- Family Iridaceae
- Crocus sativus
- Spanish Saffron
Meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale) is not the same, and is a poisonous plant.
In very large doses, saffron may induce abortions. Therefore, during pregnancy, use only normal cooking amounts.
It is contraindicated in those who have gallbladder or liver disease since it stimulates the liver.
Native to India, the Balkans, and the eastern Mediterranean region, saffron is now cultivated in India, Spain, France, Italy, and the Middle East, mainly as a culinary herb. The plant is a perennial, growing to nine inches from a bulblike corm. It has narrow leaves and mauve to purple flowers, each with three deep red, thread-like stigmas.
In the past, saffron was credited with an immense array of health benefits, but its popularity as a medicinal herb peaked in Europe during the Middle Ages. An example of its acclaim comes from the herbalist Christopher Catton, who said of it: "Saffron has the power to quicken the spirits, and the virtue thereof pierces by and by to the heart, provoking laughter and merriment."
In ancient Greece and Rome, saffron was used not only within medicine and cooking but also as a cosmetic dye.
- liver stimulant
- volatile oil (composed of terpenes, terpene alcohols, and esters)
- bitter glycosides (including crocin)
- vitamins B1 and B2
- Stigmas and styles
- Crocin is a choleretic, meaning it stimulates the liver.
Despite its long history as a medicinal herb, saffron has fallen out of favour as an herbal treatment because of the availability of cheaper and superior herbs more easily found to replicate its ability to induce menstruation, treat period pain and chronic uterine bleeding, and calm indigestion and colic.
In Chinese herbal medicine, it is used to treat painful obstructions of the chest, stimulate menstruation, and relieve abdominal pain.