Saffron is a spice collected from the flower stigmas of Crocus sativus, and a member of the Iridaceae family. Also, it plays a significant role in the culinary culture of different areas around the world, where many people use it as a food additive because it has powerful flavor and color.
The history of saffron is so ancient that it gets you back to the age of Indus, Egyptian, Persian civilizations when only royal families used saffron for fabric dyes, oils, cooking and for medicinal purposes.
Today, saffron is a versatile spice most commonly used in cooking, and it is proven to be useful in many situations.
Chemical constituents of saffron are responsible for its smell, taste, color, and quality.
Saffron is a spice containing the antioxidant carotenoids crocin and crocetin. Saffron is well known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cell protective effects.
. WHAT IS SAFFRON?
Saffron is made from crocus sativus (saffron crocus) flower and used as food spice for many years.
The flower of saffron (crocus sativus) a plant belonging to the Iridaceas family, have shown promising neuroprotective activities in experimental studies.
Saffron flower (crocus sativus) is composed of six purple petals, three golden yellow stamens and one red pistil. This pistil made up of three stigmas which when dried up gives the saffron spice.
Saffron made from the dried stigmas (the red line) of Crocus sativus flower. The stigmas are 25 mm long attached to the top of the style, cornucopia-shaped, red and with fimbriate margins.
The odor of saffron is strong and characteristically aromatic, and the taste is bitter/aromatic. The flowers collect every morning, as they open, and then collect the stigma.
It has been used as a natural herbaceous in the past and one of nature’s most potent herbs because it has various health benefits. It is also known to relieve stomach aches, kidney stones and improves circulation of blood.
. WORLD SAFFRON PRODUCTION
Iran is the largest saffron producing country, producing 94% of the world’s saffron in 2005. There are other countries producing saffron like Morocco, Kashmir, Spain, India, Italy, Afghanistan, and the United States.
So, why Iran is the main producer of saffron?
As we mentioned before, saffron needs a lot of laborers to harvest, and separate
stigmas and these numbers of workers are available in Iran. Also, salaries are low up to 5$
as maximum a day.
. WHY IS SAFFRON SO EXPENSIVE?
This is saffron which called ” Red gold” and one pound of it costs you 5,000 $ and that is the most valuable spice in the world. So, what makes saffron so widely expensive?
Due to its labor-intensive production process. Saffron is a complicated spice to harvest as they need a lot of hard work to pick up the flowers, separate stigma and dry it. Stigma which is the red line in the flower is the female part of the flower and saffron is the dehydrated or dry stigma.
As we know before that saffron comes from “saffron crocus flower or crocus sativus” and each saffron crocus flower has three stigmas, that is the saffron.
For all these processes they need a lot of laborers, and the yield of saffron is meager compared with the numbers of hired laborers. One acre of crocus sativus yield only four pounds of saffron and that is nothing.
One pound of saffron requires 170,000 flowers. For all these facts, saffron is so expensive, and from here it is called ” Red gold”.
. CHEMISTRY OF SAFFRON
The main active compounds of saffron are crocin (? – crocin), picrocrocin and safranal and the biosynthesis pathway to get them below.
Chemical constituents of saffron are responsible for its smell, taste, color, and quality. The synthesis of dry saffron is carbohydrates 13.35%, crude fiber 4.48%, moisture 15.6%, essential oil 0.6%, fixed oil 5.63%, and ash 4.27% and the Higher levels have been reported of fixed oil (13.4%) and essential oil (1.37%).
A large number have been reported of nonvolatile compounds, a carotenoid in nature is the most. These include zeaxanthin, lycopene, and ? – and ? – carotenes.
The specific yellow color of saffron is due to ? – crocin, which is a digentibiose ester of trans – crocetin.
? – crocin
Another significant constituent of saffron is picrocrocin, which is responsible for the spice’s bitterness.
It is an ether of safranal and a ? – d – glucose moiety. When saffron is treated with heat, as in drying, picrocrocin yields free safranal and glucose.
Safranal is volatile and responsible for some of saffron’s desirable flavor and less bitter than the glycoside and is the major constituent (70%) of the volatile fraction of the spice.
. USES AND APPLICATIONS OF SAFFRON
Saffron could use in many different ways:
• Cooking: saffron used as a spice in cooking for centuries and regard as the main ingredient
in many middle eastern dishes especially in Iran.
• Flavor: Being an expensive flavor item, saffron is typically used only in exotic dishes made for special occasions. It is especially suitable for coloring and flavoring rice preparations and candies.
• Medicine: Saffron is usually used as a coloring or flavoring agent, but recent research has shown its ability to promote health also as a herbal medicine for over 3,000 years. • Dye: saffron yellow color has been used as an expensive dye in many cultures. • Fragrance: Used as a fragrance in many perfumes. • Nutrition: Dried saffron is composed of 65% carbohydrates, 6% fat, 11% protein and 12% water, In comparison to other spices or dried foods, the nutrient content of dried saffron shows richness in content of B vitamins and dietary minerals.
. MEDICAL BENEFITS OF SAFFRON
Saffron is usually used as a coloring or flavoring agent, but recent research has shown
its ability to promote health. The constituents of it contain crocin, safranal, and picrocrocin,
which have all shown health improving.
Previous researches have found that biological activity of saffron components prevent
such health problems as gastric disorders, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, anxiety,
insomnia, depression, and premenstrual syndrome. In addition, Saffron shows promise in the
prevention and maintenance of cancer due to its antioxidant properties.
2. SAFFRON FOR DEPRESSION
Recent clinical trials have shown saffron to be an effective treatment against depression. Saffron is useful for treating mild to moderate depression. Depressive disorders affect millions of people each year. People with depression may have excessive weight loss or gain, sleepiness or insomnia, and feelings of worthlessness.
Women are twice as likely as men to develop depression. Saffron exerts its
antidepressant activity by increasing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain like serotonin.
3. MEDICAL FUTURE OF SAFFRON
Saffron makes a promise as a treatment against
• Cancer • Alzheimer disease • Parkinson disease • Age related cellular degeneration disease