Saffron is the stigma of the autumn flowering crocus (Crocus sativus). The crocus grows in the Middle East and parts of Europe. It’s most commonly cultivated in Iran, India, and Greece. Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world because it must be harvested by hand. It only flowers for about three to four weeks during October and November. The flower produces dark red stigmas called threads, which are removed carefully by hand and dried.
Saffron belongs to the iris family and has had a long history of use in cooking and as a medicine. It’s believed that humans used saffron as early as 3,500 years ago. Historically, people used it to treat a long list of health conditions, including: coughs, colds, menstrual disorders, eye disorders, ulcers, stomach ailments and tumours.
Saffron has a distinct flavour that comes from chemical compounds in it such as picrocrocin, and safranal. It also contains a natural carotenoid chemical compound, crocin, which gives saffron its golden-yellow colour. These plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have antioxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.
Today, saffron supplements are used to help treat depression, improve heart health, PMS relief, memory, cancer prevention and eye health. You can buy saffron in capsule form, as a dried spice or in the form of saffron extract.
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