During the ancient times, saffron (Crocus sativus L.) had many uses around the world; however, some of these uses were forgotten throughout the history. Saffron is used in an ever-increasing number of applications and industries and it is likely that the full potential of saffron is far from understood. At present, there are four primary applications of saffron worth mentioning here (with more detail provided below ).
Saffron enjoys a coveted and highly valued status in the culinary world. It is widely used as a seasoning in European / Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, North African and Asian cuisines. Saffron is used as an herb and a spice as well as a flavouring ingredient. It is also increasingly used as an alternative to chemical additives, especially in western markets.
Saffron has been used in traditional medicine in Persia, Egypt and Europe for millenniums. In the age of modern medicine, pharmaceutical firms are researching the potential of saffron as a health supplement. A recent United Nations Industrial Development Organization ( UNIDO ) report summarizes the medicinal benefits of saffron as follows:
There is some evidence that saffron may have anti-cancer effects and may help lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Saffron is also sometimes used to help with certain conditions, such as baldness. Its effect on strengthening male fertility is also known. In addition, it has some positive effects on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis disease.
In sum, Saffron is used for depression and Alzheimer disease. Women use saffron for menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Men use it to for early orgasm (premature ejaculation) and infertility.
Saffron is used as a fabric dye, primarily in Asian countries such as India and China. Although not particularly cost-effective or stable ( with colors fluctuating over time ), the popularity of saffron as a dye stems from the status it conveys, a trait that endures to the present day.
The attractive quality of saffron’s complex aroma has also been recognized by the perfumery world, although this is not a significant market segment yet.
Saffron is used for many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support many of these uses. Some people apply saffron directly to the scalp for baldness (alopecia). In foods, saffron is used as a spice, yellow food coloring, and as a flavoring agent. In manufacturing, saffron extracts are used as fragrance in perfumes and as a dye for cloth.