Saffron has been known for more than 3000 years and is considered one of the oldest herbs available. With a vibrant color palette, rich flavor, and characteristic aroma, it is highly valued not only for gastronomic purposes but also for therapeutic use.
Saffron derives from Arabic Zafran from Zarparan, meaning Gold stigma of a flower. The earliest references of Saffron has been found pictured in ancient drawings from the Island of Crete in ancient Greece. Associated with so many traditions, Saffron is closely related to the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and North African culture. The plant is mainly cultivated in the Mediterranean and western Asia and today, Iran produces the vast majority of the world’s saffron.
Harvest of Saffron is a delicate and handmade procedure, which makes Saffron one of the most expensive spices in the world. Farmers carefully handpick the threads from each flower during the annual flowering season and the deep red and yellow threads from the purple flower, also called stigmas is what we refer to as Saffron. After being handpicked, they need to be dried in the best conditions.
“The most coveted spice in the world has been traded on the Silk Road for over a millennium. This region, which is as large as Germany, produces up to 90% of the world’s saffron. The cultivation of saffron is deeply rooted in this region. To this date, the crocus bulbs, unique to each farm, are passed down from one generation to another.” The Persian Trader
Saffron as a medical plant has many therapeutic properties and has been known as a medical herb for centuries (in Unani medicine for example). Studies have found that it is composed of at least four active ingredients; Crocin, Crocetin, Picrocrocin and Safranal, and research shows that:
Saffron may support healthy levels of serotonin in the brain (contributes to feelings of well-being)
Saffron is high in B-vitamins and carotenoids that help increase levels of serotonin and other chemicals in the brain associated with depression
Saffron holds important antioxidants that help protect the body from infections, oxidant-induced stress, and which act as immune modulators
Saffron has a beneficial impact on cognitive functions such as learning, concentration, and memory.
Simply put, saffron is a precious natural healing substance. When buying, make sure it has been ethically sourced and friendly traded.