Medical use of saffron through the ages
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Saffron for your stomac, teeth, eyes, inflammations, depressions,…
Saffron has been used in different cultures as a medicinal plant for a long time.
The Mesopotamians and the Greeks used saffron as a stomachic medicine. In cases of gastric haemorrhage the following recipe was prescribed: tallow, saffron, coriander, myrtle and agar wood. (Secrets of Saffron, the vagabond life of the world's most seductive spice, Pat Willard, p34-35)
Homer already spoke of saffron in Iliad, under the name Krocoz, and of its use as a medicine and perfume. As some authors confirm, during the bacchanalia (Roman drinking sessions) saffron was strewn on the ground, because the aroma stirred up the guests.
In Egypt problems with teeth and eyes were resolved with saffron: e.g. saffron powder dissolved in water in the eyes for a cataract. People would eat the entire crocus stativus in order to strengthen their teeth. (Secrets of Saffron, the vagabond life of the world's most seductive spice, Pat Willard, p36)
Dioscorides once said: “Saffron stimulates lasciviousness and in the form of a compress it eases the inflammations which have something of the fire of Saint Anthony” (He was referring to the Herpes zoster, also known as shingles).
The Persians used saffron as an aphrodisiac, mixed it in food in order to lighten the spirit and to chase away melancholy or depression (Secrets of Saffron, the vagabond life of the world's most seductive spice, Pat Willard, p41). The Persians believed that saffron could do away with depression and melancholy. They also believed that saffron had anaesthetising properties. (Secrets of Saffron, the vagabond life of the world's most seductive spice, Pat Willard, p105). The Persians used saffron to combat severe diarrhoea (dysentery) and measles as well.
Alexander the Great used almost a glass of saffron per day. He took a bath of saffron when he was wounded, had painful joints and wounds to heal. (Secrets of Saffron, the vagabond life of the world's most seductive spice, Pat Willard, p54 & 59).
Cleopatra took milk baths with saffron. “Saffron increases pleasure”, according to Cleopatra “and relaxes the loins for more sensitivity”. Cleopatra used almost a full glass of saffron, dissolved in hot water. She bathed in this hot saffron bath for as long as the water remained hot. For Cleopatra it was clear: saffron increases pleasure during sex. (Secrets of Saffron, the vagabond life of the world's most seductive spice, Pat Willard, p55)
Saffron alleviates the pain and does away with measles, smallpox, syphilis and gout
In the Middle Ages saffron was used against “the black death”. A lot of doctors sought their salvation in Arabic textbooks. They purified their houses by sprinkling saffron on the ground or vaporising saffron in oil or water. Countess Elizabeth of Kent firmly believed in it. (Secrets of Saffron, the vagabond life of the world's most seductive spice, Pat Willard, p97). Due to its yellow colour, saffron was also used in Europe by the followers of the old ‘Doctrine of Signatures’ as a cure for jaundice. In the East, saffron was commonly used to combat light or moderate depression; saffron was known for its ability to give pleasure and instil knowledge.
In Medieval England saffron was seen as a medicine. England experienced a lot of plagues in those days. Saffron alleviated the pain and did away with measles, smallpox, syphilis and gout. (Secrets of Saffron, the vagabond life of the world's most seductive spice, Pat Willard, p121). Consumption became more bearable after drinking saffron soup. A recipe of white wine and a lot of saffron was a perfect remedy for spasms and cramps. In England saffron was also known to strengthen the heart, lighten the brain and combat intellectual concerns. In the Middle Ages in England Saffron was often used as Prozac is today: in order to lessen feelings of depression and low spirits. “Once the active substances in saffron reach the heart, laughter and joy entail.” Prescribing saffron as a treatment for depression appeared in all medical reviews and was pretty much common knowledge. (Secrets of Saffron, the vagabond life of the world's most seductive spice, Pat Willard, p121-124)
Saffron is highly appreciated in the East too, mainly in popular medicine in India and Tibet. There saffron is a component of stimulating pills along with nutmeg, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper and musk; a combination which, considering the ingredients, could be seen as an aphrodisiac. These pills are still valued as one of the best gifts from the Tibetan Buddhists. In Tibet, saffron is often an ingredient in medicinal incense. Saffron is considered to be a tonic for the heart and nervous system. In India, Tibet and China saffron was also used as a yellow/orange dye for the clothes of the Hindu and Buddhist monks. The crocin in saffron is water soluble and gives saffron its unique colour. The yellow colour of the cheaper turmeric looks similar but isn’t the same.
In traditional Chinese medicine saffron is used for its anti-inflammatory properties. Saffron is also used as a stomachic medicine and a calming agent to soothe cramps and asthma and for the treatment of bruises.
In Morocco saffron is used to ease the pain of teething (external use: soothing effect on the mucous membrane of the gums). With the aid of a golden ring the children’s gums are rubbed with honey and saffron, a natural antiseptic.
French grandmothers also used saffron tea or milk with saffron to combat menstrual pain amongst young girls. To this day saffron is used in gynaecology and is recommended for painful or irregular periods and to stimulate the uterus. For a long time saffron was used in France as a remedy for all kinds of pain. The well-known DELABARRE syrup is still used to prevent or alleviate the pain of teething.
These days saffron is commonly used by chemists, in particular in preparations for the eyes (eye drops and eyewash).Saffron’s bitter base means the spice is suitable for promoting the workings of the stomach, while the crocetin reduces cholesterol. Saffron cleans and unblocks the liver and as a result can also be used in the treatment of contagious diseases. Saffron is a real gift from Mother Nature. Saffron more than deserves to be called a superfood.
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- Slow Food saffron of the best quality (ISO 1), Jiloca, Spain