Saffron is a natural spice derived from the flower of crocus sativus and is also known as the" red gold"
Saffron is the world's costliest spice. saffron with its unique characteristics has been used by different nations for different purposes such as spice, a coloring agent and a perfume. During almost four millenia saffron has had the largest number of applications among all medicinal plants and has been used in the treatment of 99 medical indications.
The history of saffron:
The Cultivation and usage of saffron in Iran dates back to 3000 years ago. The Persian saffron which is also called" the red gold "grows in desert regions so that it is called the "Gold of Kavir "as well. Persian saffron is globally known for its incomparable quality, fascinating fragrance, pleasant flavor, and superb coloring strength.
Iranians exported the Saffron to many parts of the ancient world and they also introduced its properties to Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Semiotic people including Arabs. The farming practices and patterns of this plant were also introduced to the Islamic nations living in Mediterranean areas during the first four decades after Hijrah.
The Key cropping areas of saffron:
Having 75000 hectares of saffron fields, Iran covers about 90 to 93 percent of the world's 300 tons of saffron production annually. Much of the Iranian crop is bound for export. 100 to 130 tons of saffron is cultivatd in Torbat-e- Heydarieh region which includes cities like Torbat-e- Heydarieh, Zaveh, Roshtkhar and Mahvlat. Torbat-e- Heydarieh which is located in the southern part of Khorasan Razavi province has the first rank in the world for producing saffron.
The botany and composition of saffron:
In scientific terminology, saffron is reffered to as crocus sativus from Iridaceae species. It’s a plant with 10-30 cm height which grows from bulbs with 5 cm diameter . The flower is purple in color and quite fragrant which blooms between october til november. Its deep lavender purple – veined flowers house long scarlet stigmas (the pollen- receptive portions of the female pistils) that can be plucked and dried to make the highly prized spice saffron.
Healing benefits of saffron:
Modern research suggests that saffron as a highly prized and qualified plant has many medicinal properties some of which are as follows:
Saffron contains several plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have been anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.
Their flower pistils compose several essential volatile oils, but the most important of them all is safranal which gives saffron its pleasant flavor. Other volatile oils in saffron are cineole, phenethenol, pinene, borneol, geraniol, limonene, p-cymene, linalool, terpinen-4-oil, etc.
This colorful spice has many non-volatile active components; the most important of them is a-crocin, a carotenoid compound, which gives pistils their characteristic golden-yellow color. It also contains other carotenoids, including zea-xanthin, lycopene, a- and ß-carotenes. These are important antioxidants that help protect the human body from oxidant-induced stress, cancers, infections and acts as immune modulators.
The active components in saffron have many therapeutic applications in many traditional medicines as antiseptic, antidepressant, anti-oxidant, digestive, anti-convulsant.
This novel spice is a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper are used by the human body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidases enzymes.
Additionally, it is also rich in many vital vitamins, including vitamin A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin-C that is essential for optimum health.