I love to see the crocuses blooming, a sure sign that winter is finally on its way out. The lovely spring crocus is cousin to the fall-blooming saffron crocus, which gives us the wonderful, subtle spice known as saffron.
Saffron threads are the dark-orange stigmas of the crocus. The saffron crocus produces three stigmas per flower, which are delicately harvested by hand and used for cooking, dyeing, and of course, herbal medicine.
It can take up to 60,000 stigmas to yield just 1 pound of saffron spice! Fortunately, a little goes a long way with this most precious of herbs. A pinch here or there is more than enough to yield medicinal effects.
Saffron is considered one of the most powerful rejuvenative and blood-cleansing herbs in the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia. It revitalizes the blood, harmonizes the metabolism, and stimulates sluggish digestion while aiding the liver and spleen. It promotes the assimilation of food, nutrients, and medicine into the deeper tissues of the body. In a similar vein, a bit of saffron miraculously enhances the tonic action of other herbs, especially when added to adaptogenic milk decoctions.
As a stimulant and aphrodisiac, saffron is well known. In the words of Dr. David Frawley, “It is considered to be the best stimulant and aphrodisiac, vajikarana, primarily for women.” It is also excellent for menstrual difficulties from irregular periods, painful cramping, emotional distress, and menopausal complaints.
Not just a women’s herb, saffron revitalizes the reproductive system in both men and women. It rejuvenates the tissues, increases fertility, and nourishes libido. Its stimulant properties extend to mood as well– there’s nothing better for lifting the spirits, especially in cases of stagnant depression. On a subtle level, saffron aids in love, devotion, and Bhakti yoga.
Just a pinch of saffron in rice dishes, soups, and stews is a classic way to eat and enjoy this flavorful herb. You can also add a pinch to milk decoctions of adaptogens such as ashwagandha and shatavari, to increase their potency.