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Saffron Reduces Cravings & Balances Hormones

By April 13, 2016April 22nd, 2020Nutrition Information

saffron pixSaffron, the most expensive herb in the world comes from the crocus flower, which unlike other crocuses blooms and is harvested in the fall.

In Ayurveda saffron is considered one of the most powerful medicinal foods in nature. It’s known to reduce cravings, build vitality, improve immunity, and provide stable mood and energy.  It offers powerful support for the nervous system.

In a study conducted by the University of Guelph, saffron was one of two natural herbs that naturally boost the human sex drive and help with erectile dysfunction.

Researchers believe that constituents in saffron target certain neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for hormonal changes that increase the sense of fullness and decrease cravings.  It can increase levels of serotonin, a feel good hormone.

It is so expensive because of the labor intensive methods needed to grow and harvest it.

saffron flower pixEach flower blooms for only one week in the Fall.  It produces  three stamens which must be picked by hand (delicately) and dried (delicately again!)

150 flowers and substantial labor are needed to produce a single gram of saffron.

Although the origins are saffron are uncertain, evidence shows it was cultivated in Asia more than 3000 years ago.

History and Legends of Saffron

The best-known Greek legend about saffron is the story detailing the tragedy of Crocus and Smilax:

Saffron Legend

The handsome youth Crocus sets out in pursuit of the nymph Smilax in the woods near Athens. Initially Smilax is flattered by his amorous advances but soon is bored by Crocus’ attentions. After he continues to pursue her against her wishes, she resorts to transforming Crocus into a saffron crocus flower.  It’s radiant orange stigmas remaining as a faint symbol of his undying passion for Smilax. The tragedy and the spice would be recalled later by Ovid.

In Ancient Greece, It was used as a remedy for sleeplessness and to reduce hangovers caused by wine. It was also used to perfume bathing water and as an aphrodisiac.

A legend from 14th century AD England says Edward III brought a bulb of saffron hidden in a hole in his stick from the Middle East to the town of Walden. There the bulb was grown and reproduced giving prosperity to the town.

During the Renaissance, Venice was the most important commercial center for saffron. In that period saffron was worth its weight in gold. But sadly its high price led to its adulteration, which was severely punished. Henry VIII, who cherished the aroma of saffron condemned to death the adulterers of saffron.

How To Buy Saffron

saffronSaffron stamen threads look like a tangle of dark yellow-orange strings.  Saffron will always be expensive; if you see a packet of a couple ounces for a few dollars, just put it back.

If you can find Iranian saffron that is the best, but it is hard to find because of bans on exports to the International market.  The next best is Spanish saffron which is high quality, relatively available and strictly regulated.

When buying saffron look for threads that are fine and even in size, with a thin yellow tendril on one end and a trumpet-like flute on the other.

You will be able to smell real saffron even through a thick layer of plastic.  Never buy ground saffron.  Even if it is good quality saffron it loses it’s flavor quickly when ground.  Also, ground saffron is often cut with turmeric or paprika.

Most recipes use ten to twenty threads of saffron, and there are about fourteen thousand threads to an ounce.  Saffron is usually sold by the gram rather than by the pound which would be between $750-$1100.  One gram is about $10.  You can buy it in any specialty store and online at the Spice House

Store saffron threads in an airtight container away from light.

Cooking With Saffron

Saffon in WaterIn order to get the best out of Saffron, dissolve the threads in water, stock or wine for at least 30 minutes.

Saffron imparts a unique earthy almost floral like fragrance and taste to dishes as well as creating a beautiful yellow color.  Though its flavor by itself is bitter, when blended with most foods it provides a unique flavor and fragrance. It is part of the culinary culture in many cuisines around the world.

Saffron is especially good used in rice dishes. My favorite is saffron risotto. It is used in seafood dishes such as bouillabaisse and paella.  Saffron is also used in bread and cake baking.

When adding saffron the rule is a “little saffron” will go a long way.  In general, just use a little bit.


Mussels in Tomato Saffron Sauce

Mussels tomato saffron

Creamy Asparagus Soup with Saffron

asparagus soup 1

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