– Panchali Moitra, published in BPositive Magazine
Saffron has been a mainstay in Asian cuisine since centuries. It is one of the most expensive culinary spices in the world but the pleasant tinge, exotic flavor and myriad medical benefits rendered by just a pinch of saffron surely outweighs its hefty price tag. The dried stigma of saffron flower contains chemical components known as picrocrocin and safranal that imparts saffron its distinctive hue and flavor. The natural carotenoids present in saffron are responsible for its disease preventing and health promoting benefits.
Here are a few of the Golden benefits of this Golden spice
• Digestion- The stimulating action of saffron helps to improve appetite and digestion and also to relieve acidity and abdominal gas.
• Insomnia and sleep problems- Being a natural sedative, saffron is recommended to treat stress related depression, insomnia and anxiety. Drinking a glass of hot saffron milk at bedtime to induce sound sleep is perhaps one of the most nostalgic childhood memories for many.
• Immunity booster- The active components in saffron show antioxidant, memory enhancing and immunity boosting properties.
• Vision health- Saffron based herbal supplements are claimed to support age related macular degeneration, post cataract recovery and even partial vision loss. The effects of saffron on genetic eye disorders are also being researched.
• Expectorant- Saffron is linked with relieving cold, cough, asthma, whooping cough and fever. Massaging gums with saffron powder show positive effect on soreness and mouth inflammations.
• Skin tumors and cancer- The volatile oils and flavonoids in saffron exhibit anti cancer effects especially against liver cancers and skin tumors.
• Heart troubles- The crocetin present helps to bring down the bad LDL cholesterol, reduce plaque and improve atherosclerosis.
• Being a blood purifier, saffron improves complexion, reduces acne and arrests hair fall. Saffron also aids in reducing menstrual cramps and PMS related discomforts.
Saffron Buying Tips
Saffron is an expensive herb; hence it is important that one ensures its authenticity at the time of buying. A simple test would be to dip a few strands of kesar in hot milk or water and let it soak for 10-15 minutes. The release of color and flavor from pure saffron should be gradual and not immediate. Saffron can be enjoyed in porridges, biryanis, risottos, paella, vegetable dishes, Indian sweets or as saffron tea.
Simple and Healthy Saffron Recipes
1) Saffron Flavored Yogurt/Shrikhand
Pour curd in a muslin cloth and hang it for a couple of hours to drain out the excess water. Add a pinch of saffron to a 2-3 tbsp of warm milk in a bowl and let it infuse for 15 minutes. Add elaichi powder and crushed sugar to the thickened curd. Pour in the saffron milk, cover and chill. Sprinkle sliced almonds before serving.
2) Saffron Chicken
Toss boneless chicken cubes in olive oil on a heated pan till golden brown and remove. Add chopped onions, shredded ginger, salt, red chilli powder and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken cubes, water, and saffron strands and cook covered on low heat for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy this Mid Eastern classic dish garnished with parsley and a dash of lime juice with rice or pita breads.
3) Saffron Tea
Infuse saffron threads in hot water. Dip in a tea bag, add honey, and cinnamon powder. Relish hot or with crushed ice.
Please note: Whilst saffron is considered safe for consumption in small amounts for limited period, unsupervised high doses may cause vomiting, skin discoloration, nose bleeding and sometimes limb numbness. Pregnant women and breast feeding moms should specially be careful.