Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Healing Power of the Crocus - Flower Power Wasn't Just a 60's Chant!

It seems that science and nature are revealing more and more examples of Flower Power!

Isn't it beautiful just how the things we love about a flower indicate how they can be useful in our bodies?  Take that first flower that pops out - sometimes in the middle of a still snow covered flower bed - the beautiful crocus. 

As it pops through the snow it brightens the day with the promise that spring is right around the corner!  Just seeing this beautiful little flower will raise your spirits.

But the crocus is highly prized for more than its beauty . . . its brightly colored stigmas are carefully collected, dried and we know them as saffron.  Aahh saffron . . . that rather rare spice that imparts both intoxicating flavors and a distinctive yellow color to the dishes it graces . . . It's used extensively in many world cuisines like Indian, Persian, Arab, Turkish, Italian, Greek and French foods.

Saffron - the most expensive spice in my cabinet . . . and well worth it!

It's the most expensive spice I ever purchase and treat it as the precious commodity that it is!  After all it takes about 75,000 flowers to yield just 1 pound of dry saffron threads.  

While I knew that it was used in Ayurvedic medicine I was unaware of it's other healing properties.  But over the past few years I've been seeing headlines like these:

Ancient Saffron: Magical Healing Powers Confirmed by Science

by Sayer Ji


by Cat Carson on Livestrong's Blog

9 Benefits Of Saffron!Kesar Flower

in Ayurvedic Medicine

Dr. Oz Identifies Saffron As a Weight Loss Cure! 

Well those caught my attention and this is what I found . . .

  • It seems that Ayurvedic practitioners have been using saffron to balance the body by increasing it's fire, and it used to  balance all three doshas - Kapha, Vatta and Pitta!  This is quite unusual since each dosha is very specific.
  • It's also used to:   
    • Reduce dark pigmentation on the skin, especially under the eyes
    • Combat digestive issues like indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea and an acid stomach
    • Support the central nervous system
    • Treat rheumatoid arthritis
    • Prevent cardiac problems
    • Increase sperm counts and raise motility
    • Treat ED
    • Lessen menstrual cramps and labor pains because it's an antispasmodic
    • Boost the immune system and energy levels
    • Treat headaches and fevers when combined with sandlewood
  • It's often prepared as a paste and used as a pack or combined with sandlewood or rose water, spread on topically or made into a tea.

While Ayurvedic and other traditional healers have been using saffron and the petals of the crocus flower for centuries, now there is a great deal of scientific evidence that this flower really does have the power to treat and improve more than 25 different conditions!  In some cases as well as a pharmaceutical drug and in other cases even BETTER than its counterpart.  Here are just 2 examples . . .

  • In 2 separate randomized double-blind trial studies, participants who took 15 mg of saffron twice a day as a treatment for mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease found that saffron was as effective as donepezil (Aricept) without the side effects of nausea and vomiting.
  • While the brilliant yellow stamens are the focus of most of the studies, it seems that the petals also demonstrate a great deal of flower power!  In fact, these petals are so powerful that 15 mg of crocus sativus petals were as effective as 10 mg of Prozac in treating mild to moderate depression, and put 25% of the trial study participants into full remission!  

Additional trial studies with confirmed positive results include . . .

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Low Sperm Counts
  • Cardiac Hypertrophy
  • Chemotherapy-Induced Liver Toxicity
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Diabetic Neuropathy
  • Irregular Menstrual Cycles
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Hypertension
  • General Inflammation
  • Liver Cancer
  • Middle Cerebral Artery Occlusion
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Opiate Addiction and Withdrawal
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Psoriasis
  • Respiratory Disease
  • Wound Healing

Even small amounts of saffron used in cooking or making teas offer positive benefits. The key to creating balance in your health through your diet is to consistently use a variety of foods, herbs and spices that offer exceptional nutrition, high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories while reducing foods that promote inflammation as well as potential allergic responses.

In my cookbook OMG! That's Allergy Free? I offer recipes that feature saffron like . . .

Brilliantly Yellow Saffron Rice

and this . . .

Kashmiri Style Saffron Salad with Tropical Fruit Chutney, Kashmiri Flavored Almonds, Roasted Pistachios, Curried Cashews and Black Pepper & Honey Yogurt Cheese with Pineapple and Papaya

If you are going Grain-Free, these recipes are also just as delicious using grated cauliflower in place of the rice.

Many other dishes from Bouillabaisse and Paella, to Iberian Beef Stew and Indian Style Curries feature this heady spice that can do so much for your mind, body and spirit.

Remember, while saffron may be a bit expensive, just 2 or 3 threads are enough to flavor an entire recipe!  So give some a try and you may be as impressed with this beautiful spice from one of my favorite flowers of winter!  


Dr. P

P.S. - In higher end markets saffron can be found in beautiful tiny jars that are suitable to tuck into your Mother's Day gift basket!

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