Why so expensive?
Saffron (Crocus Sativus) is the most expensive spice in the world. Yet around the globe, from home cooks to the finest Michelin-Star chefs, people are willing to pay the price for its unique, delicate flavor and gorgeous golden-red color. Good quality saffron can weigh in around $1,500.00 per pound!
Though expensive, the many health benefits and delicious taste of saffron make it well worth the cost. Saffron is so expensive because production is very labor intensive. It takes great expense, time and effort. In the end, consumers use only a very small part of the saffron flower, the thread (called the stigma). By some estimates, it can take as many as 75,000 saffron flowers to produce just one pound of saffron for purchase.
Although you may recognize saffron in risottos, rice dishes, curries and sweet-milky deserts, you may not be aware of its many health benefits. For example, it has the potential to support a healthy nervous system and help protect against cancer and obesity. In Greece, where they first cultivated saffron, people used it to improve both mood and memory. They also used it to enhance libido. Fast forward a few thousand years, and human trials have confirmed what the ancient Greeks knew. This article shows that saffron was found to be “significantly more effective than a placebo and equally as efficacious” as antidepressants such as Prozac, Sarafem and Tofranil in treating mild to moderate depression.
Saffron contains specific, powerful antioxidants including carotenoids, which provide its red-gold color. These compounds have been studied extensively for their ability to help soothe and quell inflammation while protecting the cells from damage. This article takes a look at how saffron and its components can be helpful in treating and supporting the nervous system. A variety of studies indicate that saffron is anti-inflammatory, anti-atherosclerotic (protecting the arteries) and antigenotoxic (protecting cells from DNA damage). Saffron appears to increase levels of glutamate and dopamine in the brain and may help reduce symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
Saffron may help fight cancer, too. The major constituent of saffron is known as crocin. This article points to data demonstrating the effect of crocin extract on colon cancer. It significantly inhibited the cancer cells but did not affect normal, healthy cells. Thus, it could be considered as a viable option for treating colorectal cancer. This article points to crocin’s ability to suppress the growth of lung cancer cells in humans.
Saffron extracts may also play an important role in the treatment of obesity. One such extract has been studied for its ability to help maintain a healthy weight. This article claims it reduces the desire to snack while increasing satiety. In addition, this other article demonstrates how crocin and a water-extract of saffron help to improve the appetite and body composition in patients with coronary artery disease.