Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Saffron: The Amazing and Mysterious Spice

Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world, with high-quality varieties selling for up to US$1,000 per pound. It is usually grown in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and India, and has been used extensively in Persian and Indian cuisine over centuries. In ancient Greece, saffron was seen as a useful medicine.

It contains “zinc, magnesium, copper, potassium, manganese, iron, and more. Saffron is a source of vitamin A, which helps maintain strong vision; B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin and folic acid; and vitamin C, which of course helps strengthen your immune system and ward off illness,” according to Natural On. Here are five reasons why you should make saffron a part of your diet.

1. Rich in antioxidants

Some of the main antioxidants in saffron include safranal, crocin, picrocrocin, crocetin, and kaempferol. Together, these antioxidants fight against free radicals and oxidative stress in the human body, thereby minimizing the risk of conditions like heart diseases. Safranal is the element that gives saffron its peculiar aroma and taste. Studies on safranal show that it can aid in improving a person’s memory and learning ability.

Saffron can be useful for people suffering from Alzheimer’s. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The petals of saffron are rich in kaempferol, which is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. In some research studies, the compounds in saffron have been observed to kill colon cancer cells or at least minimize their growth. The plus point is that it left normal cells unharmed. Crocin in saffron may have the potential of making cancer cells highly sensitive to chemotherapy drugs, thereby improving the treatment of cancer patients.  

2. Combating depression

If you’ve ever felt down and out any day, taking some saffron might help. After all, it is not nicknamed the “sunshine spice” for no reason. Some studies have shown that consuming 30 grams of saffron every day is as effective against depression as conventional medications like Imipramine, fluoxetine, and Citalopram. What’s more, you won’t even have to suffer through any side effects.

An analysis of 5 studies discovered that supplements of saffron actually had a much greater impact on symptoms of mild to moderate depression than a placebo. A study of patients taking antidepressant medication showed that consuming crocin for 4 weeks had a better effect on reducing symptoms of depression than just taking antidepressants.

3. Dealing with Alzheimer’s

Since saffron has memory enhancing abilities, it can theoretically be useful for people suffering from Alzheimer’s. Patients who took saffron for 22 weeks were seen to have experienced an improvement in cognitive functions that were equivalent to those who took a medication called donepezil. The crocin compound reduces oxidative damage in the brain, which can also be incredibly helpful against this disease.

Saffron supplements can make you want to snack less. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

4. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

PMS can be quite irritating for many women. Thankfully, saffron seems to be a good solution. Consuming 30 grams of saffron a day was found to be very effective in reducing PMS symptoms like pain, headaches, irritability, cravings, etc., in women aged 20 to 45 years. Even smelling saffron for about 20 minutes had a positive effect, minimizing anxiety and lowering the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

5. Weight loss

Saffron can make you develop control over your eating habits. In one study that lasted for 8 weeks, women who ingested saffron supplements snacked less and lost more weight than the placebo group. It is believed that the mood-boosting effect of saffron is what diminished the snacking tendency in people. Combined with other weight loss methods, this might prove to be very useful. 

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Raven Montmorency
Raven Montmorency is a pen name used for a writer based in India. She has been writing with her main focus on Lifestyle and human rights issues around the world.
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