The Power of Saffron Oil & Why You Should Be Using It
Everybody knows what superfoods are—avocados, spinach, kale, salmon, blueberries, and other foods have all been given this exclusive label.
A superfood is something you can eat that is supposed to be significantly beneficial to your health and well-being. With all the different superfoods out there, it can be surprising that any of us have any health issues to begin with.
Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that. There are other things besides just foods that could be considered “super” as well, and adding those to your daily diet or health routines could bring even more benefits that are sure to keep you healthy and energetic on a daily basis.
What Is Saffron Oil?
Saffron is a powerful and highly valuable spice that is derived from the flower of the Crocus sativus. Saffron has many different names across different languages: Kesar in Hindi, Zaeafran in Arabic, Jafran in Bengali, Kumkumappu in Tamil, and Kumkuma pubba in Telugu.
The spice is commonly considered to have originated in the areas around Persia, and it then traveled to Eurasia, and then to North America, North Africa, and Oceania.
Generally speaking, it thrives in areas like the Mediterranean maquis, which are semi-arid lands that have hot and cold summer winds blown over them.
There are actually many different types of saffron which can be found growing in different regions.
The best and most popular type of saffron is called Padmagadhi, Mongra, or Lacha saffron, and it is grown in Kashmir. Other varieties include Parasika kumkuma, Madhugandhi, Bahilka, sargol, aquila, and crème.
The flower of the saffron plant, Crocus sativus, is purple and smells somewhat like honey, and the stem of the flower can grow up to around 20 or 30 centimeters long. The flowers tend to bloom most frequently between October and February.
The cultivation of the saffron plant has been happening for over 3,000 years, which is a very long time, but which is also expected of such a natural resource.
Traditionally, the spice was used to treat almost 100 different disorders as it was traded across continents. Across ancient history, saffron has been used by the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians alike.
Cleopatra even used it in her bath for cosmetic benefits, while Egyptians used it to treat gastrointestinal disorders and the Romans used it to deodorize. When something has been used so consistently over such a long period of time, it’s hard to deny how valuable it must be.
Saffron oil is made by infusing the spice in a carrier oil, which retains all of the many benefits of the spice but puts it into a much more usable form.
Regardless of whether it is in oil or spice form, however, it still has the same benefits; all that changes is the way you use it and the ease of application compared to ingestion.
By using saffron oil instead of the spice, you also get the added benefit of being able to apply it to your hair. Saffron may also be used in other forms, such as by combining and infusing it with water or milk.
Overall, it is a very versatile substance that deserves much more attention than it seems to be currently receiving by the widespread media.
A lot of the benefits of saffron, whether it be in oil, spice, or some other infused form, come from the many nutrients that the substance consists of.
If you take 100 grams of saffron in its original spice form, you would be holding a substance that contains 310 kilocalories, 65.37 grams of carbs, 0 micrograms of cholesterol, 5.85 grams of fat, and 11.43 grams of protein.
When it comes to minerals, the same 100 grams of saffron spice contains 111 micrograms of calcium, 0.328 micrograms of copper, 11.10 micrograms of iron, 264 micrograms of magnesium, and 28 micrograms of manganese.
The same amount would also contain several vitamins, including folates, Niacin, Pyridoxine, Riboflavin, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
When you look at all of the insanely beneficial nutrients that saffron consists of, it is easy to understand how valuable the substance is as a whole.
Benefits of Saffron Oil
Regardless of its form, saffron provides both medicinal and cosmetic benefits. Generally speaking, the spice or oil can prevent serious diseases and disorders, improve respiratory health, improve digestive health, and help alleviate pain.
Saffron also has very specific purposes and benefits that have been proven by countless scientific studies over the past several years.
In many studies, saffron was shown to improve the conditions of rats with cancet possibly as a result of the high concentration of antioxidant carotenoids. The crocin present in saffron might also help prevent other conditions such as breast cancer and leukemia; however, more research needs to be done in this area.
Here are some of the major benefits of saffron and saffron oil according to research :
Saffron and saffron oil may have a role to play in better cardiovascular health. Recent research has found that saffron can have a positive impact on heart health. Several studies have demonstrated that saffron contains constituents that can help treat atherosclerosis which is characterized by a narrowing of the arteries.
Saffron oil is packed with antioxidant carotenoids which also have anti-inflammatory actions. One of these carotenoids is a substance called crocin. Research has demonstrated that it can help improve the flow oxygen around the body while it may also help reduce cholesterol levels. (1)
One recent study also found he consumption of saffron had a significantly positive impact on the heart health of people with metabolic syndrome. (2)
By reducing cholesterol levels and the incidence of atherosclerosis, the consumption of saffron may significantly reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack.
A number of studies have demonstrated that saffron has the potential to prevent and treat cancer. Research is at an early stage but the signs are good. According to the studies done so far, saffron and its major constituent – crocin may have an important role to play in the battle against various forms of cancer.
Over the past few years, studies have demonstrated that saffron had a significant protective effect against many types of cancer including breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer. (3) However, the bulk of the research so far has either been done on animals or in vitro.
One interesting recent clinical study was however published in 2015. The researchers looked at the effects of saffron on thirteen patients suffering from liver cancer while they were undergoing chemotherapy treatment. The patients were divided into two groups and either treated with saffron or given a placebo.
Although several of the participants did not complete the trial, the researchers were impressed by the results. Two of the participants from the group treated with saffron responded completely to treatment.
This prompted the researchers to conclude that saffron could be a valuable treatment for people with liver cancer and potentially other types of the disease. However, they also pointed out that larger scale trials were necessary. (4)
Anxiety and Depression
According to research, saffron may help people manage certain emotional issues including anxiety and depression. These common conditions can have a devastating effect on a person’s life but unfortunately prescription medications do not always have the desired effect. They also bring a risk of dependency and a range of adverse side effects.
Saffron has traditionally been used in parts of Asia to help manage anxiety and treat depression and research suggest that these traditional uses are valid.
A study published in 2004 investigated the effectiveness of saffron on 30 patients with depression. The researchers compared the effects of the spice with imipramine – a prescription antidepressant medication. Half of the patients were treated with milligrams of saffron each day with the other half treated with imipramine. By the end of the six-week study, the researchers concluded that saffron was equally as effective as the prescription drug. (5)
A more recent study published in 2016 found that saffron has a positive effect on anxiety as well as depression. In this study, 60 patients were either given a placebo or treated with 50 milligrams of saffron each day for 3 months. By the end of the study, the saffron group showed significant improvements in both anxiety and depression compared to the placebo group. (6)
PMS affects at least 40% of all women of reproductive age with women suffering a range of symptoms including fatigue, weight gain, acne, pain and mood swings. A study published in 2009 found that saffron had a positive effect on women who suffered from premenstrual syndrome.
According to the study, women treated with saffron experienced a significant reduction in their symptoms while their depression ratings also improved compared to the group given a placebo. (7)
Saffron has long been associated with male libido and traditionally viewed as an aphrodisiac. One study published in 2009 suggests there may be good reason for these traditional uses.
The researchers looked at the effects of saffron on 20 men with erectile dysfunction. After ten days, the men treated with saffron showed significant improvements with regard to penile rigidity, duration of erections and frequency of erections. (8)
Several studies suggest that consuming saffron could help people to control their weight or shed a few pounds. According to the research, saffron can make people feel more full and less likely to snack throughout the day.
One Malaysian study published in 2013 evaluated the effects of saffron on overweight women. Those who took saffron supplements twice a day for 60 days snacked less between meals and lost more wright than those who were given a placebo. (9)
With that said, this was only one study, so more research needs to be done. The researchers noted that the weight loss and decrease in snacking frequency are probably be caused by saffron’s ability to ease and alleviate stress and anxiety, which are often causes of over-eating and weight gain.
Saffron oil also provides many benefits for the skin, including lightening dark spots, giving your skin a healthy glow, reducing the appearance of acne or other blemishes, improving the texture of your skin, moisturizing your skin, and reducing the appearance of any scars that might be present.
Saffron oil or a saffron-infused milk concoction can also help prevent and fight hair loss and help mend damaged hair.
Furthermore, there have been other studies that have shown that saffron can help to improve vision, treat insomnia, promote better brain health, and even cure asthma.
Other medicinal purposes include promoting better digestive health, healing wounds, increasing energy and treating insect bites and inflammation.
Who Should Use Saffron Oil?
The best way to know if you should use saffron, whether it be in spice or oil form, is by speaking with your doctor. In most cases, you shouldn’t ingest saffron if you are pregnant or have problems with your liver, kidneys, or bone marrow.
There have been some studies that have shown saffron may be able to help pregnant women in certain ways, including helping to prevent the need for a cesarean section, but you should speak with your doctor before trying this, as other studies have shown that saffron has been used to terminate pregnancies.
Overall, you might benefit from using saffron, whether the spice or oil form, if you have wounds that need to be treated, you need a mental health boost, or you would like glowing and toned skin.
If you suffer from hair loss, you might also benefit from using saffron oil as a hair treatment. Regardless, you should always speak with your doctor or dermatologist before using saffron in your daily routine, to make sure that it won’t have any adverse effects.
What are the Side Effects of Saffron?
- Be careful if you plan on ingesting anything made with saffron oil, such as a saffron extract supplement. If too much of the oil is ingested, it could be toxic.
- More than 5 grams is toxic, and more than 20 grams is fatal, as according to official drug research studies. Ingesting too much saffron oil can also cause other side effects such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, numbness, yellowing of the skin and eyes, and even spontaneous bleeding.
- You should speak with your doctor if you have been using saffron extract supplements or ingesting saffron oil in some other way to make sure that you are staying safe and healthy.
The Bottom Line
Overall, saffron, whether in its spice or oil form, is very beneficial and has many medicinal benefits that are hard to deny. While many oils have primarily cosmetic benefits, saffron’s benefits and purposes focus more on health and treatments for different conditions and disorders.
Studies are still being done that show more and more benefits of oils and substances like saffron. Of course, you should still speak with your doctor if you plan on using saffron in your skincare routine or for treating any condition you may have.
As long as you are safe in your usage, saffron is a very beneficial substance that is completely natural, which is much better than using a chemical treatment or skincare product.
When you look at the extensive history of people using saffron for many of the same purposes that we use it for today, it is easy to understand why it is so beneficial.
Whether you choose saffron in its oil or spice form, you will definitely want to consider adding this natural substance to your health or skincare routine.