound is found to have powerful effects against colorectal cancer cells.
Additionally, saffron has multiple therapeutic applications, including antiseptic, digestive, and anti-convulsant uses.
One of the most studied applications of saffron is its uses as an anti-depressant. A large-scale study was published in the Journal of Integral Medicine, and it describes its findings that clinical trials indicate that saffron can help improve symptoms of depression in adults with major depressive disorder. Of course, if you have clinical depression, this isn’t to suggest that it should replace treatments prescribed to you by your doctor, but definitely discuss the possibility of integrating saffron into your health regimen.
Why I love Saffron (and why you should, too)
I love saffron extract as a supplement because of its powerful antioxidant properties and its ability to improve mood. Together with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, I like having an extra anti-oxidant boost, especially with a fast-paced lifestyle where stress often becomes the norm. If I don’t take care of myself and make sure I supply my body and mind with natural boosts, like saffron, I know that things can get out of hand.
I am currently taking Potent Organics 100% Saffron pure extract and I have been so happy with the result. I find myself feeling more upbeat, and with fewer digestive problems that I tended to have.
If you decide to take saffron extract, remember to stick to the recommended dose. Taking it in large quantities can be toxic.
While it is important that you discuss any new supplements with your holistic health specialist, I would recommend it to anyone who desires a mood boost, or if you want to make sure you are getting your daily dose of antioxidants.