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Uses in Medicine


Saffron gets mention even in the oldest Ayurvedic treatises like Charaka Samhita & Sushruta Samhita (approx. 500 B.C). It is an important ingredient of many medical recipes. Mentioned as Kumkum or Kesar it is also attributed several synonyms like Kashmiran, Bahleeka, Rudhira and Sankocha. Singh and Chunckar (1972) records its mentioned in Ayurvedic texts as below:

Saffron is as important ingredient of large number of Ayurvedic medicines. On account of its strong antipoisonous, aphrodisiac, cardiotonic, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, stimulant, lactogogue, livotonic, nervine tonic, sedative and styptic properties it is highly valued in Ayurveda. It is considered an ideal Tridoshhara and a drug of immense efficacy in disorders of children of unknown actiology. It is used in acne, apoplexy, arthritis, asthma, colic, cough dyspepsia, hemierania, insect bites and stings, liver disorders, mental disorders, neurasthenia, oedema, painful menstruation, phthisis, prolapse of anus, sore throat and splenic disorders. It is attributed with extraordinary properties for improving weak eyesight and highly valued as a complexion builder (Chopra et al., 1956: Kirukar & Basu, 1935).

As per Ayurvedic Nighantus saffron is Snigdha, Laghu in Guna, Tikta in Rasa, Katu in Vipaka, Ushna in Virya and Tridoshhara.

The properties of saffron are mentioned in sanskrit:
Saffron is bitter, greasy and it cures head ailments and heals wounds. It is pungent, stops vomiting and gives brightness to the body as well as cures the three ailments.
Saffron is bitter, pungent and heaty. It stops phlegm and cures gastric problems. It heals wounds, eye and head ailments. It serves as an anti-venom. It also gives brightness to the body.

Some of the Ayurvedic recipes containing Saffron as an important ingredient
(Sharma, 1956; Sastri, 1954; Sastri, 1969; Gupta, 1970; Shastri & Chaturvedi, 1909).

Amritadya taila - (C.S.CI.28/160) Useful in mental disorders

Balataila- (C.S.CI.28/152) Useful in asthma, cough, fever, vomiting, epilepsy and splenic enlargement.

Chandrodaya Agada - (A.H.U.35/25) Used as antidote.

Dwiharidraditailam- (Bhai. Rat. 60/107) Useful in acne.

Khadiraditaila- (A.H.U. 22/84) Useful in mouth diseases.

Kumkumaditaila- (A.H.U. 32/27) Useful in premature grey hair and acne.

Kumkumadi agada - S.S.Ka 8/49) Useful in insect bites.

Kumkum- (S.S.U. 58/31) Useful in obstructed micturition.

Kumkum- (A.H.Su 3/15, 20) Useful in cold.

Kumkum- (A.H.Ci. 1/37) Useful in fever.

Kumkum- (S.S.Ci 4/24) Useful in vatavyadhi.

Kumkum- (S.S.Ka. 7/33) Useful in rat bite.

Kumkum Varti - (S.S.U. 12/13) Useful in conjunctivitis.

Kumkum- (A.II.Ci. 7/18) Useful in alcoholism.

Kumkumadighrital- (Bhai. Rat. 14/282) Useful in cough, asthma, pthisis, pulmonary tuberculosis, haemorrhagic diseases.

Kumkumadighritam- (Bhai. Rat. 60/103) Useful in acne, all types of skin diseases.

Kumkumaditailam- (Bhai. Rat. 60/115) Useful in pimples.

Mutrakrichhanashak Yoga - (C.S.Ci. 26/51) Useful in dysuria, stranguary, painful micturition.

Trimiradinashak Yoga - (A.H.U. 13/23) Useful in pterygium, cataract, skin diseases.

Unani Medicine:

It is considered hot and dry, reported to reduce inflammation and used as stimulant and stomachic. It is considered a good remedy for enlargement of liver and infection of urinary bladder and kidneys. Administered in high doses it makes patient unconscious. It is an ingredient of recipes useful in menstrual disorders. It strengthens the heart and is a refrigerant for the brain. If soaked overnight in water and administered with honey it acts as diuretic. Pounded with ghee it is used in diabetes. Saffron oil is used for external application in uterine sores. Remanent water after extracting oil from it is also used as medicine (Singh. 1949).

Western Medicine:

The use of Saffron in Western countries for medicinal purposes is in record from the sixteenth century. The Ebers Papyrus (Ca. 1550 B.C) has mentioned it as an ingredient in case of kidney problems (Baumann.1960). Dioscorides of Anazarb attributed magical medicinal properties to Saffron if worn as an amulet. Pliny (1st century) ascribed general panacean properties to it when taken internally. In the centuries to follow it was recommended as an addition to meals to give cheering cardiac medicament effect. In regulated doses, it is said to increase appetite and to ease headaches and hangovers. In recent decades, it has been recognised as a valuable remedy for catarrhal infections, useful in otitis, melancholia, enlargement of liver and spleen, as a nerve sedative, carminative, diaphortic and emmenagogue. In regulated doses, it can be used as a safe abortifacient but in higher doses it may be fatal as well. As a drug it is considered astringent, stimulant of metabolism, refrigerant, diuretic, antihusteric, stomachic, antiseptic and spasmodic. Saffron corms have however, very toxic effect when eaten by young animals (Basker & Negbi, 1983).

Saffron has been found to be the richest source of riboflavin (100 y/gm). In studies with albino rats it has been observed that 150 mg. Saffron acts at par with a dose of 40 mg pure synthetic riboflavin. Due to presence of crocetin it indirectly helps to reduce cholesterol level in the blood and severity of atherosclerosis, thus reducing the chances of heart attacks. It may be one of the prime reasons that in Spain, where Saffron is consumed liberally, incidence of cardio-vascular diseases is quite low. The crocetin present in saffron is found to increase the yield of antibiotics (Basker and Negbi, 1983). Two compunds of safranal viz., 3,5,5 trimethyl 2hydroxy-1, 4-cyclohesadion-2-ene and 2,4,4-trimethyl 1 3-formyl-6-hydroxy 2,5cyclohexadion-1ene are supposed to increase antibacterial and antiviral physiological activity in the body (Zarghami & Heinz, 1971). In the United States of America it is sometimes given to young children in exanthematous diseases for promoting eruptions (Bontlay & Trumen, 1880). A detailed compilation by Harwell (1969). based on Urdang’s reports and records of ancient and medieval periods etc., indicates antitumour and anticancerous activities in Saffron.


Saffron is a potent spice. Excessive intake can be harmful. The dosage of saffron varies according to many conditions like climate (whether hot or cold), the health and age of the individual, the manner in which the dosage is taken etc.
Saffron should be taken for medical reasons always under proper medical advice.

Excerpts from a herbal medical cyclopaedia in sanskrit:

Saffron perfume is pungent, cures phlegm and throat ailments and stops vomiting. It stops shooting pain. Saffron gives a healthy glow and brightness to the body.
The saffron of Kashmir has an exquisite lotus-like fragrance and is of a high quality.
The saffron of Punjab has a yellow-white colour and an exquisite fragrance like that of the ketaki flower.
The Persian saffron smells like honey, has a slight yellow-white hue and is considered to be a fatty saffron.
Diseases such as leprosy, head ailments, insectbites are all cured by saffron which also unifies the three body humours.
Bile, phlegm and poisonous bites can all be cured by saffron.

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