Saffron, often referred to as the ”golden spice” has been used as a seasoning and coloring agent in food for centuries.
Saffron is harvested by hand from the Crocus sativus flower, commonly known as the “saffron crocus.” The term “saffron” applies to the flower's thread-like structures or stigma.
Saffron is composed of a variety of chemical compounds that give rise to its taste, color and health benefits. It is a wonderful treatment for colds and coughs, stomach issues, uterine bleeding, insomnia, flatulence, and even heart trouble.
Health Benefits of Saffron
1. Improve Mental Health and Treat Depressive Symptoms
Saffron extract may support mental health partly by increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of saffron extracts could imply its therapeutic potential for various issues of the nervous system. The spice interacts with the cholinergic and dopaminergic systems, which may have beneficial effects in the case of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
2. Eyesight Improvement
Safranal, a constituent of saffron, delays retinal degeneration. The compound could also reduce rod and cone photoreceptor loss. It also appears to improve eyesight in adults with AMD (age-related macular degeneration) and protect against free radical damage, which is linked to AMD.
These properties make safranal potentially useful for delaying retinal degeneration in retinal pathologies.
3. May Reduce PMS Symptoms
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a term that describes physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms occurring before the start of a menstrual period.
The symptoms of PMS include mood swings, cramps, bloating, and acne.
In women 20–45 years of age, taking 30 mg of saffron daily was more effective than a placebo at treating PMS symptoms, such as irritability, headaches, cravings, and pain.
4. May Enhance Immunity
Saffron is rich in carotenoids that seem to impact immunity. Saffron increases white blood cell count without affecting the levels of other blood cells. In theory, it could selectively enhance immunity without increasing the risk of other blood-related complications.
5. Anticancer Effects
Saffron extracts have shown anti-cancer effects in cellular and animal models of lung, liver, breast, pancreatic, colorectal, skin, prostate, ovarian, and cervical cancer. Saffron is rich in two major carotenoids, namely crocin, and crocetin,
which help neutralize harmful free radicals. Free radical damage has been linked to chronic diseases, such as cancer.
6. May Promote Digestive Health
Saffron protects the stomach from excessive acid. This is mediated by the production of antioxidant proteins and the inhibition of oxidative stress.
7. Aid Weight Loss
According to research, saffron may help prevent snacking by curbing your appetite. Saffron and its components may reduce cholesterol and lipid levels, potentially contributing to better weight control.
Saffron may aid in weight loss by :
Slowing down fat absorption and digestion.
Reducing calorie intake by lowering appetite.
Improving glucose and fat utilization for energy.
8. Heart Function
Saffron may improve heart function by increasing its pumping capacity. This may be due to the presence of kaempferol, a molecule with potent heart-protecting effects. The spice is rich in thiamin and riboflavin, and these promote a healthy heart and help prevent various cardiac issues.
The crocetin in the spice indirectly regulates blood cholesterol levels and reduces the severity of atherosclerosis.
9. May Act as an Aphrodisiac
Studies have shown that saffron may have aphrodisiac properties — especially in people taking antidepressants.
Aphrodisiacs are foods or supplements that help boost your libido.
Saffron was also found to be effective in improving sperm morphology and motility in infertile men. It wasn’t found to improve the sperm count, though.
10. May Protect The Liver
The carotenoids in saffron may help inhibit the production of reactive oxygen species.