The Saintly Spice

  • Alka Gurha
  • India
  • Sep 06, 2013



The origin of the word ‘saffron’ comes from the French term safran, which in turn stems from the Latin word safranum; and it is said that safranum originates from the Persian word za'ferân. An early historic reference comes from Ancient Egypt, where saffron was used by Cleopatra as an aromatic and seductive essence. Arabs have since used saffron for its anaesthetic properties. During the Renaissance, Venice was an important commercial centre for saffron. In that period, saffron was worth its weight in gold. Even today saffron continues to be the most expensive spice in the world. Perhaps this is the reason why it is called Red Gold. 


Saffron is grown in Kashmir, and in parts of Spain and Switzerland. It is derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. In the month of October the plant sprouts bright flowers, having different shades of pink and purple. The flowers possess a sweet, honey-like fragrance. A three-pronged style emerges from each flower. Each prong terminates with a vivid crimson stigma 25–30 mm in length. When the flowers are gathered, the stigmas are separated from the rest of the flower. More than 80,000 flowers are needed to obtain a kilo of saffron. The stigmas of saffron have a high level of moisture, so it is necessary to dry them before the preservation process. The dried stigmas are used mainly, in various cuisines, as a seasoning and colouring agent. Saffron's taste and fragrance come from the chemicals picrocrocin and safranal. It also contains a dye, crocin, which imparts a rich reddish–yellow hue to dishes and textiles. There are different varieties of saffron available across the world. Kashmiri Saffron is considered the best and the strongest-flavoured variety. Spanish Saffron, typically red and yellow, is the most common type of saffron - the easiest to find. It has a strong aroma and is used in a wide range of foods. 

Health Benefits

Saffron is used for the improvement of digestion and appetite in cold and hilly areas. It is found to be extremely beneficial for providing relief from gas and acidity related problems. Saffron is said to cure Insomnia. A pinch of saffron taken with warm milk, at night, helps in boosting memory. It is a very popular in beauty treatments. Saffron is used to cure skin problems, and helps to lighten the skin tone. Saffron is considered a blood purifier and has anti-inflammatory properties. 

How to check Purity

You can distinguish between genuine and fake saffron by this simple method. Spread each saffron on the surface of normal water, in different glasses. The fake saffron starts to lose its After about fifteen minutes most of the threads will lose their colour and deposit at the bottom. After 30 minutes the water will turn red, showing that the saffron is artificially coloured. Pure saffron loses colour very gradually. The threads will remain on the surface of the water for some minutes and only then start to deposit at the bottom…slowly. Even after half an hour the saffron threads will continue to be completely red and will also float back to the surface.


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