Used In Ayurveda To Promote Health & Fight Disease, Saffron Can Do So Much More Than Just Flavour Your Rice!


Found in ancient royal kingdoms from Egypt, Greece, India and China, saffron's title as the worlds most expensive spice is no joke, with a single ounce costing upwards of $500.

The history of this decadent spice dates back to antiquity across continents and cultures. Egyptian healers used saffron to treat a variety of ailments, and the wealthy used it in cosmetics. 

Cleopatra took saffron-infused baths and the ancient Greeks and Romans scattered it in royal halls and courts for its perfume. When emperors entered Rome they spread saffron along the streets.

Prehistoric paints used in cave art found in 50,000 year-old caves in Mesopotamia were found to have saffron-based pigments. The Sumerians also used saffron in their remedies and magic potions.

So, what's all the fuss about? Why does saffron have such a royal reputation for healing and such luxury price tag?  There are a few very good reasons why..


It's extremely, labour-intensive harvest, low yield and powerful skin and health benefits make saffron a valuable commodity. The delicate saffron flower must be harvested by hand, and a whopping 50,000 - 75,000 flowers are required to make just 1 lb of dried saffron! 
The saffron flower (botanical name crocus stavitus) has three tiny, threadlike stigmas in the centre. This is the important, female part of the flower that holds all the power. Chemical analysis has shown the presence of more than 150 components in saffrons tiny stigmas. 

Woman harvesting saffron by hand in Kashmir, Pampore (Saffron Town)

Ayurvedic Medicine


Saffron packs a powerful punch when it comes to our health and skin. It is a rich source of magnesium, potassium, carotenoids, and vitamins A, B & C. Along with flavonoid compounds like kaempferol and quercetin, this makes saffron a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer ingredient. 

Saffron is recognised as an adaptogen in Ayurvedic medicine, being used for millennia to promote health and fight disease. Findings from clinical trials conducted to date revealed that saffron significantly reduced depression symptoms in adults. Although long-term follow-ups are needed regarding saffrons efficacy and safety for treating major depressive disorder (MDD) 


Saffron is a much-studied plant extract, with over 16,000 clinical studies carried out on its chemopreventive activities alone.

Studies published in The Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism found that two of the carotenoids in saffron - crocin and crocetin have selective toxicity against cancer cells. Crocin, which gives saffron its wonderful colour, is the anti-cancer agent, while crocetin inhibits the growth of cancer cells.

AndreaS. Blevins Prime, PhD, MBA writes in the Cancer Therapy Advisor "Epidemiologic data suggest that a diet high in fruits and veg, and therefore, theoretically, phytochemicals can reduce the risk of cancer. 

Carotenoids and flavonoids are phytonutrients (plant chemicals) found in the cells of a variety of plants, fruit and algae. They serve two roles in plants; they absorb light energy for use in photosynthesis, and they protect chlorophyll from photodamage. 

Studies have shown that in the human body they can act the same way, thus working as an anti-solar agent protecting the skin from UV radiation. Now, I don't advise replacing your SPF with saffron.. But, I defiantly think that adding it to your skincare regime is a good idea!

Ways Saffron Can Help Your Skin

Ayurvedic practices have taken full advantage of the role that phytonutrients play in skin health since the dawn of time. Indian women have mixed saffron with other natural ingredients like milk, honey, sandalwood and rose water to beautify their skin for millennia. 


Studies have shown that saffron extract, when used topically in cream has moisturising benefits for the skin. Magnesium is an essential mineral for skin health and plays a role in the skins barrier function, which protects the skin from moisture loss. Another mineral found in saffron, potassium keeps skin moisturized and hydrated from the inside by regulating the amount of water in the body's cells.


Saffron is a great addition to all skin types of beauty regime, especially those with acne-prone skin.  Antibacterial properties can help purify acne breakouts and its skin-lightening abilities can fade old acne scars. Magnesium has long since been linked to stress levels and can reduce acne by lowering cortisol levels and stabilizing hormonal imbalances.


Dr Josh Axe says "Carotenoids, along with active vitamin A help to prevent premature skin damage and skin cancer. Diets high in carotenoids are beneficial for preventing UV light damage, which can lead to melanoma, wrinkles, drying, scaling, aged-looking skin and follicular thickening of the skin"

We've already established how helpful phytonutrients are in protecting the skin from exposure to sunlight, the number one skin ager. But, they also exhibit antioxidant effects that protect and prevent free radical damage (the other number one skin ager!) Minerals magnesium and potassium are essential in the fight against ageing skin too, as a deficiency in both of these minerals can lead to loss of skin elasticity.


Saffron has natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that aid sensitive skin types prone to eczema related rashes and skin irritations. Combine saffron with honey or oats to help soothe and moisturise dry, cracked skin.


Saffron has been evaluated for its use in sunscreen product due to its ability to work as an anti-solar agent. It can also lighten the skin by reducing the pigment within skin cells called melanin. It helps to even out skin tone by reducing dark pigmentation marks, acne scars or any other skin blemish.

More Ayurvedic skincare tips coming soon, I don't know about you but I love learning ancient beauty secrets that Cleopatra once used on her skin! It's just so interesting to me. Thanks for reading, this turned out to be a way longer post than I anticipated... before I fell down the saffron rabbit hole!!