Saffron-The Magical herb or the golden crop has occupied a special place in the culture and tradition of people. This exotic herb is famous for its medicinal, Coloring and flavoring properties. Valued all over the world, especially by culinary and medical experts.
Its commonly known by various names like Kumkuma, Keshar ,Zafran etc. Its Botanical name is Crocus Sativus from Iridaceae family.
Saffron, which when included in the recipe, gives a royal touch to any dish, savory or dessert. Also known as the Golden Spice, Saffron is unique in many ways. Exquisite, elusive, exclusive, exotic, delicate and most expensive. The reason saffron carries a hefty price tag is that its production is extremely labor intensive. Elusive because saffron is the stigma of the saffron flower and each saffron flower contains only three stigmas.
These stigmas or saffron threads are handpicked from the centre of the crocus flower and it takes anywhere around 70,000 to 250,000 flowers to get one pound of saffron. Thankfully however, only a very little quantity is required to be added to a dish to get that distinctive aroma, flavor and colour.Despite its cost, many herbalists and natural health enthusiasts consider saffron's health benefits to be worth their weight in gold. Saffron has its importance in Ayurveda, Chinese, Unani, and Tibetian medicine.
In ayurveda reference of keshar is found in Charak as well as Sushrut samhita. Its also attributed several synonyms like Kashmiran, Bahleeka, Rudhira and Sankocha. etc.
Its snigdha(oily) and laghu (light) in properties,bitter in taste, katu in vipaka (post absorbtive digestive process) ,of hot in potency and said to pacify all three doshas (vata,pitta and kapha).
The saffron plant is flowering perennial herb. Saffron crocus grows 20-30cm and bears up to 4 flowers.The flowers are purplish in color; each flower has 3 stigmas which are hand plucked.
It’s available in the form of saffron threads (whole stigma) or powder. Best option is to use the threads. Not only will they retain their flavor longer, but you will also be assured you have purchased pure saffron.
Powdered saffron is not as strong, tends to lose flavor, and is also easily adulterated with fillers and imitations.
Saffron has to be stored in an airtight container away from heat, moisture and light. If stored carefully saffron can retain its potency, aroma and coloring properties for almost three years.
How to select pure Saffron?
Due to the handsome prices it demands, there are many adulterated and fake products being dyed to imitate saffron. To determine whether or not what you have bought is fake or adulterated immerse a bit of the product in warm water or milk. If the liquid colors immediately, then the saffron is fake. Genuine saffron must soak in either warm water or milk for at least 10 to 15 minutes before its deep red-gold color and the saffron aroma begin to develop.
The threads should be red with orange tips. Threads lacking orange tips may be dyed, hence it should be avoided.
Perfumes and Zarda (Tobacco)
Saffron is used as a key ingredient in the manufacture of flavored chewing Saffron has many benefits and one of the ways to incorporate it in your diet is by taking Saffron Milk tobacco (zaffrani zarda) mainly used in India and also exported to various countries. In India saffron is mainly used to prepare an oil based perfume (zaffrani attar) which is a blend of saffron and sandalwood.
Saffron as a dye
From olden days the upper class of the society used to dye their clothes in saffron because of its natural intimate fragrance after dye. The saffron dyed clothes would last hundreds of years, as can be seen in the museums where wardrobes of ancient kings and queens are kept alive, because saffron dye does not allow the insecticides to cause their effect on the clothes
Since centuries saffron has religious importance.Even today applying paste of saffron on their forehead (tika) is considered as a symbol of good luck and blessing. Certain holy texts have been known to be written with saffron ink.
Saffron is a very versatile herb and has many culinary benefits. In spite of its prohibitive price, this spice finds pride of place in most Indian households and is used in special dishes, desserts and soups. It’s used as flavoring base in the preparation of ice creams, cakes, drinks etc.
Saffron has to be soaked in water, milk or the cooking liquid so as to best release its flavor and essence. For one teaspoon of saffron strands use three teaspoons of liquid and soak for around one or two hours to get best results.
Do not use wooden vessel to mix saffron as wood absorbs the saffron easily.
One of the best ways to incorporate it in your diet is by taking Saffron Milk which can be made by dissolving one small pinch of saffron dissolved in a glass of 200 ml milk. You may add honey or sugar for taste as per requirement.
Tea is one of the best ways to ingest saffron for its health benefits. Saffron tea is amazingly simple to make, all you need is hot water, and some high quality saffron. Of course you can add any number of condiments to give your own unique twist to your saffron tea. Fresh mint, honey, cardamom, lime, green tea leaves, ginger the only limit is your own imagination.
- It has been traditionally prescribed to control phlegm, improve respiratory function and as a lung tonic. Saffron has bronchodilator effects it helps in improving pulmonary oxygenation hence it’s used in conditions like whooping cough, asthma, cold, cough, throat ailments etc.
- Saffron has properties to improve vision and correct weak eyesight.
- Massaging the gums with saffron helps reduce soreness and inflammation of the mouth and the tongue.
- Saffron is a cardio tonic. Cardio protective and anti-atherosclerotic effects help in lowering blood cholesterol and triglycerides among heart patients. It keeps the blood pressure under control.
- This spice is a powerful liver tonic and carminative. It is used for the improvement of digestion and increases appetite. It helps in ailments like indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea, acidity, spleen ailments.
- Sedative action of saffron helps in curing Insomnia, a pinch of saffron taken with warm milk at night helps curing insomnia. Saffron is also known for its exhilarant and anti-depressant activity which leads to the sense of well being. The effects of saffron in the improvement of depression are excellent.
- Saffron also possesses aphrodisiac properties as per ayurveda texts hence it’s used to cure impotence. Saffron consumption is most useful in enhancing the vitality of men. The positive effects of saffron include increasing of libido, enhancement of erectile function, and amelioration of semen quality.
- Saffron has emmenagogue qualities which help in the management of premenstrual syndrome, dysmenorrhea, and irregular menstruation. It has traditionally been prescribed to facilitate difficult labour.
- Ayurvedic medicines containing saffron are used to treat acne, dry skin, blemishes, dark circles around eyes and several such skin ailments. It helps to beautify skin by enhancing its glow.
- It possesses anti-poisonous properties hence it can be indicated in insect bites and stings.
- Externally saffron paste can be applied to promote wound healing.
- Diaphoretic nature of saffron helps in febrile conditions.
- Its haemostatic qualities can be beneficial in bleeding disorders.
- Saffron is considered as blood purifier and anti–inflammatory in nature.
- It helps in pacifying urinary complaints because of its diuretic nature. Saffron benefits in easy flow of urine.
- It is an antioxidant and has anti-cancerous and anti- tumor properties.
- Saffron can be given to pregnant women in the beginning of 3rd trimester. (About 7th month). Intake of about 2-3 stigmas of saffron soaked in milk can impart fair and glowing complexion to fetus.
- Saffron is also known to produce positive effects on people with neurodegenerative disorders. Saffron promotes learning, memory retention, and recalling capacity. It is useful in the treatment and management of age related mental impairment. Saffron has been known as an effective and safe treatment for early Alzheimer’s disease.
- These gorgeous red stigmas help to rejuvenate body and act as “Rasayana.” They improve body immunity plus increase energy level.
- Saffron plays a vital role in the beauty industry. It is one of the main ingredients in most fairness creams as it promotes fairness of complexion and removal of skin blemishes. Apart from these fairness creams, there are several home remedies using saffron which are more effective and safe since they are devoid of any chemical additives found in most creams.
- Massaging face with honey to which a few strands of saffron have been added is an excellent home remedy, which provides oxygen to the skin thus promoting blood circulation.
- Add a few strands of saffron to milk and let it soak for two hours. Rub this milk all over the face and neck and rinse off after about twenty minutes. Use regularly to improve your complexion.
- A pinch of saffron added to liquorice and milk, when applied on the head encourages hair growth and prevents hair fall.
- Mix one teaspoon of sandalwood powder, 2-3 strands of saffron and 2 teaspoons of milk. Apply this paste on to a clean and freshly washed face and massage thoroughly using small circular motions with the tips of your fingers. Allow to dry on your face for about 20 minutes and rinse. Use this paste once every week for a radiant and glowing complexion and prevent acne and dark circle.
- Massage your face with malai(milk cream) with two strands of saffron added to it. On continuous use, you will notice fairer and radiant skin.
- You can mix few strands of saffron with olive oil, almond oil or coconut oil to massage your skin. Massaging your face with any of these oils gives lighter and softer skin.
- Soak about 10 strings of saffron with 4 to 5 almonds for one night. Grind and apply the paste as a face pack for about 15 minutes. This will develop the skin tone as well as bring back moisture balance of the skin because of the natural almond oil present in the ground almonds.
- Take 2 tablespoons of pure milk and 1 tablespoon of Bengal gram and soak it for the entire night. Grind the soaked gram with 10 strings of saffron and put it on the face. Wash it off after 15 minutes or when the paste dries up. This reduces dullness of the face and awakens your skin.