The Relation Between Saffron and Medicine
The use of Saffron goes back to ancient Mediterranean civilizations (Greece, Egypt, and Rome), as well as many areas of the Middle East like Iran, and the Far East. From the beginning of the genesis of this spice, people discovered its healing properties. Saffron Express team is proud to invite you to read a brief history of the medicinal use of Crocus sativus in ancient empires.
Saffron’s main and common use is to give color, flavor, and aroma to food, and to a lesser extent, it is reported to be used as a dye and ingredient of perfumes. The use of Crocus sativus as a food additive is so widespread in the world that almost every national cuisine comprises a dish strongly characterized by Saffron.
As a medicinal plant, Saffron is still used in traditional medicine in several countries. It has traditionally been considered as an anodyne, antidepressant, respiratory decongestant, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, and sedative. It was used in folk medicine as a remedy against Scarlet fever, Smallpox, Colds, Asthma, eye and heart disease, and cancer. Saffron can also be used topically to help clear up sores and to reduce the discomfort of teething infants.
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Among the secondary metabolites present in Saffron the ester derivatives of crocetin, together with safranal, are nowadays the most studied to evaluate their biological activity. Cancer chemoprevention and tumoricidal properties of Saffron extracts are worth special mention, as scientific research in the last 5 years (2001–2006) has focused on this specific topic, with numerous encouraging results supported by in vitro and in vivo assays.
The spread of Saffron cultivation should also undergo mechanization. Achieving total mechanization in Saffron is almost impossible, but suitable tools and existing machinery already available for other crops can certainly reduce manual labor in Saffron and accelerate some operations, thereby reducing production costs. Improvement in research on mechanization of Saffron crop techniques can lead to interesting results, but the more delicate operations are very far from being mechanized and should be done by hand. Hard labor requirements are partially recovered by the high price of the spice, with the drawback of a very small market.
High-quality Saffron production from selected areas with appropriate and safe management techniques cannot compete in the world market with the Saffron from low-cost manual labor-intensive countries but must be addressed towards a potential Niche market of high-level quality. To reach it, more attention should be focused on using modern techniques and the evaluation and promotion of Crocus sativus quality. The process must be accompanied by traceability, quality marking in order to attract more consumer interest, the adoption of organic agriculture management techniques (no pesticide and chemical fertilization), and the reduction in manual labor. In Crocus sativus, the commercial products (stigmas) are not storage structures as in most cultivated plants, so an increase in nutrients in the soil is not directly linked to an increase in stigma weight. Certainly, fertile soil is the basis for good Saffron production, but organic manure represents the best support for Crocus sativus, especially under non-irrigated conditions, supplying nutrients, but above all, improving soil moisture and soil structure. In very nutrient-poor soil, limited chemical fertilizing can be adopted.