Saffron - the most expensive spice in the world and its properties

Saffron - the most expensive spice in the world and its properties

Saffron is a plant known and used all over the world for several thousand years. Saffron is used as a spice, as well as a pigment, a component of perfumes or cosmetics and a substance with pro-health properties.

Why is saffron called the most expensive spice in the world? What properties can it exhibit? How to use saffron in everyday life?

What is saffron?

Saffron, also called crocus, is a plant from the Iridaceae family, which includes about 250 different species. Among the crocuses can be distinguished wild varieties, as well as cultivated for ornamental or industrial reasons.

In Poland, a naturally occurring crocus is Crocus scepusiensis, which grows on Tatra polonines, coloring them purple. Other varieties, such as Crocus speciosus, Crocus ancyrensis or Crocus chrysanthus, can be found in gardening stores and used to decorate home gardens.

However, the Crocus sativus, which is grown on an industrial scale, is of great importance. It is from this plant that a spice called saffron is obtained, with an intense color and a unique aroma. Crocus sativus has a magnificent, lilac flower cup with red pistil stigmas hidden inside. Saffron is produced from red stigmas clustered around the pistil line, constituting a small element of the inflorescence. The method of obtaining the spice is difficult and time-consuming, and the number of stigmas in one plant - small. To obtain 1 kg of stigmas, it takes as many as 150,000 flowers of Crocus sativus. Therefore, the plant is considered the most expensive spice in the world, and thanks to the red color of the stigmas, it is referred to as "red gold". However, it is worth remembering that after dissolving in water, saffron takes a yellow coloration.

Crocus sativus naturally occurs in regions of the Middle East, as well as in Greece. Currently, its largest crops are found in Turkey, Iran and Hungary, as well as in the Mediterranean areas.

History of saffron

The oldest mention of the use of saffron, due to its pro-health properties, dates from the bronze age and was discovered during the excavations in Santorini. Saffron was also described in the Assyrian botanical treatise dating from the VII century BC, and its properties are also mentioned in the Bible. The plant was used by the Sumerians and the ancient Greeks as a spice, but also as a dye and perfume ingredient. The ancient inhabitants of Iran, as well as Arab scholars, knew about the beneficial properties of the crocus.

Saffron was also used in ancient Rome to dye yellow official tog. The plant has found a similar use in India, China and Tibet.

In Poland, saffron was also used many years ago. Spices were used for baking "saffron pound cakes", that is, yellow and fluffy yeast cakes, as well as for decorating Easter mazurkas.

Saffron-properties. What act does this plant have? What does saffron work for?

Active substances present in saffron

Saffron contains many different active substances. More than 150 aromatic volatile compounds can be distinguished in the plant. The stigmas of saffron flower include, among others:

  • essential oils, including pyrocrocin and safranal,
  • carotenoids,
  • vitamins of group B,
  • pectins,
  • mucilage,
  • sugars,
  • fats,
  • polyphenols.

Saffron - health properties

The health-promoting properties of saffron may be associated with the presence of compounds in the plant, such as crocetin, pyrocrocin or safranal.

Saffron can reduce nervous tension and anxiety. The substances contained in it can affect the level of serotonin and dopamine and affect the improvement of mood. In addition, the spice can be helpful in relieving premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and may reduce symptoms such as stress, nervousness or anxiety. Since saffron has long been used as an aphrodisiac, it can also be helpful in increasing libido or sex drive. It can improve erection and be effective in improving sexual dysfunctions.

Active compounds present in saffron, such as safranal, crocin and crocetin can also have a positive effect on cognitive abilities - the spice can positively affect memory and concentration, as well as the efficiency of thought processes.

Due to the high antioxidant potential of the plant, saffron can also be a support during symptoms related to the cardiovascular system. In addition to its antioxidant properties, its anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic properties may also promote cardioprotective effects. Saffron may inhibit blood platelet aggregation and protect against apoptosis associated with oxidative stress. In addition, it may have a beneficial effect on the lipid profile, inhibiting the absorption of fat and cholesterol from the diet and contributing to the reduction of total cholesterol in the blood serum. The plant can also contribute to lowering blood pressure. It can also reduce reactive oxygen species and free radicals and reduce oxidative stress and delay the aging process.

In addition, saffron can also be helpful among diabetics - it can alleviate diabetes and reduce complications associated with it by improving metabolic factors, lipid profile and glycemic control. Saffron may also reduce fasting glucose levels in the plasma.

Saffron extracts can be considered promising therapeutic agents in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases of the eyes. Research suggests that the saffron may have a beneficial effect on diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy or retinal pigment degeneration. The compounds present in the saffron, such as safranal or crocin, can also inhibit the uptake of dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin, and at the same time act as an antagonist of GABA receptors, thanks to which saffron can be used as an anticonvulsant.

There are rationales that the saffron can be a promising substance in the process of weight loss. The mechanism of its action is not yet fully known and additional studies are needed to confirm the beneficial effect of the substance on weight loss, however, the saffron may show promising potential, as a compound aid to weight reduction, as it can contribute to the reduction of calorie intake by blocking the digestion of fat from the diet, which may be related to the inhibition of pancreatic lipase, and it can also exhibit antioxidant effects that inhibit inflammatory cytokines and adipocyte differentiation. Saffron may also increase glucose and lipid metabolism.

The use of saffron. What to add?

Saffron is used, among others, in the kitchen, in powdered form or in whole, as an aromatic spice, the taste of which is described as slightly spicy, a little pungent and musky. A small amount of saffron gives the dishes a rich and unique aftertaste and colors them yellow. It is worth remembering that an excessive amount of spice can make the dish bitter.

Saffron is used in kitchens all over the world - in Spain it is used as a component of paele, that is rice dishes with the addition of chicken and peppers, in Poland, it has been used for years to emphasize the taste of fish and tripes. In France, the saffron is an important ingredient in bouillabaisse soup, which is a Marseille fish soup, while in Italy it is added to panna cotta. In addition, the saffron can be a component of homemade tinctures and liqueurs, as well as emphasize the taste of vegetables, because it goes well with tomatoes or asparagus.

Due to its unique color and smell, saffron is often also used as a coloring agent, as well as as a perfume ingredient.

Thanks to the presence of carotenoids and antioxidant properties, the plant has also been used in cosmetics. The saffron is used in anti-aging cosmetics because it can delay skin aging. In addition, it can lighten skin tone and brighten discoloration.

Cosmetics, spices - where is saffron used? What is saffron used for?

Side effects and contraindications to the use of saffron

The saffron used in small amounts does not contribute to the occurrence of side effects. Toxic effects of the plant were observed at doses higher than 5 g per day.

Excessive supply of the substance may contribute to the occurrence of undesirable symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. There may also be numbness and tingling in the limbs or yellow pigmentation of the skin and conjunctiva. Eating portions larger than 5 g of saffron per day can cause local skin hemorrhages and thrombocytopenia, as well as contribute to miscarriage.

Therefore, the saffron should be used in small quantities, and it is always worth being careful when using the spice.

Our bestsellers


Natalia Goździak

Natalia Goździak

Copywriter - nutritionist. Bachelor's degree in sports dietetics She graduated from the Academy of Physical Education in Poznan, while her master's degree in dietoprophylaxis and dietotherapy - from the University of Physical Education in Poznan. at UP in Poznań. However, she treats the principles of healthy eating primarily as valuable guidelines, rather than strict rules that must be strictly followed. Knowledge in the field of copywriting, on the other hand, she draws from courses and industry literature, but since the best way to learn is to practice. learning is practice, she spends many hours each day playing with words and creating new, unique content. content. Privately, she is passionate about photography and can't imagine life without books.

Similar articles