Saffron is the golden stigma of the purple fall flower, with Botanical name of Crocus Sativus belonging to the family Iridacease, known as saffron crocus and bears up to four flowers, each with three precious extra long, vivid Crimson stigmas. These three stigmas found in the blossoms of this botanical crocus called threads, are collected and dried to be used for culinary, medicinal, therapeutic, perfuming and pigmentation purposes. It takes 225,000 stigmas to make one pound (453 gr.) of saffron. The value of saffron is derived from the fact that it is such a labor intensive product.
Although the origins of saffron are disputed, Iran is regarded as being one of the earliest countries to cultivate saffron due favorable topography and weather conditions. Iran now accounts for approximately 93% of the world production of saffron. The approximate 7% remainder of saffron producers are Spain, Afghanistan, Portugal, France, Italy, Turkey and Kashmir.
Saffron recorded history is attested in a 7th. Century BC Assyrian Botanical reference under Ashurbanipal. Documentation of saffron's use over the span of 4000 years in the treatment of some 90 illnesses has been uncovered. Saffron based pigments have indeed been found in 50,000 year-old depictions of prehistoric places in Northeast Iran. Ancient Persians cultivated saffron in Isfahan and Khorasan by the 10th Century BC. Alexander the Great used Persian Saffron in his infusions, rice, and bath as a curative for battle wounds.
Saffron contains more than 150 volatile compounds, it's intense orange color, mild, slightly sweet - but - earthy taste and unique aroma attributed primarily to crocins, picrocrocin and safranal, respectively.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SAFFRON
Authentic high quality saffron exerts beneficial health effects. Studies show that saffron contains the electrolytes sodium and potassium, and is rich with other minerals like copper, calcium, magnesium, selenium, manganese, iron and zinc. It is a good source of vitamin A, B1, B2, B6 and C. Hence saffron apparently works beyond.
Manganese content is at nearly 400% of the daily recommended value and the next-largest nutritional quantities also are quite impressive: vitamin C - 38%; magnesium - 18%; and iron - 17%. Potassium and vitamin B6 both impart 14% of the daily recommended value.
Manganese helps regulate blood sugar, metabolize carbohydrates, and absorb calcium. It also helps form tissues, bones, and sex hormones. Vitamin C is an infection fighter; iron purifies your blood; and the vitamin B6 content helps form red blood cells and assures nerves will function as they should. Potassium helps balance fluids in cells, which, if low, can cause painful muscle cramps.
The golden herb saffron may hold the key to preventing the loss of sight in the elderly, a world first trial by researchers at the University of Sydney and in Italy has found.
Professor Silvia Bisti, a visiting scholar based at The VisionCentre at the University of Sydney, described the results as a breakthrough, with trial participants showing significant vision improvements after taking saffron.
Professor Bisti says "saffron appears to affect genes which regulate the fatty acid content of the cell membrane, and this makes the vision cells tougher and more resilient".
He singled out "saffron's 'anti-apoptotic' properties - its ability to increase the availability of oxygen to the body and prevent cell death," as a key factor in its beneficial effects.
SAFFRON AS A MEDICINAL HERB
Due to safety concerns and side effects of many antidepressant medications, herbal psychopharmacology research has increased, and herbal remedies are becoming increasingly popular as alternatives to prescribed medications for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD). Accumulating trials reveal positive effects of saffron as an anti depressant.
The medicinal properties attributed to saffron are extensive. It is applied to improve the skin condition overall and specifically to treat acne. Internally, it is used to improve blood circulation, regulate menstruation, treat digestive disturbance, ease cough and asthmatic breathing, reduce fever and inflammation, calm nervousness, and alleviate depression.
Clinical trials demonstrate that saffron can stimulate certain kinds of body cells to self repair—an area of research called neuro-protection. The active ingredients may be of benefit in inhibiting growth of cancer cells.
Saffron is best known as a weight loss aid because it reduces your appetite and the craving for a lot of food, and it works by increasing the serotonin level in your brain. Serotonin is the chemical in your brain responsible for regulating mood and eating, so by increasing the Serotonin level, you will no longer feel the urge to overeat.
Using saffron in food will provide the same effects as supplementation, since saffron supplements are dehydrated extracts of the spice.
These statements have not been evaluated by FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure and prevent any disease.
HOW TO STORE
Dry saffron is highly sensitive to fluctuating pH levels, and rapidly breaks down chemically in the presence of light and oxidizing agents. It must, therefore, be stored away in a cool, dry and air-tight containers to minimize contact with atmospheric oxygen.
HOW TO USE
The most important rule is "don't use too much". A very little bit of saffron goes a long way and if overused becomes overpowering and leaves a "medicinal" flavor.
There are several ways to prepare saffron for use. Consult your recipe for specific recommendations. Basic methods include:
Soak Threads - The threads are soaked in liquid which can be broth, water, wine then the infusion is added to the dish.
Crush Threads - With a tiny mortar and pestle. Add the saffron to the liquid and soak for 5 - 20 minutes in hot -but not boiling - water to use in cuisine. This helps to release the aromatic components.
Toast Threads - carefully in a medium-hot heavy skillet (cast iron is good) do not allow to burn. Then grind threads into a powder and use as directed in the recipe.
Crumble Threads - Sometimes recipes that use a lot of liquid like soups, or salad dressings just crumble the threads and add directly to the dish. Soaking, even for a few minutes works better, provides better distribution of color and a flavor.
Our whole natural and pure Persian saffron with threads that sport a deep orange- red color, Imparts a robust flavor to fish, chicken dishes, soups, broths, stews, bouillabaisse, paella, rice, deserts and lemonade, Vodka and Gin drinks.
Add saffron to cold milk and stir in a teaspoon of honey for a refreshing drink.
Professor Silvia Bisti, a visiting scholar based at The VisionCentre at the University of Sydney
Researchers strike gold - saffron found to help vision loss in elderly
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8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda MD, 20894 USA
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