Significance of Red Gold (Saffron)

By Manazza Ayub1, Abida Ayub2

Institute of food science UOS1, Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi2

Spices are used to boost the flavor and color of food for centuries. Beyond this, they also have the medicinal importance that’s why it is said once you bring a spice at home than you will have it forever. Saffron is one of the most expensive spice obtained from the flower of crocus sativus. It is basically red-orange dried stigma of the flower while the bulb (underground part) is used to grow a new plant as it is vegetative propagation. It needs an immense amount of work to obtain small amount of saffron. About 70,000 flowers are needed to get 500g of this luxurious spice. It can cost up to 25$ per gram.

 It is native to South Asia and it has been reported that it was used as food seasoning in Achaemenian Imperial court (Persian).It’s largest and expensive cultivars are Iran, Spain and Kashmir. Saffron has hay- like odor and chemicals picrocrocin and safranal are responsible for its fragrance. It also contains coloring pigment known as crocin and crocetin which imparts golden- yellow color to food. There are specialize spice markets where you can easily get fresh saffron.

 It is available in whole dried and powdered form. To avoid adulteration whole dried stigma should be preferred.  Dried saffron contains more carbohydrates (65%) than fat (6%), protein (11%) and moisture (12%). Saffron vitamin profile includes vitamin A, C, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate and pyridoxine. It also contains Manganese, Zinc, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron, Copper, Calcium, Selenium, sodium and potassium. Saffron has been used since ancient times as anti-asthma, anti-inflammatory, sedative, tonic, aphrodisiac agent and stimulant for appetite and menstruation. It is high in manganese which act as an antioxidant and work against oxygen free radicals. Saffron is beneficial for iron deficient paitents because it is rich in iron.

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Coloring pigments act as a choleretics. Choleretics boost the amount of bile secretion from liver thus assists in digestion. Saffron is known to be an effective expectorant to clear the airway by promoting the discharge of phlegm. It is highly useful in stimulating the menstrual cycle. Studies show that saffron helps to relieve the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) like fatigue, irritability, depression and acne. Survey shows that saffron is Islamic traditional medicine used as medication for depression. According to research conducted by Marangoni et al saffron has more significant effect as compared to placebo. Saffron also plays an essential role in eye vision because it possesses crocin and crocetin carotenoids. Saffron has an anti-oxidant property that’s why it has positive effect on retinitis pigmentosa or age related macular degeneration. Saffron contains bioactive phyto chemicals that make saffron an effective supplement for the treatment of cancer.

Ibn Sina reported that saffron along with beeswax or egg yolk and olive oil is beneficial to cure uterine cancer. Antioxidants found in saffron help to prevent oxidation of  low density lipids. Bioactive compounds in saffron assist to remove free radicals in the body, thereby lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Main components of saffron (crocin and safranal) play a significant role to regulate the blood pressure in hypertensive patients.

Anti fungal features are present in saffron and because of this feature it is also used to cure acne and other skin problems. It is also used for skin toning and as beauty herbal since ancient times. This spice is also used for healing wounds especially wounds by burn.

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 Precaution should be taken while taking supplementation of saffron because large amount of it can reduce blood pressure too low which is unsafe for patients with ischemic heart diseases. Researchers suggest that saffron extract has positive response for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Even though saffron is very rich in benefits but still it is very important that you should take saffron dose according to the doctor prescription. Reason behind this is the side effects of saffron. Saffron can cause mouth dryness and dizziness. Some people are allergic to saffron so doctor recommendation is necessary.

References:
  • Khazdair, M. R., Boskabady, M. H., Hosseini, M., Rezaee, R., & Tsatsakis, A. M. (2015). The effects of Crocus sativus (saffron) and its constituents on nervous system: A review. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine5(5), 376. 

 

  • Javadi, B., Sahebkar, A., & Emami, S. A. (2013). A survey on saffron in major Islamic traditional medicine books. Iranian journal of basic medical sciences16(1), 1. 

 

  • Nasiri, Z., Sameni, H. R., Vakili, A., Jarrahi, M., & Khorasani, M. Z. (2015). Dietary saffron reduced the blood pressure and prevented remodeling of the aorta in L-NAME-induced hypertensive rats. Iranian journal of basic medical sciences18(11), 1143.

 

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