Saffron, Not Just a Flavoring Agent

August 24, 2009

ist2_5829955-pure-saffron Did you think saffron was just a spice that gave your dish some color, smell and aroma? The virtues of saffron should not be underestimated so.

The world’s most expensive spice, saffron has a valuable place in Indian hearts. Most of our ghee-made sweets and kheers(desserts) receive their final touch with a pinch of saffron on top.  Some people also blindly believe that expectant mothers would give birth to beautiful and healthy babies by taking saffron milk daily until delivery. I remember my grandmother using Dubai-imported saffron sparingly for sweet making which was otherwise well-hidden from the rest of us. Apart from the Indian cuisine, saffron makes a remarkable presence in the Spanish and Italian delicacies as well.

Saffron is more of a herb than just a spice.

Saffron is quite popular among women due to its presence in the skin creams and cosmetics. The elderly know saffron because it is used in religious ceremonies. In alternative health care, saffron is used in medicines for arthritis, asthma, infertility, impotence, inflammation, digestive problems, kidney stones, menstrual disorders, colds, insomnia, asthma and depression.

It is also a remedy for high cholesterol and works as a good blood purifier. A recent study claims that saffron can lead to better eyesight especially in the old age. Studies conducted in Italy and Australia found that eating saffron on a daily basis helps in protection against some common forms of blindness. Saffron can fortify the delicate eye cells against diseases. Retinitis Pigmentosa refers to an eye disease that is caused by retina damage. It can lead to blindness by a progressive loss of vision and night vision difficulties as the person ages. Exposure to excessive bright sunlight is also a reason for loss of vision in some. Daily diet with adequate amount of saffron is found to prevent and slow down blindness caused by both sunlight and other inherited disorders.

How to buy, use and store saffron

Always remember to buy saffron from reputable dealers. In ordinary shops, it may have been there on the shelf for long making it lose its potency. Don’t go by the color; all you need is the flavor and vigor. It is also unwise to buy powdered saffron as it can easily be adulterated. A little saffron goes a long way. Powdered saffron is more effective than the threads used directly in the dishes. You can also use saffron in hot water. You can store saffron at home in tight containers for several years.

Saffron is not an established medicine and should not be consumed more than the recommended dosage. Remember that a dose of 20 gms of saffron can be deadly. Ask your health care provider about using saffron in your diet!

- AparnA K V

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