property of saffron
Centuries ago saffron was introduced as a medicinal plant to counter anxiety and depression and to promote blood circulation. Only later, the spice has found its way into the kitchen, used to enhance flavors and as food coloring essence. The molecule that produces the actual coloring, namely Crocin, is a carotenoid pigment, whose interaction with other compounds produces particularly beneficial effects.
Rich in beta carotene, lycopene and zeaxanthin, a very beneficial antioxidant ensemble, saffron is capable of strengthening the immune system against infections and serious illnesses like cancer.
Saffron nutritional values like Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Iron, Vitamins A,C and to a lesser extent Vitamin B, together with the active substances contained, find many therapeutic applications in the traditional medicine and in the field of beauty-care.
The medicinal properties of this spice are well known: in topical applications proves to be beneficial against acne, while in medicinal applications it is known to promote blood circulation, to lessen menstrual pains, ease digestive problems, cough sedative, antipyretic, and to treat the most common forms of stress and anxiety.
A traditional use of its unmistakable color is also found in the textile industry in the making of garments and clothing.
It is also a peculiar plant to grow, it is in fact it only suited to dry environments, yet it needs substantial watering in order to thrive properly.
The high price of this spice is directly related to its cultivation and harvesting techniques. In order to obtain a single Kilogram of “powdered gold”, something like 150/200 thousand flowers have to be harvested. They can only be picked before sunrise for the flowers must be still closed when gathered, failing to preserve them from direct sunlight exposure, would alter their properties.
Once the flowers have been picked, the stigmas are removed by hand before being dried at around 45 degrees C. all of the above operations have to be performed within the same day of the harvest.
In order to preserve the purity of the product, sealed glass vessels are often used.
It clearly appears how much it is advisable to beware of cheap saffron offers or products which appear too bright in coloring. Oftentimes a product called “bastard saffron” can be found, it appears similar to the original but is made up with various colorants.