Saffron Secrets…

Sandy asked if I had heard Dr. Oz’s presentation about using a saffron extract capsule as a supplement asserting that it is useful in controlling weight by improving mood and decreasing “emotional” eating patterns.  His video is online so I watched it and observed that he showed two young women as his test subjects over two day’s time, asking for their subjective experience using the product and weighing each woman before/after the experience.  Each felt there had been a positive impact in diminishing their habit of eating for comfort or in response to feelings and that they showed a 3-5lb. weight loss over the two days’ time.

It’s an interesting question and I have very little knowledge about saffron or its bio-active chemical make-up so won’t be “weighing in” with my own opinion of does it work or not!  (Pun intended!)  But it did prompt me to explore Saffron – the world’s most expensive spice – which was interesting.  Let me pass along a few things I found in the process.

ORIGINS

One of spring’s early flowering plants is the Crocus – a low to the ground, often violet to purple flower.  There is a variety that blooms in the fall thriving in the hot dry region of Iran, Kashmir, Sardinia and Greece.  Looking at the photo, you’ll notice the orange colored “stigma” that are the source of saffron, once they are hand harvested and dried.    Is it any wonder this is the most expensive of spices?  The following quote from Penzy’s gives us an idea of cost and value – they sell 1 gram for $30!

Saffron contains 450-500 saffron stigmas to the gram. The stigma are also called threads, strings, pieces or strands. 1 gram equals 2 tsp. whole, 1 teaspoon crumbled or ½ teaspoon powdered.

SAFFRON AND ESSENTIAL OILS?

I found no references of an essential oil from the Crocus, nor references to medicinal uses of saffron in my reference books. One of my mentors commented that she recalls a saffron based oil from many years ago that was priced so high as to be prohibitive.  Causes me to question what’s really in the supplements being offered in high volume at relatively low cost.  How much saffron or the active components (safranal or crocin) could it contain?

HOW DOES SAFFRON EXTRACT WORK?

As I reviewed web resources about saffron and the extract, I noticed that many of the proponents of using the extract as an appetite suppressant are also selling the product.  I went looking for more neutral sources and did find those who suggest that the chemicals in the extract change the serotonin levels (neurotransmitters) which research has shown does alter mood.  Altering mood for people who are likely to comfort or binge eat when upset, anxious or bored probably does impact how much snacking they actually do to feel better.  There are warnings about how much of this extract is safe for people to use and warnings about significant side affects when doses are high.

Traditional Paella, show-case for Saffron

I wonder how it would be to cook nourishing life giving food seasoned well with whole saffron – to enjoy the experience of flavors, that please the palette instead of junk food.  That surely would impact someone’s well-being, mood, and make binging on twinkles un-necessary as well!  I think my vote goes to whole foods this time!