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Saffron (Kesar): Uses, Benefits, Side Effects and More!

By Dr Rajeev Singh +2 more

Introduction: 

Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, is a tiny part of a fragrant flower which smells like honey. Scientifically known as Crocus sativus, it belongs to the family Iridaceae. It is one of the oldest spices cultivated by the man since 1Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, is a tiny part of a fragrant flower which smells like honey. Scientifically known as Crocus sativus, it belongs to the family Iridaceae. It is one of the oldest spices cultivated by man since 1600 to 1700 BC. It could have originated in Middle East areas and Central Asia or Southwest Greek islands. It is widely cultivated in many countries such as China, India and the Middle East regions. It is a perennial herb growing 10-25 cm tall and when autumn begins, it blooms into purple-coloured flowers. The vivid red-coloured three filament ‘stigma’ of this flower is dried to make the spice ‘saffron’.1

saffron benefits

Nutritional Value of Saffron: 

Saffron has a good source of nutritional components and vitamins that are given as follows: 

Nutritional components Value 
Water 11.9 g 
Energy 310 kcal 
Protein 11.4 g 
Total lipid (fat) 5.85 g 
Carbohydrate 65.4 g 
Fibre (total dietary) 3.9 g 
Calcium 111 mg 
Iron 11.1 mg 
Potassium 1720 mg 
Sodium 148 mg 
Zinc 1.09 mg 
Copper 0.328 mg 
Manganese 28.4 mg 
Phosphorus 252mg 
Magnesium 264 mg 
Selenium 5.6  µg 
Total saturated fatty acids 1.59 g 
Total monounsaturated fatty acids 0.429 g 
Total polyunsaturated fatty acids 2.07 g 
Table 1: Nutritional value of saffron per 100 grams2  

Vitamins Value 
Vitamin C 80.8 mg 
Thiamine 0.115 mg 
Riboflavin 0.267 mg 
Niacin 1.46 mg 
Vitamin B6 1.01 mg 
Folate (total) 93  µg 
Vitamin A 530 IU 
Table 2: Vitamins present in saffron per 100 grams2  

Also Read: Sandalwood: Uses, Benefits, Side effects & More!

Properties of Saffron:

Due to the good effectiveness of Saffron, it has captured the interest of researchers all over the world. It is said that Saffron may even replace some synthetic medicines.3 The properties of Saffron are:

  • It may provide pain relief
  • It may increase the sense of happiness and excitement
  • It may help enhance memory
  • It may have anti-inflammatory potential3,4
  • It may help lower blood pressure
  • It may help enhance breathing
  • It may help with digestion
  • It may help with signs of ageing
  • It may help protect the liver
  • It may help protect the spleen
  • It may help lower blood cholesterol
  • It may help protect heart4
  • It may act as an antioxidant1

Various studies suggest the potential activity of saffron in nervous system disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. However, more large-scale studies are needed to confirm these activities.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Potential Uses of Saffron:

Saffron has a range of benefits that are described as below.

Potential Uses of Saffron (Kesar) for Skin

Since ancient times, Saffron has been used for skin conditions. It may help improve complexion, decrease dark circles under the eyes, refresh the face and may help manage acne and infections of the superficial layer of the skin (erysipelas).1,4 It may also help absorb the skin-damaging UV rays of the sun and can be used as a natural sunscreen. Saffron may help prevent skin cancer.1 It may help reduce the production of melanin pigment in the skin, helping in lightening the skin. It may also help manage melanoma (a kind of skin cancer that affects the cells that produce melanin).1 These benefits have been observed in lab studies, and more trials are required to support the use of saffron in human skin conditions. Therefore, you are advised to avoid using saffron for any skin condition without consulting your healthcare provider.

Potential Uses of Saffron for Cholesterol

Saffron potentially reduces cholesterol levels in the blood, which reduces atherosclerosis (a condition in which cholesterol gets deposited on the arteries).1 These properties of saffron may help with blood cholesterol levels, but more studies are required to support its use. Therefore, if you are suffering from high blood cholesterol, you need to reach out to your doctor and get a consultation. Avoid using saffron to control blood cholesterol without consulting your doctor. 

Potential Uses of Saffron for Digestion

Saffron may act as a tonic for the digestive system. It may help curb the appetite and the formation of gases in the intestine. It also may help to manage amoebic dysentery.1 Using saffron in the diet may help ease digestion, but it is better to get help from the doctor if you are experiencing any digestive issues.  

Potential Uses of Saffron for the Eyes

Saffron may be used to manage various eye problems such as cataracts, diseases of the cornea, soreness of the eyes and eye diseases occurring due to ageing. It was used by females in a form of ‘Kohl’ to line their eyes, as a form of makeup, protecting them from eye infections.1 It may also help reduce the destruction of photoreceptor cells in the eye that occurs due to exposure to light.1,3  However, the eyes are sensitive organs and it is better to consult an eye specialist for any eye-related issues.

Potential Uses of Saffron for Heart

In animal studies, the alcohol extracts of Saffron have demonstrated properties to lower blood pressure. It may potentially play a key role in reducing the risk factors for causing heart disease like lipids as seen above.4 If you or someone your know is suffering from high blood pressure, you need to strictly adhere to the doctor’s advice and avoid using any herbs without consulting with the doctor.

Potential Uses of Saffron for Depression

In animal studies, saffron could reduce the level of neurotransmitters in the brain, thereby improving mood. It has also studied for its ability to reduce depression and anxiety.1,4 The extracts of Saffron could enhance memory and learning capabilities during lab studies. Clinical studies have shown that Saffron could improve memory in patients with Alzheimer’s disease who are suffering from dementia.4 However, these studies are insufficient to understand the exact benefits for humans. If you’re suffering from depression or any other psychological issues, you need to consult your psychiatrist or doctor for advice. You are advised not to use any herbs or ingredients for psychological illnesses without consulting your doctor.

Other Potential Uses of Saffron

  • Saffron may help to fight against cancer and cancer-causing agents without causing any damage to healthy cells.
  • It may also help prevent the development of resistance to the hormone insulin by preventing a compensatory rise in insulin levels in the blood.4
  • Saffron may help cure respiratory problems such as cold, cough, asthma, long-standing bronchial inflammation and other lung diseases.
  • It may also help manage rheumatism-a condition in which the joints get inflamed due to autoimmunity.3

Several trials conducted in humans and animals suggest the antidepressant potential of saffron. However, more studies are awaited to consolidate its benefits.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

How to Use Saffron (Kesar)?

Saffron can be used in the following ways:

  • Saffron has been used since ages as a luxurious spice. It is used to make candies and tea and is also used as a natural food dye.1
  • Saffron soaked with basil leaves and then applied on the skin is a great remedy for getting rid of acne.1
  • Soaked Saffron mixed with olive oil, virgin coconut oil or raw milk helps to enhance facial blood circulation.1

You should always consult your Ayurvedic physician before consuming Saffron for regular use. They will be the best person to prescribe you the correct form and dosage as per your health condition. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.  

Side Effects of Saffron:

In clinical studies, Saffron shows various side effects such as dryness of mouth, anxiety, numb sensation, tingling in hands, headache and a sensation of vomiting. A study documented that changes in hunger were also observed in the consumption of Saffron.4 However, if you experience any adverse reactions to it, immediately contact your Ayurvedic physician who has prescribed it to you. They will be able to treat you appropriately.

Precautions to Take With Saffron:

Saffron is generally considered to be safe if it is taken in the recommended dosages. Consumption of Saffron less than 1.5 g per day is safe.4 However, general precautions have to be followed while consuming Saffron:

  • Pregnant women must be careful when consuming saffron in high doses (more than 5 g/day) because saffron may cause contractions in the uterus and induce abortion.1,5 Saffron must be consumed during this period only if it is prescribed by your Ayurvedic physician.
  • One must also be cautious while giving this expensive spice to children and older people.

If you are using saffron for its benefits or for any health issues, it is better to consult with a doctor and make well-informed choices.  Avoid using any her as medicine without discussing it with your healthcare provider.

Interactions With Other Drugs:

Adverse reactions of Saffron with any other medicinal drugs have not been reported. However, there is not enough data to report that Saffron is completely safe to use by children as well as adults. Therefore, it is best to follow the advice of your Ayurvedic physician who has prescribed you this herb.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can Saffron (Kesar) be taken daily along with milk?

While Saffron can be taken with milk and is generally considered safe to be consumed daily, one must take care that the daily intake of Saffron should not be inhigh doses.4
Pregnant women should be extra cautious about the amount of Saffron they consume as more than 5 grams of saffron per day can cause uterine contractions.5 Also, before you use saffron for any health condition, it is important to talk to your doctor.

Can Saffron be used to reduce skin hyperpigmentation?

Studies have shown benefits of saffron to reduce the melanin pigment in the skin, which is responsible for the pigmentation of the skin.1 If you are suffering from hyperpigmentation, you need to consult with a skin doctor or specialist and get treated. Using herbs and ingredients for skin problems without consulting with a doctor may worsen the situation.

What are the uses of Saffron petals?

Saffron petals may have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties which might make them useful in the management of short-term pain and long-term pain. Saffron petals are also effective in managing depression.1 There are insufficient studies to establish the benefits of these properties of saffron in humans. You must always consult a qualified doctor or an ayurvedic physician before consuming any herb for its benefits.

What are the different uses of the dye obtained from Saffron?

The dye obtained from Saffron is golden yellow in colour and can be used as a natural dye in food. It is environment-friendly, less toxic, less likely to cause allergic reactions and can be disposed of in a better way as compared to artificial dyes. It can also be used to dye clothes and for painting.1

Does Saffron reduce hair fall?

There are not enough studies that report that saffron has a positive role in reducing hair fall. If you are experiencing a hair fall, consult your Ayurvedic physician who will examine you and give you a suitable prescription.

References:

  1. Mzabri B, Addi M, Berrichi. Traditional and Modern Uses of Saffron (Crocus Sativus). Cosmetics. 2019 Oct 1;6(4):63. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336817839_Traditional_and_Modern_Uses_of_Saffron_Crocus_Sativus
  2. US Department of Agriculture [Internet]. Spices saffron; [cited 2022 May 30]. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170934/nutrients
  3. Moghaddasi MS. Saffron chemicals and medicine usage. J Med Plant Res. 2010 Mar 18 ;4(6):427-30. Available from: https://academicjournals.org/journal/JMPR/article-full-text-pdf/F6F1E8115978
  4. Moshiri M, Vahabzadeh M, Hosseinzadeh H. Clinical Applications of Saffron (Crocus sativus) and its Constituents: A Review. Drug Res.2014 May 1;65(6):287-95. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mohammad-Moshiri/publication/262532300_Clinical_Applications_of_Saffron_Crocus_sativus_and_its_Constituents_A_Review/links/54bfc5430cf28a63249fde75/Clinical-Applications-of-Saffron-Crocus-sativus-and-its-Constituents-A-Review.pdf
  5. Poma A, Fontecchio G, Carlucci G, Chichiricco G. Anti-inflammatory properties of drugs from saffron crocus. Antiinflamm Antiallergy Agents Med Chem. 2012 Oct 1;11(1):37-51. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22934747/

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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