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Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. A pound of the spice can cost anywhere between $500 to $5000. The world’s annual saffron production is estimated to be around 300 tons, with Iran producing the most (76%). There also have been recent reports about its pharmacological activity and medicinal properties
Modern research suggests that saffron can be used as an aphrodisiac, diaphoretic [to cause sweating], carminative [to prevent gas] and to bring on mensuration. Some other benefits are mentioned here under:
Saffron contains a dark orange, water soluble carotene called crocin, which is responsible for much of saffron’s golden color. Crocin has been found to trigger apoptosis [ programmed cell death] in a number of different types of human cancer cells, leukemia, ovarian carcinoma, colon adenocarcinoma, and soft tissue sarcoma. Researchers in Mexico who have been studying saffron extract have discovered that saffron and its active components display an ability to inhibit human malignant cells. Not only does the spice inhibit cells that have become cancerous, but it has no such effect on normal cells and actually stimulates their formation and that of lymphocytes [immune cells that help destroy cancer cells].
An Italian study states that the crocetin in saffron promotes cerebral oxygenation in rats and positively acts in arthritis treatment. This effect could most likely be attributed to its antioxidant activity. However, these results have been obtained only in vitro or on laboratory animals and not yet on humans (5).
In rat studies, safranal, a constituent of saffron, was found to delay retinal degeneration. The compound could also reduce rod and cone photoreceptor loss. These properties make safranal potentially useful for delaying retinal degeneration in retinal pathologies.
Recent studies have also demonstrated that saffron extract, specifically its crocin, is useful in the treatment of age related mental impairment. In Japan, saffron is encapsulated and used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, memory loss and inflammation. Saffron is a stimulant tonic and very effective to treat cold and fever; saffron mixed in milk and applied over the forehead quickly relieves cold.