It is a small perennial plant with a beautiful bright purple flower and red stigmas, we are talking about the crocus sativus, family of the Iridaceae, from which the famous saffron spice is obtained. Saffron, however, does not only give to the recipes a unique and exotic taste, but also has important healthy properties studied and demonstrated by scientific researches.
Saffron contains carotenoids, which are antioxidant substances, such as crocin, responsible for the yellow color of the spice, zeaxanthin and lycopene that make this spice a shield against free radical damages and aging processes. In addition to this, saffron, thanks to its main constituents such as safranal and crocin, has antispasmodic and sedative properties and, as proven by scientific studies, is able to alleviate the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (Khazdair et al, Avicenna J Phytomed, Sep 2015). Moreover, saffron has also shown an antidepressant action higher than placebo and equivalent to that of active ingredients such as imipramine and fluoxetine used in drugs against depression and panic attacks (Leone et al, Phytother Res, Dec 2018). Thanks to its calming and anxiolytic effect this spice is useful to counteract periods of big stress or insomnia (Srivastava et al, Pharmacogn rev, Jul 2010). But saffron has proven to be an extra weapon also to protect the health of the eye, since 30 mg of saffron per day for 6 months have demonstrated to be able to improve the functionality of the retina in case of age-related macular degeneration (Gohari et al, Pharmacogn Rev, Jan 2013 - Lashay et al, Med Hypothesis Discov Innov Ophthalmol, 2016). Finally, this spice also has anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity properties and, as shown by some researches in the lab, an anti-cancer action. However, for the latter effect, other studies will be required to confirm it (Srivastava et al, Pharmacogn rev, Jul 2010).
Saffron, spice for cooking and herbal tea against insomnia
Saffron is ideal for adding to various dishes, such as sauces, risottos, paellas or spaghetti. In addition, for a relaxing drink, especially if you have trouble sleeping due to nervousness, in the evening try to do the following. Warm a cup of milk, soy milk is fine too. Then, when it is warm, pour the milk into a cup and add a pinch of saffron powder, stir and drink.
Even if the spice is beneficial, you should never overdo it. Saffron is safe at doses that are reached with nutrition, but quantities over 5 grams per day are toxic. Ask your doctor for advice during pregnancy.