Saffron


Crocus sativus L.

Crocus is native to Asia Minor and Southern Europe. Saffron is obtained from the stigmas of the flower, which flowers in autumn. Crocus sativus L. is a major agricultural crop, in northeastern Iran. Not only is saffron one of the most ancient spices of the old world, since ancient times, the genetics of this plant has remained unchanged. The labor intensive method of removing the stigmas from the saffron flowers has made the product extremely expensive. Hence, this product may be found in the market place adulterated (Negbi, 2004).

A field of Saffron and the Saffron harvesters

Photo curtsey from: The Penthouse Kitchen

Medicinal value of Saffron

Ancient medicine uses included antispasmodic, carminative, expectorant, aphrodisiac, stimulant, cardiotonic, and stomachic (Zargari, 1993).  In modern medicine, crocus plant constituents are used as an exhilarant and curative of anxiety (Mirheidar, 1994; Salomi MJ, Nair SC and Panikkar KR, 1991). The orange-yellow coloring principle is crocin.

Saffron: Photo curtsey Vaishali Parekh

Pharmacological research has shown the extract of saffron to have antitumor effects (Rojhan , 1995), radical scavenger activities (Nair SC, Kurumboor SK, Hasegawa JH., 1995) and hypolipaemic effects (DerMarderosian, 2001). Research shows potential usefulness in neurodegenerative disorders connected with memory impairment (Abe and Saito, 2000). In addition, Kaempferol, an extract of saffron petals has potential as an anitdepressant (Hadizadeh, 2003; Karimi G, Hosseinzadeh H and Khaleghpanah P. 2001).

There are other varieties of Crocus sp. which are highly valuable and economically important in the garden as flowering plants. However, the saffron producing European crop is in danger of extinction. Saffron production has decreased dramatically in many European countries and is already extinct in England and Germany. The world Saffron and Crocus collection makes available a wide variety of over twenty Crocus genotypes. It aims to slow down the genotypic erosion and hosts a database of Crocus species from various countries.

Recipe suggestions:

Visit Vaishali Parekh’s site which has a delicious Indian recipe using saffron.

Visit The Penthouse Kitchen site, caterers serving you recipes using saffron.

Experts on Crocus sativus :

1. Moshe Negbi 
Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot, Israel

2. Farzin Hadizadeh*a,b, Naaman Khalilia, Hossein Hosseinzadeha,b, Randa Khair-Aldinea. Faculty of  Pharmacy, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran,  bBu-Ali Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Center, Bu-Ali Square, Mashhad, Iran.

Corresponding author for reference on kaempferol: Email: fhadizadeh@yahoo.com

References:

1. Negbi, Moshe. 2004.

Saffron. ‘Prelims’, Saffron, 1:1, 1 – 12 . Edited by Dr Roland Hardman; Harvood academic publishers; The Netherlands. ISBN 0-203-30366-0 Master e-book ISBN

2. Farzin Hadizadeh*a,b, Naaman Khalilia, Hossein Hosseinzadeha,b, Randa Khair-Aldinea 2003. Kaempferol from Saffron Petals. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research : 251-252.

3) Zargari A. Medicinal Plants, 1993. Volume 4, Tehran University Press, Tehran : 574-578.

4) Mirheidar H. Maarif-e Ghiahi, Farhang-e. 1994. Eslami Press, Tehran : 341-5 6

5) Salomi MJ, Nair SC and Panikkar KR. 1991. Inhibitory effects of Nigella sativa and Crocus sativus on chemical carcinogenesis in mice. Nutr. Cancer (1991) 16: 67-72 .

6) Rojhan MS. 1995, Herbal drugs and treatment. Alavi Press, Tehran :87

7) Nair SC, Kurumboor SK, Hasegawa JH.. 1995. Saffron chemoprevention in biology and medicine. Cancer Biother. 10: 257-264.

8) DerMarderosian. 2001. A. Review of Natural Products, Facts and Comparison, Missouri :520.

9) Abe k and Saito H. 2000. Effects of saffron extract on learning behavior and long-term potentiation. Phytother. Res. 14: 149-152.

10) Karimi G, Hosseinzadeh H and Khaleghpanah P.. 2001. Study of antidepressant effect of aqueous and ethanol extract of Crocus sativus in mice. Iranian J. Basic Sciences 4: 186-190.

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No part of this article may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, 
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6 Comments

Filed under Health, Medicinal spice, Spice

6 responses to “Saffron

  1. Pingback: Great Spice Powerful Antioxidant | Cure For Herpes

  2. Fascinating! I didn’t know saffron was from a crocus. I know it’s wonderful, delicious and useful, and also incredibly expensive, but now I know why – imagine harvesting the stigmas of a flower! Makes me wonder what stigma dust from what other flowers might be used also….

    • Also, imagine the early ‘researchers’ who discovered that the stigma has major benefits when used in small amounts. Hoping current users do not use too much of it and get sick. Ancient users only used miniscule quantities for health benefits.

  3. If you like saffron, you will love this rigatoni with braised chicken and saffron cream. It is unbelievable.
    http://michaelbeyer.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/rigatoni-with-braised-chicken-and-saffron-cream/

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