Saffron is a spice that comes from the flowers of the Crocus sativus Linnaeus. Saffron grows in the Middle East and parts of Europe. It is most commonly grown in Iran, India, and Greece.
It only blooms for three or four weeks, in October and November. The flower produces dark red stigmas, also called threads, which are carefully removed by hand and dried. They are considered the spice of saffron. Saffron has also been used for culinary purposes to add color and flavor to foods, as a fabric dye, and as a fragrance ingredient.
Like many other herbs and spices, saffron can be made into a tea. Today, saffron retains great value as a spice used in cooking and as an alternative treatment for various health conditions. Some studies have shown the effectiveness of this spice in many areas.
What is the history of saffron?
Saffron crocus grows up to 20-30 centimeters. It takes three years from the time they are planted as seeds for saffron to produce flowers. Each plant produces about three to four flowers, and each flower has about three stigmas. Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world because it must be harvested by hand. A large number of dried flowers and stigmas are also needed to obtain 1 kilogram of spices.
The spice has a long history. It is believed that man used saffron 3,500 years ago. Historically, people used it to treat a long list of health conditions, including the following
– Difficulty urinating
– menstrual problems
– eye disorders
– Stomach problems
– mental disorders
What are the health benefits of saffron tea?
Saffron has been nicknamed “the spice of the sun”. And it’s not just because of their red and sometimes yellow coloration. The spice is said to have mood-enhancing properties. These claims could be supported by scientific data. An old study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found saffron to be as effective as fluoxetine (Prozac) in treating mild to moderate depression. A review published in the Journal of Integrative Medicine analyzed several studies on the use of saffron for the treatment of depression in adults over the age of 18. The researchers found that saffron actually improved symptoms in people with major depressive disorder. This could make this spice a good alternative for people who do not tolerate antidepressant medications well.
2. Heart health
Saffron has many different chemical components. Some of them can help lower blood pressure and provide protection against heart disease. A review of studies done on rats showed that saffron lowers blood pressure. Other research done on rabbits showed that the spice is effective in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. An older human study, published in the Indian Journal of Medical Sciences, found that saffron reduced the chance of bad cholesterol causing tissue damage. Researchers believe that the antioxidant properties of saffron may have a protective effect when it comes to heart disease.
3. Treatment of premenstrual syndrome
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can cause a host of uncomfortable symptoms, from mood swings to physical discomfort. Some women are more affected than others. For those who want relief but don’t want to resort to medication, saffron can be a good alternative. A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology examined the use of herbal treatments for PMS and more severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Both of these conditions are a source of discomfort for women one to two weeks before the start of their period. Saffron is cited in the study as an effective treatment for symptoms. Another study published in the International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology looked at saffron as a treatment for PMS symptoms in women ages 20 to 45. Researchers have found that 15 mg of saffron twice daily is effective in relieving PMS symptoms.
4. Strengthens memory
Saffron contains two chemicals, crocin and crocetin, which researchers believe may support learning and memory functions. A study published in Phytotherapy Research on mice showed that saffron could improve learning and memory problems. This promising research shows that saffron may have potential in treating diseases that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
5. Cancer prevention
Saffron is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids. Antioxidants help protect the body against harmful substances. Flavonoids are chemicals found in plants that help protect the plant from fungus and disease. According to a 2015 review published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, the chemical composition of saffron may be effective in preventing various types of cancer. But the researchers stress that more human studies are needed.
where to buy saffron
When buying saffron, make sure it comes from a reputable source. Look for it at a grocery store or health food store. Because the spice is expensive, it can often be the subject of fraud. To cut costs, manufacturers may mix saffron with other ingredients. Not only does this dilute the health benefits, it can also be harmful.
How to prepare saffron tea
Saffron tea can be prepared neat by steeping the threads in hot water. But the spice can have a strong, bitter taste. That is why many recipes call for this spice in different ways. You can mix it with tea leaves or add other herbs and spices. Recipes can vary, but usually involve boiling water in a pot, then adding saffron and other ingredients. Let the saffron steep like steeping a tea bag in hot water, for about five to eight minutes. Then remove the strings and enjoy.
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