The Science of Saffron

Saffron is the most expensive cultivated herb in the world. Where does it come from and what makes it so special?

Saffron is harvested from the plant species Crocus sativus, a beautiful purple-colored flower. Each individual flower is composed of 6 purple petals, 3 yellow stamens, and 3 red stigmas. To harvest saffron, the 3 red stigmas must be carefully hand-picked and processed. It takes more than 150,000 flowers to produce one kilogram of saffron spice. Interestingly, saffron only blooms once a year, and can only be harvested during a short several-week window in October/November.

What gives saffron its unique characteristics?

Saffron is composed of over 150 different compounds, but the main 3 compounds are: 
- Crocin, which influence the color of the flower
- Picrocrocin, which gives saffron its unique bitter-sweet taste
- Safranal, which gives rise to saffron’s fragrant aroma

What about saffron’s health benefits?

Throughout history, saffron has appeared in various medicinal traditions. In the ancient Assyrian and Egyptian empires, saffron was used to treat menstrual and urinary ailments. In traditional Iranian medicine, saffron functions as an anti-depressant and anti-inflammatory agent. Traditional Chinese and Indian herbal remedies also incorporate saffron in a variety of treatments for issues like anxiety, depression, and cardiac disease.1

Modern research has begun to explore saffron’s health benefits. In multiple animal studies, saffron exhibited positive effects on blood pressure, seizure activity, mood (anxiety), memory and learning.2 Human studies also show the influence of saffron in areas like mood (depression)3, premenstrual syndrome4, macular degeneration5, and cardiovascular health2. These results are intriguing and show us the powerful potential of this small flower and its benefits for the human body.

How do you know you're buying the right saffron?

Afghan saffron has been rated #1 in the world by the Taste and Quality Institute for the past three years. ISO Standard 3632 is the main test used to measure the veracity and quality of saffron, with crocin (coloring strength) levels as the most common parameter of reference. The minimum crocin level to achieve Grade 1 standard is 200. Tahmina samples’ average color rating was 254, with our highest sample scoring 280. Tahmina saffron is exceptionally rich in crocin content, thereby giving more potency in cooking and with health. Don't miss out and click here to enjoy our saffron today!

 

References: 

  1. Mousavi, Seyedeh Zeinab. Historical uses of saffron: Identifying potential new avenues for modern research. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. Autumn 2011; 1(2):57-66.
  2. Srivastava, R. Crocus sativus: A comprehensive review. Pharmacogn Rev. 2010 Jul-Dec; 4(8):200–208.
  3. Akhondzadeh, Shahin. Comparison of Crocus sativus L. and imipramine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: A pilot double-blind randomized trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2004 Sep 2; 4(12).
  4. Agha-Hosseini M. Crocus sativus L. (saffron) in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: a double-blind, randomised and placebo-controlled trial. 2008; 115:515–519.
  5. Falsini, Benedetto. Influence of Saffron Supplementation on Retinal Flicker Sensitivity in Early Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. 2010 Dec; 51(12):6118-6124.