Hello and welcome back to Today’s World Kitchen. We hope you’ve had a good week.

This week we take an in depth look at “Saffron”.

In the Western world, sometimes we take food for granted. As long as we are satiated, we are satisfied. Whilst we are aware of and are continuously researching the health benefits of food, some foods have healing properties that surpass our expectations.

One such food is saffron. Derived from the flower of crocus sativus, saffron is grown in Mediterranean climates and, due to the difficulty of extracting even a miniscule amount, is considered one of the most expensive spices. It has been utilized in many civilizations since before Christ and its uses include food, dye and perfume. More importantly though, saffron has considerable medicinal properties and remains the most applied of all the medicinal plants since then.

Whilst there is only one type of saffron, it will differ according to climate. Some consider Spanish saffron to be the best and some consider Iranian saffron to be the best. Whatever the case, many countries have used it well and in some cases, continue to do so.

Since the first civilization emerged, saffron, combined with other herbs and spices, has been used as a natural healer. Its use in medical practice continued amongst various cultures, such as:

  • In Greece, saffron was used to treat simple day to day ailments such as ear aches, eye infections, ulcers and toothaches.
  • In Egypt, saffron was used to ease menstruation stresses and also to induce labor, among other things.
  • In Iran, the largest producer of saffron, it was used for spiritual purposes as well as a key ingredient in Traditional Iranian Medicine. The uses ranged from general purposes: both as an intoxication enhancer (when combined with alcohol) and a hangover preventative, to more powerful purposes such as strengthening eyesight and as a heart cardio tonic. Saffron was also used as an organ purifier.
  • In India, saffron was used to exemplify nobility, used ritualistically and in Ayurveda medicinal practice as it was considered, amongst many other things, a cardio tonic, an anti-poison, anti-depressant and even an aphrodisiac!
  • In China, saffron was used as an herbal remedy, to treat asthma and as an anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and to protect the brain from oxygen deprivation.
  • In Spain, the second largest producer of saffron, it was and still is, used in many foods.

When purchasing saffron it is important to remember that saffron is often adulterated, leading to many imitations. Whilst they lookalike, be aware that authentic saffron will always be expensive. Don’t buy the cheap stuff! (Authentic saffron will turn warm water yellow after soaking for a few moments.)

Also, excessive consumption of saffron may lead to side effects.

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Thanks for reading. Have a great week!