Saffron – the Exquisite Spice of Ayurveda
Saffron is obtained from the bright red stamens of a purple flower Crocus sativus.
Other names for this precious plant are Saffron Crocus, Kumkum, Kesar, Jafran.
At US $5,000 per kg or higher, saffron is the world’s most expensive spice.
The good news is that a very small amount of saffron is needed to experience its beneficial effects on our health.
In October, saffron produces one or two flower arrows on which flowers bloom. They are in flower for about three days. As soon as the flower opens, it is picked. This is done in dry weather, at 10-11 in the morning, and always by hand. On the same day, a few hours later, the stamens are plucked out – there are three of them in each flower – and dried for no more than 15 minutes in a drying installation or at room temperature for about an hour. In order to collect 100 grams of saffron, you need to pick from 5 to 8 thousand flowers. The flower passes through the hands twice – when collecting and when plucking.
Currently, only 300 tons of saffron are produced annually in the world.
Taste (rasa) – pungent and bitter
Quality (guna) – slimy
Potency (veera) – warming
After digestive taste (vipaka) – pungent
Action (karma) – balances all three doshas
In appearance, saffron is a well-dried, randomly entangled dark red and light yellow threads. The mass of saffron should be slightly greasy to the touch. Its smell is very strong, slightly stupefying and the taste is bitter-spicy due to the bitter pro crocin contained in it.
Saffron is a spice recognized worldwide as a delicacy. It is grown mainly in the lands of Ancient Persia and in the countries of the Arab world. Since very small quantities of spices require a huge amount of flowers to make, they require many hours of human labor and attention, which is why they are so highly prized and very expensive anywhere in the world.
Saffron has the qualities of goodness and spiritual balance and transfers the energy of love, devotion and compassion to the heart of a person. Thanks to these spiritual powers, saffron is an ideal spice for religious people who practice devotional service to God. Therefore, it is not surprising that in many traditions monks wear saffron-colored clothing.
Saffron affects the circulatory, digestive, female reproductive, and nervous systems.
It is used in Ayurveda for:
Synthesis of blood cells
Enhance of the action of all Hepatic herbs
Cough (relieves convulsive coughing)
Diseases of the spleen
Diseases of the liver
Gall and urinary bladder disorders
Normalizes heart rate (Note that 5 threads are enough for the tonic. Saffron in large quantities causes heart pain)
Reproductive system problems
Menstrual cramps and irregularities in the cycle
Leucorrhoea. Dose: 5-10 threads
Increases libido primarily in women
Relieves the effect of intoxication
Relieves cramps and spasms
Side effects and contraindications:
While saffron has very few side effects when taken as a culinary spice or as a dietary supplement, there are some of its properties to keep in mind.
The peculiarity of saffron is that in small doses it excites the nervous system, and in large doses it inhibits.
About 0.30 mg of it in the diet is enough to make us feel healthier and more invigorated. However, if you are taking blood thinners or medicines to regulate blood pressure, talk to your doctor about your diet and the presence of saffron in it.
Pregnant and lactating women should not take it.
In general, it has a good effect on the nervous system, but it also has its own characteristics. Saffron works very well for patients with depressive disorder. However, in people with bipolar disorder, this can complicate the situation, so it is recommended that you consult your doctor.
Saffron smoothers skin and improves complexion. Saffron milk improves complexion, creates a cheerful and joyful mood.
In Ayurvedic cosmetics, it has long been used both for ointments for acne and persistent skin inflammations and for anti-aging preparations. Creams containing saffron moisturize and nourish the skin.
Saffron in cooking.
Saffron gives food a wonderful taste and delicate aroma.
It is worth adding a little saffron to the dish, as it acquires a golden color and a peculiar smell and is better absorbed. Saffron does not tolerate any other spice next to it and is never included in spice mixtures. This is a very strong spice, therefore it is used in extremely small doses. If you put more of it, the dish will be spoiled – unpleasant bitterness will appear. An excess of saffron can not only ruin the dish, but also lead to poisoning.
Saffron is widely used not only in oriental but also in European cuisine. For example, it is an essential element of Spanish paella and Italian risotto; in French cuisine, it is present in stewed and boiled fish dishes. It is used to color light broths and vegetarian soups.
Saffron Recipe Ideas
Saffron with milk
This recipe is not only delicious, but also helps with menstrual cramps, asthma, various allergic conditions, and more. It is also good as an adjunctive therapy in the treatment of carcinogenic diseases as well as in heart diseases. It can also be used instead of tea for flu symptoms, positively affecting the overall tone of the body. It is best to drink it in the morning on an empty stomach for maximum effect. Although it is a morning drink, because it relieves stress and anxiety, saffron indirectly helps with sleep.
250 ml cow’s or nut milk
Saffron – approximately 3-4 threads
Add saffron to the milk we brought to boil on the stove. Stir well and you can even press down on the saffron strands with a wooden spoon to release more extract. Let it simmer for thirty minutes. Real saffron does not turn white, no matter how long it is in milk. If desired, you can sweeten the drink with honey, sugar or syrup. You can also add some cardamom and garnish with nuts.
It is a wonderful refreshing drink that shares most of the benefits of saffron milk while providing a delicious alternative to summer drinks.
Juice of 2-3 lemons
4-5 saffron threads
Sweetener (sugar, honey, or syrup)
The method of preparation is similar to the technology for preparing lemonade, with the only difference that here we add several threads of saffron. Serve chilled, other fruits can be added as desired and according to your constitution.
Rice with saffron
An extremely common delicacy in Ayurvedic cuisine is saffron risotto. According to Indian tradition, this dish is most suitable for consumption in hot summers in places with very high humidity, as well as in rainy springs, when the first heat hits us. You can add some asparagus to it and serve with lemon. Due to its cleansing properties, saffron risotto is recommended for everyone including young people with persistent acne, as well as for older people with arthritis.
3-4 tablespoons of ghee, butter, olive, or other oil
20-30 saffron threads
1.5 cups basmati rice
3 glasses of hot water
1 bay leaf
1-2 pieces of cinnamon, you can crush, but do not make it too small
1-2 cloves of garlic (optional)
Pre-soak the saffron for 5-10 minutes in two tablespoons of warm water. During this time, rinse the basmati rice well until it stops producing starch. Then heat the oil on medium heat and fry all the spices in it except the saffron for about 30 seconds. Add the dried rice, stirring vigorously.
After about two minutes, add hot water and soaked saffron. Let the mixture simmer over low heat until the rice absorbs water, stirring occasionally. When the dish is ready, turn off the heat and leave it covered for 10-15 minutes before serving. Decorate with a sprig of mint.
TODAY’S TIP: Despite attempts at quality control and standardization, an extensive history of saffron adulteration, particularly among the cheapest grades, continues into modern times. Typical methods include mixing in extraneous substances like beetroot, pomegranate fibres, red-dyed silk fibres, or the saffron crocus’s tasteless and odorless yellow stigmas. Other methods include dousing saffron fibres with viscid substances like honey or vegetable oil to increase their weight. Powdered saffron is more prone to adulteration, with turmeric, paprika, and other powders used as diluting fillers.