Medicinal Properties of Saffron

Saffron has many health benefits that make it one of nature's most powerful herbs.

The saffron crocus, Crocus Sativus L., is native to the Mediterranean and Western Asia. Despite its cost, many herbalists and natural health experts consider saffron's health benefits to be worth its weight in gold. From ancient times, Saffron has not only been used as a spice for flavoring food but also to treat various human diseases. Its chemical composition has attracted the interest of research groups in various countries during the last decades, and more than 150 volatile and several nonvolatile compounds of saffron, approximately 40–50 constituents, have already been identified. Saffron contains three main pharmacologically active metabolites:

1) Saffron-colored compounds called Crocins, which are unusual water-soluble carotenoids (mono and diglycosyl esters of a polyene dicar-boxylic acid, named crocetin).

2) Picrocrocin, responsible for the bitter taste in saffron, and

3) Safranal is the volatile oil that gives saffron the characteristic flavor and aroma.

Saffron contains also a number of carotenoids which are believed to be largely responsible for a number of saffron's health benefits, including inhibiting skin tumors, improving arthritis and sight. Furthermore, saffron contains proteins, sugars, vitamins, flavonoids, aminoacids, mineral matter, and other chemical compounds. In ancient cultures, saffron was used to relieve stomach aches and kidney stones and was also used as an agent in improving the circulation of blood. Saffron's healing effects were also recognized in Italy long ago and some grandmothers of the Abruzzo region still mix a few stigmas of saffron in hot milk for their grandchildren to drink. Today, saffron is used for a wide variety of health conditions and many of its benefits have been validated by scientific studies.