The wonders of saffron as a natural healer dates back in the olden times, as evidences uncovered from age-old frescoes and documents reflect the ancient people's use of "saffron filaments" to alleviate a number of illnesses. As a matter of fact, saffron first became known in the field of traditional medicine before it became a household name as condiment and dye.
Each region that knows and grows crocuses has its own preparation to remedy illnesses using saffron extract. Saffron has been cited in very old Chinese herbal medicine texts. In Mesopotamia, a ritual was held where chanting and some sort of dancing was involved to evoke saffron's healing powers. Battle-weary Persian and Greek warriors were said to soak themselves in saffron baths for comfort and cure, a ritual popularized by Alexander the Great. Aulus Cornelius Celsus, a Roman medical encyclopaedist, mentioned saffron as an antidote to poison in his volumes of De Medicina. The ancient Indian ayurvedic medicine also required saffron as a very important ingredient to many medicinal concoctions.
Over time saffron has become a universally known medicinal herb that cures just about any disorder or discomfort, with its effectiveness backed by new clinical studies or sheer millennial experience. Let us see, how does saffron cure thee? Let us count the ways:
The fragrance of saffron is said to help stimulate a cheerful mood and therefore cure melancholia. It also helps make the body and the senses alert. Infused with other oils and steeped for a number of days, saffron becomes potent enough to act as relaxant or as a sedative. Taken orally in small amounts, it is known to help strengthen the immune system, respiratory system, cardio-vascular system, nervous system and the reproductive system.
Some reports say that one has to be really careful with the amount of saffron used in medication, though, because if you go a bit overboard it can prove to be too much to handle. Normally, only 1-3 grams of saffron threads is used in extracted essences and only 30 mg of powder for oral ingestion in a day. However, recent researches on traditional medicine show that saffron is nontoxic and that reaction to treatment may have been caused by other factors. One such factor is that probably, what had been used was not the real crocus sativus.
Saffron has been known since ages to regulate menstrual cycle of women. Drinking milk or tea with a bit of saffron helps relieve pain and headache associated with the monthly period. It is also given to prevent mood swings that usually come before the period. For pregnant women, a small amount assists in rhythmic contraction of the uterus, thereby alleviating pain and difficulty in delivery of the baby; but a large amount can be fatal because it could cause seizure and cramps in the uterus and cause unwanted abortion. Saffron mixed with olive oil is said to cure uterus ulcers.
Iran and Japan are into serious research about the capability of saffron to treat depression. Clinical studies show that essences from crocus petals may be used as safe treatment for depression and epilepsy, working like fluoxetine or Prozac when administered in 30 mg twice daily to patients. Recent studies also show that 30 mg of saffron administered twice daily is as good as donepezil or Aricept in treating mild Alzheimer's disease. Saffron contains crocin that is proven to be a neuronal antioxidant potent enough to combat neurodegenerative disorders. As an anti-anxiety medication, studies also showed that crocin and safranal are effective because of their sleep-inducing and anxiolytic property. There is also evidence that crocin works positively with the serotonin-neurotransmitter system, thereby promising to be an effective treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder as well. Saffron also helps maintain a person's cerebral power in terms of absorption and retention of information.
Saffron has cardiotonic property which makes heart medicines easy to flow into the body and target the heart. The antioxidants in saffron averts circulatory problems by keeping cholesterol and triglyceride levels low. Saffron's crocetin also helps unclog the arteries by pumping oxygen into the circulatory system, improving blood circulation and keeping the heart in tip-top condition.
As its anti-inflammatory property, saffron helps ease asthmatic attacks by helping clear swollen airways and restoring normal breathing. The same works with coughs, colds, bronchitis and flu; a glass of warm milk mixed with a bit of saffron essence helps one to breathe and feel better as saffron helps loosen the bothersome phlegm.
The crocus plant is a rich source of vitamins B (especially B1, B2 and B6) and C which are essential in maintaining a healthy immune system. It also contains essential oils and phytochemicals that strengthen the immune system and provide the body with anticarcinogenic elements. Saffron-derived crocetin works as anti-cancer/anti-tumor agent that inhibits growth of cancer cells and boosts the anti-oxidative system.
Carotenoids found in saffron are said to help delay macular degeneration as a result of aging by strengthening the cell membranes. Saffron protects the eyes from sun damage caused by radiation, retinal stress, day blindness, retinitis pigmentosa, conjuctivitis, lacrimation and keratitis.
Crocus sativus has many other medicinal uses. Derivatives are said to be helpful in preventing or curing gastrointestinal problems such as flatulence and clogged liver and spleen. Saffron as topical application relieves headache, tootache, mouth sores, anal pain, muscle cramps, stomach pains, insect bites, and treats bruises and open wounds. Saffron paste is used to induce hair growth and treat alopecia or baldness.
Saffron can also be used either as appetite stimulant or suppressant. For weight loss, it helps that saffron has diuretic and perspiration-inducing properties. A clinical study about the effect of saffron on weight loss proved to be full of potential. Subjects were made to take capsules laden with saffron extract at pre-programmed schedules within two months and results showed positive results.
Finally, saffron has a very interesting history of eroticity. Cleopatra was said to soak herself in saffron baths prelude to a romantic interludes. Saffron oil exudes an exotic aroma that proves to be seductive. Any drink laced with a certain amount of saffron becomes aphrodisiac. Male problems with virility are also solved by medications infused with saffron.
With these multitude of uses of saffron, it is indeed no surprise that production of this sensitive plant is predominant in Italy, Spain, Iran, India and Afghanistan.