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History of Saffron

Saffron is a spice obtained from stigmas of the flower Crocus Sativus Linnaeus, commonly called Rose of Saffron. It belongs to the Iradeceae family and is exemplified for having purple flower with yellow stamens and red stigmas. Use of saffron and human cultivation spans over 3500 years and spans civilizations, cultures and continents. With its slight metallic notes, bitter taste and hay-like fragrance, Saffron has been used as a medicine, seasoning, dye and fragrance. Sativus is a mutant form of C. cartwrightianus, then it might have emerged in late Bronze Age Crete.

As per Greek tradition, striking mortal Crocos fell in love with Smilax, a beautiful nymph. Unfortunately, his favors were refused by Smilax and was turned into a beautiful purple crocus flower. The term saffron derives from Arab word zafaran, which means yellow and was mentioned as far back as 1500 B.C. in various classical writings and in Bible. It has been cultivated for plenty of years to be used in perfumes, medicines, wonderful flavoring for beverages and foods and dyes. Its red gold threads were highly prized by kings and pharoahs as aphrodisiac; however, large amounts produce deathly narcotic effects. Medicinally, this expensive spice has been used for reducing cramps, enlarged livers and fevers and for calming nerves. Externally, it has been used for rheumatism, neuralgia and bruises.

In spite of such attempts at standardization and quality control, an extensive history of saffron adulteration especially amongst cheapest grades continues into modern times. Adulteration was originally documented in Middle Ages of Europe, when those found marketing adulterated saffron were executed under Safranschou code. Unique methods include mixing in extraneous substances such as pomegranate fibers, beets, saffron crocus's odorless and tasteless yellow stamens or red-dyed silk fibers. Adulteration can also consist of marketing mislabeled mixes of several saffron grades. Therefore, in India, high-grade Mogra Saffron is often mixed and sold with cheaper Iranian imports.

Saffron has a long medicinal history as a part of traditional healing; numerous modern research studies have hinted that Saffron has possible cancer suppressing (anticarcinogenic), mutation preventing (anti-mutagenic), antioxidant-like and immunomodulating properties. Saffron petals and stigmas might be helpful for depression. Early studies show that it might protect the eyes from direct effects of bright light and retinal stress apart from slowing down retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. For its perfect preservation, this precious spice is stored in big wooden trunks lined with metal plate inside protecting it from heat, cold and specially moisture.