An autumn-flowering crocus with reddish-purple flowers, native to warmer regions of Eurasia. Enormous numbers of flowers are needed to produce a very small quantity of the large stigmas used for the spice known as saffron. Here Ryan Raman, MS, RD, HealthLine.com, reflects on the many health benefits of saffron:
“Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world — with 1 pound (450 grams) costing between 500 and 5,000 U.S. dollars.
The reason for its hefty price is its labor-intensive harvesting method, making the production costly.
Saffron is harvested by hand from the Crocus sativus flower, commonly known as the “saffron crocus.” The term “saffron” applies to the flower's thread-like structures, or stigma.
It originated in Greece, where it was revered for its medicinal properties. People would eat saffron to enhance libido, boost mood, and improve memory (1Trusted Source).
Here are 11 impressive health benefits of saffron.
1. A Powerful Antioxidant
Saffron contains an impressive variety of plant compounds that act as antioxidants — molecules that protect your cells against free radicals and oxidative stress.
Notable saffron antioxidants include crocin, crocetin, safranal, and kaempferol (2Trusted Source).
Crocin and crocetin are carotenoid pigments and responsible for saffron’s red color. Both compounds may have antidepressant properties, protect brain cells against progressive damage, improve inflammation, reduce appetite, and aid weight loss (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
Safranal gives saffron its distinct taste and aroma. Research shows that it may help improve your mood, memory, and learning ability, as well as protect your brain cells against oxidative stress (4Trusted Source).
Lastly, kaempferol is found in saffron flower petals. This compound has been linked to health benefits, such as reduced inflammation, anticancer properties, and antidepressant activity (2Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).
2. May Improve Mood and Treat Depressive Symptoms
Saffron is nicknamed the “sunshine spice.”
That’s not just due to its distinct color, but also because it may help brighten your mood.
In a review of five studies, saffron supplements were significantly more effective than placebos at treating symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression (6Trusted Source).
Other studies found that taking 30 mg of saffron daily was just as effective as Fluoxetine, Imipramine, and Citalopram — conventional treatments for depression. Additionally, fewer people experienced side effects from saffron compared to other treatments (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).
While these findings are promising, longer human studies with more participants are needed before saffron can be recommended as a treatment for depression.
3. May Have Cancer-Fighting Properties
In test-tube studies, saffron and its compounds have been shown to selectively kill colon cancer cells or suppress their growth, while leaving normal cells unharmed (12Trusted Source).
This effect also applies to skin, bone marrow, prostate, lung, breast, cervix, and several other cancer cells (13Trusted Source).
What’s more, test-tube studies have found that crocin — the main antioxidant in saffron — may make cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy drugs (14Trusted Source).
While these findings from test-tube studies are promising, the anticancer effects of saffron are poorly studied in humans, and more research is needed.
4. May Reduce PMS Symptoms
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a term that describes physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms occurring before the start of a menstrual period.
Studies show that saffron may help treat PMS symptoms.
5. May Act as an Aphrodisiac
Aphrodisiacs are foods or supplements that help boost your libido.
Studies have shown that saffron may have aphrodisiac properties — especially in people taking antidepressants.”
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Read More … Article Source: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/saffron#section5
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