FEATURED HERB OF THE MONTH
Saffron (Crocus sativus) is a plant that produces the most expensive gourmet spice known to man. Owe it to its many uses, health benefits, and mostly for its labor-intensive production. The plant was used as a dye since the prehistoric era and later used as a herbal remedy and in making magical potions. The saffron spice comes from the crimson stigma of the flower, sparsely harvested for its culinary value. Each flower only produces about three stigmas. That is why it may take about 150,000 to 200,000 flowers to produce a kilogram of saffron spice.
HOW TO PLANT SAFRON
Unfortunately, the only possible way of propagating saffron is through its corms or bulbs. The plant does not produce fruits and seeds since the flowers are sterile. You can buy saffron bulbs in online stores or lawn and garden products in your area.
Saffron is easy to grow in favorable conditions. But, it may need little attention to get to bloom. The plant needs well-draining soil that is not waterlogged and plenty of access to direct sunlight.
If you intend to plant saffron for its stigma, make sure to plant plenty of bulbs. The flower can produce only three stigmas and only the female ones are good as a spice. Yellow and shorter stamen sprouting from the flowers are male and have no culinary value at all.
PLANT CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Saffron proliferates better in Mediterranean climates and hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8. This perennial herb is easy to grow and maintain. It mostly does well in the following planting conditions:
- Full sun to part shade
- Well-draining soil with medium organic matters
- Soil pH levels between 6 to 8
- Supplemental watering in dry spells
- Regular weeding
WHAT PARTS OF SAFFRON ARE USED FOR REMEDIES
The flower and pistils of saffron are used in various health products. Its aboveground stem is also used for relieving insomnia and improving libido.
Aside from saffron threads, it is also sold as a powder in many supermarkets. It is used mostly for culinary purposes, but is also consumed to lower blood pressure. A paste from ground saffron is topically applied to cure many skin diseases.
Saffron is also available as a capsule or essential oil sold in some specialized herbal stores.
WARNINGS AND CAUTIONS
Saffron, when taken as a medicinal supplement, is likely safe for most people. However, it may still cause potential side effects. An excessive dose may cause diarrhea, vomiting, yellowing of skin and eyes, dry mouth, extreme anxiety, dizziness, nausea, and upset stomach.
Taking saffron can trigger an allergic reaction and cause rashes, hives, itching, and swelling of the throat. If you have an allergy to Lolium, Olea (Olive), and Salsola plants, you are also likely allergic to saffron.
At a dosage of more than 5 grams, saffron can cause toxic poisoning. It is fatal at doses between 12 to 20 grams.
Saffron is not recommended for pregnant women without prior consultation with a physician. In high dosage, it can cause uterine contraction which may lead to miscarriage. You should also check with your doctor before taking saffron if you are breastfeeding. The herb is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, but only in the amount typically found in food.
Do not take saffron if you have bipolar disorder as it can trigger excitable and impulsive behavior.
Stop taking saffron two weeks before a scheduled surgery since it may slow down the central nervous system. It can affect the action of anesthesia and other medications in surgery.
Consult with your doctor before taking saffron or any other herbal supplements.