7 Health Benefits of Saffron: The Priceless Spice

Here’s a list of 7 benefits of saffron and ways to serve this culinary treasure.


Healing Benefits of Saffron

The benefits and medicinal properties of this highly priced spice, make it a valuable culinary ingredient worldwide. Modern research suggests that saffron can be used as an aphrodisiac, diaphoretic [to cause sweating], carminative [ to prevent gas] and to bring on mensuration. Some other benefits are mentioned hereunder:


1. Protects against cancer:

Saffron contains a dark orange, water soluble carotene called crocin, which is responsible for much of saffron’s golden colour. Crocin has been found to trigger apoptosis [ programmed cell death] in a number of different types of human cancer cells, leukemia, ovarian carcinoma, colon adenocarcinoma, and soft tissue sarcoma. Researchers in Mexico who have been studying saffron extract have discovered that saffron and its active components display an ability to inhibit human malignant cells. Not only does the spice inhibit cells that have become cancerous.

2. Promotes learning and memory retention:

Recent studies have also demonstrated that saffron extract, specifically its crocin, is useful in the treatment of age related mental impairment. In Japan, saffron is encapsulated and used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, memory loss and inflammation.

3. In delayed puberty:

In under developed girls, saffron has an overall stimulant effect. A pinch of saffron crushed in a table spoon of milk is useful to stimulate hormones and bring about desired effect.

4. To increase vitality:

In low libido saffron aids as a sexual stimulant and can be consumed in a dose of a pinch in a glass of milk at bed time.

5. In patchy baldness:

Saffron mixed in liquorice and milk makes an effective topical application to induce hair growth in alopecia.

6. Protection against cold:

Saffron is a stimulant tonic and very effective to treat coldand fever; saffron mixed in milk and applied over the forehead quickly relieves cold.

7. Food Additives:

Saffron is an excellent replacement for synthetic food additives- for eg: instead of FD and C yellow no 5: a synthetic food coloring agent that is a very common allergy trigger, Saffron’s glorious yellow could be an acceptable hypoallergenic choice.

Using Saffron for Non-Culinary Purposes

Do your research. While saffron is most commonly used in cooking and baking, it can also be used for medicinal or cosmetic purposes. Research the effects of saffron thoroughly before using it for non-culinary purposes, though.

  • Early research suggests that saffron might be effective as an alternative treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, depression, menstrual discomfort, and premenstrual syndrome.
  • There is little to no research to suggest that saffron is effective against asthma, infertility, psoriasis, digestive trouble, baldness, insomnia, pain, cancer, or other conditions.
  • Avoid taking more than 12 to 20 grams of saffron since such large amounts can actually be toxic. You should also avoid medicinal saffron if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you’re suffering from bipolar disorder, low blood pressure, or various heart conditions.
  • Take saffron extract for medicinal purposes. Under the guidance of a physician, you could take a pure, high-quality saffron extract to help treat Alzheimer’s disease, depression, menstrual discomfort, or premenstrual syndrome.
  • For Alzheimer’s disease, take 30 mg per day for 22 weeks to improve symptoms. Note that this will not cure the disease, however.

  • For menstrual discomfort, take 500 mg of an extract containing saffron, celery seed, and anise up to three times daily for the first three days of menstruation.
  • For premenstrual syndrome, take 15 mg of an ethanol saffron extract up to twice daily while symptoms last. The effect usually kicks in after two menstrual complete menstrual cycles.
  • Make your skin glow. Topical applications of saffron are traditionally used to lighten, brighten, and clear skin. The exact application procedure will vary based on its intended purpose, though.
  • Use a saffron milk mask to hydrate and soften skin. Soak a pinch of saffron threads in about 4 Tbsp (60 ml) of cold milk for several minutes, then splash the mixture onto freshly cleaned skin. After it dries, wash it away with lukewarm water.
  • To treat acne, crush 5 to 6 basil leaves with 10 to 12 threads of saffron, forming a paste. Apply the paste directly to the acne. After 10 to 15 minutes pass, wash away the paste with cool water.
  • To soften skin over the entire body, sprinkle about 30 threads into very warm bath water. Soak yourself in the water for about 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Drink saffron milk. Aside from being a tasty beverage, saffron milk is commonly believed to help brighten your complexion when routinely enjoyed several times a week.
  • Boil 2 cups (500 ml) of whole milk over high heat.
  • As soon as the milk boils, add 2 Tbsp (30 ml) sliced almonds, 1/4 tsp (1.25 ml) saffron threads, 1/4 tsp (1.25 ml) ground cardamom, and 1 to 2 Tbsp (15 to 30 ml) of honey. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Enjoy the drink while it’s still hot.

How to serve Saffron in daily life

With these benefits known to us, this culinary treasure has to be used and especially in the winter months. Here are some serving ideas:

1. For a wonderful marinade for fish, add saffron threads, garlic and thyme to vinegar.

2. Use saffron to give cakes, pastries and cookies a buttery golden hue and a rich aroma.

3. Cook biryanis with saffron combined with cloves, cinnamon, Indian bay leaves and nutmeg for a memorable treat.

4. Crush a tiny piece of saffron into a glass of champagne or sparkling apple cider and turn the drink into a golden elixir.

5. Coffee spiced with saffron and cardamom is a soothing and heart healthy drink.

6. Add saffron and cinnamon to whole milk or yogurt and honey for a simple version of the famous Indian yogurt drink, lassi.

Saffron as a spice, is generally regarded as safe, however it is not recommended during pregnancy and nursing. It also must also be pointed that large doses i.e. more than 1 or 2 table spoons can be toxic, although saffron poisoning is very rare.

More Saffron Tips

Get what you pay for. Harvesting saffron is a labour-intensive process, so if you want high-quality saffron, prepare yourself for an expensive purchase.

  • Examine the saffron before you buy it. Good saffron consists of fine, evenly sized threads that are deep red in color with an orange tendril on one end and a trumpet-shaped flute on the other. If the tendril looks yellow, the saffron is likely real but of slightly poorer quality.
  • Additionally, a stronger scent also indicates a stronger, better flavor.
  • In comparison, fake saffron may look like shredded, irregular threads with disconnected tendrils and pieces of bark mixed into the package. The scent may not be very strong and usually smells like bark.

Know what flavor to expect. Saffron has a pungent, musty taste and scent with sweet floral accents. When used in excess, however, the taste can quickly become bitter.

  • Saffron has a flavor profile similar to vanilla: sweet and musky. The two typically work well together, but they are not similar enough to serve as strict substitutes for one another.
  • Turmeric and safflower are often used instead of saffron to give foods a similar color, but the flavors are much different.

Opt for whole saffron instead of ground. Simply put, whole saffron has a stronger flavor than ground saffron. Ground saffron can be a good substitute if you cannot find or afford the whole spice, though.

  • If you do decide to buy ground saffron, go through a reputable spice seller. Less honest sellers may cut saffron with other spices, including turmeric and paprika, to reduce the overall cost.

Crush and soak the threads. The process of crushing and soaking saffron releases the maximum amount of flavor from the threads, so it’s strongly recommended.

  • Take the saffron threads you intend to use for the recipe and crush them into a powder using a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can crumble the threads in between your fingers.

  • Steep the crushed saffron in warm water, stock, milk, or white wine for 20 to 30 minutes. If there’s any liquid in your recipe, use a small amount of the specified liquid from the instructions.

  • Add the saffron and soaking liquids directly to your recipe when called for.

Use saffron in grain-based recipes. Most traditional recipes calling for saffron are grain-based, including risotto, pilaf, and paella.

  • You can find a recipe that calls for saffron or add it to a basic recipe.

  • As a general guideline, add about 30 threads of saffron to four servings of risotto or pilaf made with 12 oz (300 g) of rice. Add 50 threads of saffron to a paella recipe that serves four.

Add saffron to desserts. Since saffron has a flavor profile similar to vanilla, it works well in many desserts that typically feature vanilla as the primary flavor.[6] This includes custard, plain pastry, and sweet breads.

  • For custards, only add a pinch of saffron to the recipe per four servings.

  • For pastry and plain cookies, use 15 to 20 threads of saffron for every 8 oz (200 g) of flour called for in the recipe. Note that butter accents the taste of saffron better than margarine.

  • For sweet breads, adding 15 threads of saffron per 1 lb (450 g) of flour will create a subtle flavor, but you can add up to 60 threads for the same amount of flour if you’d prefer a stronger taste.

Store the saffron carefully. Saffron doesn’t spoil, but it will gradually lose its flavor in storage. Proper storage can preserve the saffron for longer periods, however.

  • Wrap the saffron threads in foil and place them in an airtight container. Store them in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. For longer storage, keep the container of saffron in your freezer for up to 2 years.

  • Note that ground saffron should be used within 3 to 6 months and stored in an airtight container and a cool, dark place.

Toast the threads. Toasting is another common way to prepare saffron, and it’s especially common for traditional paella recipes.

  • Place a cast iron skillet on the stove over medium heat.
  • Add the saffron threads to the hot skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 or 2 minutes. They should release an even stronger aroma but should not be allowed to burn.

  • Cool slightly and grind the toasted saffron threads using a mortar and pestle. This powder can be soaked or added directly to the recipe.

Crumble and add directly. While not ideal, you can crumble and add the threads of saffron directly to the dish while you cook it if the recipe calls for a large amount of liquid.

  • In large qualities, saffron will produce a bitter flavor. It’s best to prepare and use very small amounts in your dishes.

  • When possible, count the threads instead of measuring them by volume. Note that a “pinch” of saffron equals about 20 medium threads, and a pinch is usually enough in most recipes that serve four to six people.
  • When using powdered saffron instead of whole threads, note that 1/4 tsp (1.25 ml) of powder equals about 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) of threads. This amount is usually enough for recipes that serve 8 to 12 people; scale it as needed based on the number of servings.

Combine saffron with other flavors as desired. If you want saffron to serve as the primary flavor in a dish, you’ll need to avoid adding other spices, herbs, or aromatics. When mixed with other spices, however, saffron can give dishes an overall deeper flavor.

  • When mixing saffron into dishes flavored with other seasonings, it’s best to use only a pinch. Add the saffron early on so that the flavor can blend into the other ingredients more thoroughly.
  • Seasonings frequently paired with saffron include cinnamon, cumin, almond, onion, garlic, and vanilla.
  • If you plan to add saffron to meat or vegetable dishes, gravitate toward those based on light meats and vegetables. For example, you could try adding it to a chicken or cauliflower dish.