Saffron is a prized spice with a rich history. It's a star ingredient in many cuisines in the Middle East, India, and Europe today, lending its dark red coloring and sweet, earthy flavor to dishes.
While saffron’s exact origin is uncertain, its medicinal use is well-documented throughout history. Cleopatra bathed in saffron-soaked water for its supposed beauty and aphrodisiac qualities, and Greco-Roman physicians prescribed it to treat a range of ailments like:
Saffron tea is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and can provide some significant health benefits.
Because it’s harvested by hand, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Suppliers sometimes mix saffron with other ingredients or use low-quality sources in order to cut costs. When buying saffron, make sure to go with a reputable brand to get the best nutritional content from your tea.
One tablespoon of saffron contains:
- Calories: 12
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 3 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
Saffron is a good source of:
Saffron is also a great source of copper. This mineral helps support your body’s nervous system, aids in the production of red blood cells, and acts as an antioxidant to prevent cell damage that can lead to chronic diseases.
Potential Health Benefits of Saffron Tea
Saffron tea is rich in nutrients that scientists continue to study for their potential health benefits. For example, it contains crocin and crocetin, antioxidants that may help improve memory function. Researchers believe these antioxidants may have the potential to treat diseases that affect the brain, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Studies point to several other health benefits that may come with your cup of saffron tea:
Clinical studies have found that saffron tea may treat depression symptoms as effectively as antidepressants. It's thought to increase the brain’s serotonin levels. Researchers are studying this effect to determine its potential as a substitute for medication used to treat depressive disorders.
Saffron tea may help reduce the risk of heart disease by strengthening the circulatory system. Its antioxidants have been shown to lower both cholesterol and blood pressure, which can reduce your risk of developing heart problems. It’s also a good source of minerals important to heart health like magnesium and potassium.
Reduces Menstrual Pain
Menstrual pain and discomfort in women are associated with changing levels of hormones, including serotonin. Because saffron tea may raise serotonin levels, it has been studied for its ability to ease period-related symptoms.
One study found that women taking saffron during their menstrual cycle experienced 50% fewer instances of cramps, bloating, irritability, and fatigue than those who did not.
Crocin and crocetin are antioxidants called carotenoids, plant pigments that give saffron its rich red color. Studies have shown that they may have anticancer and antitumor effects in the body, but more research is needed to study this effect in humans.
However, saffron tea also contains many other antioxidants that are known to protect your body from cell damage. This damage is caused by factors like aging, the environment, and lifestyle, and is linked with many chronic illnesses including cancer.
Immune System Support
Saffron is one of the richest sources of riboflavin, a B vitamin that helps you maintain a healthy immune sy stem. It fights inflammation in the body that can lead to chronic diseases like cancer, and some research suggests it may protect the brain from cognitive diseases and migraines.
Saffron tea also contains safranal, an antioxidant that may increase antibacterial and antiviral activity in your body. Safranal has also been found to improve sleep quality, which promotes good immune system function and better overall health.
Potential Risks of Saffron Tea
Saffron is considered safe for most people, and it’s a staple ingredient in many cuisines. Consuming saffron tea in very large quantities can be toxic, however.
Talk to your doctor before adding saffron tea to your diet, and consider the following potential health risks:
People with an allergy to olives may also have a saffron allergy.
Some research has shown that saffron can stimulate uterine contractions and should be avoided by pregnant women.
Saffron consumption may affect your heartbeat. While research is inconclusive, it may worsen symptoms in people with heart conditions.
Low Blood Pressure
Because saffron can lower your blood pressure, it’s wise to avoid saffron tea if you already have low blood pressure.
Avoid saffron tea if you are taking medication for high blood pressure, as it might cause your blood pressure to drop too low. Saffron may also trigger a manic state in people who take medication for bipolar disorder.