More expensive per gram than gold, Saffron is an extremely valuable spice both in terms of cost but also in terms of its medicinal properties. The expense of saffron is owing to the incredibly labour intensive process of collection of this highly prized spice as it is actually the colourful stigma of the crocus flower which is then dried for use in cooking as fine red strands.
Medicinally, saffron has been most well researched for its application as a natural antidepressant. Clinical studies have evaluated its efficacy for mild to moderate depression and it was shown to be more effective than placebo and at least equivalent to therapeutic dosages of antidepressant medications[i]. Moreover, in Major Depressive Disorders, a review study showed saffron to significantly reduce depressive symptoms compared with placebo and also showed it to have a similar efficacy to antidepressants in reducing symptoms[ii]. In addition to its uses around depression, it has also been used over the centuries in traditional Chinese medicine for its uses as an aphrodisiac, an expectorant and also an antispasmodic[iii].
Saffron is widely available for use both in foods, more traditionally used in Mediterranean cooking but also many companies are including it in supplements with Viridian Nutrition being at the forefront of pioneering the use of this beautiful spice.
[i] Siddiqui MJ, Saleh MSM, Basharuddin SNBB, et al. Saffron (Crocus sativus L.): As an Antidepressant. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2018;10(4):173-180. doi:10.4103/JPBS.JPBS_83_18
[ii] Hausenblas HA, Saha D, Dubyak PJ, Anton SD. Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and major depressive disorder: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. J Integr Med. 2013;11(6):377-383. doi:10.3736/jintegrmed2013056
[iii] Wang Y, Han T, Zhu Y, Zheng CJ, Ming QL, Rahman K, Qin LP. Antidepressant properties of bioactive fractions from the extract of Crocus sativus L. J Nat Med. 2010 Jan;64(1):24-30. doi: 10.1007/s11418-009-0360-6. Epub 2009 Sep 29. PMID: 19787421.