The quintessential Mediterranean herb, saffron doesn’t just pack a flavor punch; it provides a bolt of anti-aging power, too! Saffron is extracted from the dried stigma of the Crocus sativa flower. It takes 75,000 flowers to make one pound of saffron! Cultivated by hand, saffron is the most expensive herb by weight, but the cost is worth the medicine. For 3000 years, it has been used to improve digestion, ease sore throats and coughs, soothe the symptoms of menstruation, relax muscle spasms, treat depression, and calm anxiety. Recent research suggest that it’s an anti-cancer agent to boot!
An Ancient Cancer Cure
Saffron was used in ancient Arabic, Chinese, and Indian medicine as a treatment for cancer. Experimental models of human cancers suggest that the ancients were on to something pretty powerful. Saffron carotenoids crocin and crocetin have been shown to suppress the spread of cancer cells without harming healthy cells in the process. Crocetin in particular has demonstrated a powerful influence on cancer cells in animal models and cell culture systems. It possesses all four characteristics of an anti-cancer agent:
- It blocks DNA and RNA synthesis, which influences gene expression, growth, and replication.
- It improves your body’s antioxidant status so that you are better able to fend off free radical damage and oxidative stress.
- It encourages cancer cell death (apoptosis).
- It inhibits growth factor signaling pathways, helping to stop cancer cell proliferation in its tracks.
Other studies suggest that the anti-cancer compounds in saffron also ease the side effects of harsh chemotherapy drugs like cisplatin, without getting in the way of the drugs’ therapeutic activities.
Other Anti-Aging Benefits
Saffron contains the vitamins A, B1, B2, and lycopene, known to help prevent age-related vision problems like cataracts and macular degeneration. It’s a stand-out herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which hails saffron as a blood stimulate, thereby keeping cardiovascular illness at bay.
It’s easy to add saffron to your daily diet. Mix it in with any rice dish, stew, seafood, paella…get creative. You can even bake with it. Sweet bread, anyone?