You may know it for being the most expensive spice in the world and a rare addition to home-cooked meals, but saffron is no stranger to various cultures around the globe, or to the world of nutrition. The reddish-golden colored spice packs a host of health benefits and is one of nature’s most powerful herbs.
Saffron derives from the crocus sativus flower, which originated in Crete or Central Asia. Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, by weight, and understandably so. It takes some 150 flowers to make a mere 1,000 milligrams of saffron threads and it costs approximately $1,000 per pound. It also must be harvested by hand.
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The spice is chockful of vitamin A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C. It is a good source of the minerals copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium and zinc. Saffron is also an antioxidant powerhouse, containing zeaxanthin and lycopene. Together these active components deem the spice particularly potent in preventing and treating diseases and other ailments.
Saffron has long been used as a food colorant, and for millennia, ancient cultures have used saffron to treat stomachaches and kidney stones as well as to improve blood circulation. Today, studies can now support these health claims, and the benefits are more than just a handful.
Aside from its health benefit, saffron has a unique aroma and flavor that distinguish it among other herbs and spices. It contains more than 150 volatile and aroma-yielding compounds, making it an interesting addition to your palette and kitchen artillery, as well as a new venue for you to experiment with dishes.