Herb Shop – Saffron

Plants have always been a part of my life. Since I could remember, my father would bring my little sister and I into his small garden. It only took up a small square of land in our backyard but to us it felt like another world. He would spend all day out there, and then come in to teach us about the different vegetables, fruits and herbs he was growing. He knew so much and made sure to share it with his girls. The plants followed us inside, growing from clay pots and glass vases. My mother believed in the holistic elements to certain plants and was always quick to look there first. My parents worked hard to create something to pass on to us, which is why I decided to start the Herb Shop! I want to share where I’m from, where a lot of our medicinal fixes originated from, as well as, shine a light on the multifaceted uses of common plant life that we look past every day.

Crocus sativus I.e. Saffron

Saffron on the wooden spoon

Coming from the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus, it takes 75,000 blossoms or 225,000 hand-picked stigmas to make a single pound which explains why it is the world’s most expensive spice. According to Greek myth, handsome mortal Crocos fell in love with the beautiful nymph Smilax. But his favors were rebuffed by Smilax, and he was turned into a beautiful purple crocus flower. The Crocus flower is native to Southwest Asia and some areas of Europe. Though it is often harvested to be used as a spice for cooking or for flavoring tea, it is also known to have many health benefits as an herbal supplement.

 

Health Benefits

The saffron herb has a variety of medicinal purposes all over the world.  Scientific research shows that saffron contains hundreds of compounds and antioxidants, most of which may contribute to health and healing. Saffron has been used in folk medicine as a sedative, expectorant, and an anti-asthma agent. Saffron was also used in various opioid preparations for pain relief.

Here is a brief list of some health benefits observed with the use of saffron:

  • Improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Improves symptoms of major depression
  • Reduces pain during the menstrual cycle
  • Improves symptoms of PMS after two menstrual cycles
  • Improved sexual function in people taking antidepressants
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Anti-Asthmatic
  • May provide pain relief (if taken for long periods of time)

 

WARNING:

Saffron is LIKELY SAFE in food sized portions. Saffron is LIKELY SAFE when/if taken by mouth as a medicine for up to 26 weeks. Some possible side effects include dry mouth, anxiety, agitation, drowsiness, low mood, sweating, nausea or vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, change in appetite, flushing, and headache. Allergic reactions can occur in some people. High doses of 5 grams or more can cause poisoning. Doses of 12-20 grams can cause death. Taking saffron during pregnancy is LIKELY UNSAFE because the uterus can contract and might cause a miscarriage. Not enough is known about the safety of using saffron during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and stick to using only food amounts.

 

Other Uses

Saffron, while have medicinal purposes, also has cosmetic benefits. It is truly a multifaceted herb. Saffron has properties that not only leave you feeling good, but looking great. With its amazing anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities, saffron is an ideal ingredient for treating acne and breakouts. It holds medicinal properties which can help in clearing up acne prone skin. Saffron can also be an excellent natural ingredient for reducing pigmentation, brown spots and other skin blemishes. See this month’s recipe for Saffron Turmeric Mask below:

Ingredients Needed:

  • 1 cup of clean water
  • A pinch of saffron strands
  • 2 tbsp of turmeric powder

Steps:

1. This is a very quick and easy process. Soak a few strands of saffron in clean water

2. Add this mixture to 2tbsp of turmeric powder.

3. Create a paste and apply to face. Rinse (don’t leave it on longer than 15 minutes).

 

Recipe of the Day

Saffron is extremely subtle and fragrant. The slightly sweet, luxurious taste is totally enigmatic—it’s tricky to describe but instantly recognizable in a dish. As annoying as it is to say, you know it when you taste it. The threadlike red stigmas—and the yellow hue they impart—are quite literally the stuff of legend. It is a very uncommon ingredient in recipes and speaking of recipes, try this unique dish: Crunchy Baked Saffron Rice with Barberries (Tachin)

 

Ingredients Needed (serves 2):

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup dried barberries or 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, finely ground
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (not Greek)
  • ½ cup grapeseed or vegetable oil, plus more for dish

 

Steps:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 large palmfuls of salt (about ½ cup). While you’re waiting for the water to boil, place rice in a strainer or sieve and rinse with lukewarm water, swishing rice around with your hands to get rid of excess starch. Continue to rinse until water from rice runs clear.
  2. Add rice to pot and give it a few stirs to prevent rice from sticking to the bottom. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rice begins to rise to the top and is tender but still has a slight bite to it, 6–8 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Cook barberries, stirring often, until plumped slightly and warmed through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in rose water, if using.
  4. Place rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 400°. Combine saffron and 2 Tbsp. hot water in a large bowl. Let sit 10 minutes to allow saffron to steep and draw out as much color as possible. Mix in egg yolks, yogurt, ½ cup oil, and 2 tsp. salt. Scatter rice over yogurt mixture and gently toss to ensure every grain is coated.
  5. Coat a 10″-diameter glass pie dish with oil (glass lets you check on the color from underneath). Add half of rice mixture and use the palms of your hands or a measuring cup to gently pack and compact rice into dish. Scatter half of barberries over and top with remaining rice. Press down again, this time more firmly (this helps with unmolding).
  6. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake until rice on the bottom and around edges is a deep golden brown, 65–80 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes; discard foil. Loosen the rice around the edges using the point of a knife. Place a large plate on top and invert rice onto plate like a cake. Scatter remaining barberries over top.

 

Sources:

Castleman, Michael. The Healing Herbs: The Ultimate Guide to the Curative Power of Nature’s Medicine’s. Bantam: New York, 1995. Print.

http://theepicentre.com/spice/saffron/

https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-saffron.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3731881/

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-844/saffron

https://m.femina.in › beauty › skin › 8-beauty-benefits-of-saffron-38653

https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/crunchy-baked-saffron-rice-with-barberries

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