Saffron Information, Uses and Side-effects

Saffron is obtained from dried style and stigma of reddish-orange flowers of a plant. Kesar or Saffron is the most expensive spice of world as stigmas of about 60, 000 hand collected flowers provide only half- kilograms of it. Saffron is used as coloring and flavoring ingredient in the preparation of various dishes. It is also used as traditional medicine for many diseases and in cosmetics. Saffron has a distinct aromatic odour and a bitter, pungent taste. Medicinally it is stimulant (stimulates levels of physiological or nervous activity), aphrodisiac, improves digestion and appetite. It increases blood flow in pelvic region on oral intake. Its over-doses is a narcotic poison. Saffron is always used in small doses. It is a popular remedy for promoting menstruation.

Saffron medicinal uses
By Safa Daneshvar (Own work)[CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Division: Magnoliophyta
  • Class: Liliopsida
  • Order: Asparagales
  • Family: Iridaceae
  • Genus: Crocus
  • Species: C. sativus

Vernacular Names

SANSKRIT: Bhavarakta, Saurab, Mangalya, Kumkum ENGLISH: Saffron, Crocus PERSIAN: Zafrahn;Zipharana;GUJARATI: Keshar, Kesar KANNADA: Kunkuma, Kesari, MALAYALAM: Kunkuma Puvu MARATHI: Keshar PUNJABI: Kesar, Keshar TAMIL: Kungumapuvu TELUGU: Kunkuma Puvvu URDU: Zafran

Parts Used: Dried stigmas and tops of the styles of Crocus sativus flowers.

Habitat: Saffron is Cultivated in Kashmir, Kishtwar (Jammu) and in Nepal. Commercially, it is grown in Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and China.

Energetics: Pungent, bitter, Hot in potency

Plant description

Perennial tuber plant;Leaves radical,  linear,  dark green above,  pale green below,  enclosed in a membranous sheath;large Apurple or lilac colored flowers;Corolla in two segments, between which the long styles hang out;Stigmas three, large, nearly an inch long, rolled at the edges, bright orange bitter and warming taste.

Constituents of Saffron

Saffron contains three crystalline colouring matters ?-crocetin, ?-crocetin and ?-crocetin. It also contains essential oil a number of carotenoid pigments. The essential oil obtained from stigmas contains thirty-four or more components, viz. terpenes, terpene alcohols, and esters.

Medicinal Uses of Saffron

Saffron is used as condiment and colouring ingredient in several dishes. It is also used as a medicinal herb in fevers, enlargement of the liver, cough and asthma, anaemia, seminal debility rheumatism and neuralgia. Saffron is nervine tonic, sedative, antispasmodic expectorant, stomachic, diaphoretic and emmenagogue. In low doses Saffron stimulates gastric secretion and thus improves digestion. In large dose it increases flow of blood in pelvic region, stimulate uterine smooth muscles and can cause abortion.

  1. Saffron oral use gives relief in respiratory ailments. In cough and cold a pinch of Saffron is taken with a glass of milk.
  2. In painful urination and other urinary disorder the decoction of Saffron or infused tea should be taken.
  3. In irritation in eyes, crushed saffron should be mixed with honey and this should be applied in eyes.
  4. In looseness of bowels saffron is given children with ghee. It can also be given with half a teaspoon of lemon juice.
  5. For pneumonia in kids, few threads of saffron are added to 10-15 ml juice of bitter gourd leaves and given twice a day.
  6. Saffron is added to meals for regulating the menstrual cycle. It also gives relief in painful menstruation, PMS (premenstrual syndrome) and promotes fertility.
  7. For sexual weakness, about 250 mg of saffron is taken with milk twice a day for one week.
  8. Saffron improves digestion and appetite.
  9. To get relief from dry cough one should drink one hot glass of milk added with turmeric, and few strands of saffron.
  10. Saffron in paste form is applied topically for head-ache.
  11. Its external application is also useful in sores, bruises and skin diseases. It is applied on face for improving complexion and treating hyper-pigmented spots.
  12. It is also used for patchy loss of hair. For this purpose a paste of liquorice (mulethi) made by grinding the pieces in milk with a pinch of saffron is applied over the bald patches in the night before going to bed.
  13. A famous Ayurvedic preparation containing Kesar or saffron is kumkumadi tailam. This medicated saffron/kumkum oil is applied on pimples marks, dark spots, dark circles, wrinkles etc.

The recommended doses of Saffron below one gram. Toxic dose is 1.5g–5 g.

Contraindications, Interactions, and Side Effects (Saffron)

Saffron use in large dose is contraindicated in pregnancy. It may cause contraction of uterus and abortion. Severe side effects may result from ingesting 5 g saffron. No side-effect when used in proper doses.

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