That color and shape. Thin flaming crimson threads that impart a jewel-like marigold hue and honeyed flavor. Saffron is magical. It is also extremely precious and efficacious. In Ayurveda, saffron is revered for its healing properties. And Western medicine lauds the spice for its suggested ability to treat memory issues, stomach disorders, inflammation, and even depression. The spice is also an amazing DIY skincare ingredient for brightening, clearing, and repairing skin.
Yet even with these incredible attributes, saffron is still one of the most (if not the most) elusive spice. Allow us to reveal its nuance and brilliance.
WHAT IT IS
Saffron is actually the tiny stigmas (or stems) from the crocus sativus, a flower in the Iris family. The flowers, which blossom in the fall, are extremely delicate and only produce three stigmas per flower
Saffron’s origin has been a source of question for a long time. Many historical sources point its first cultivation to have happened in Greece thousands upon thousands of years ago. (Greek mythology states that Zeus slept on a bed of saffron.) However, the editors of Saffron, Production and Processing suggest it originated in Iran likely in the Zagross and Alvand Mountains. Today the spice is primarily grown and cultivated in Iran, as well as India, Morocco, and Greece.
The Crocus Sativus bloom in for about six weeks, starting in late September. Because the flowers and stigmas are so delicate, saffron needs to be collected by hand and in the early morning. Cultivators pull the delicate red threads from the purple flowers. They later dry them to be used in cooking, perfumes, dyes, medicinal solutions, or in UMA’s case, beauty elixirs. Approximately 170,000 flowers yields about one pound of saffron, which speaks to why it’s so expensive.
The phytochemical compounds in saffron have shown to have abundant antioxidant properties which boast a myriad of health and wellness benefits. A mineral-rich spice, it is a good source of copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc, and magnesium.
For the skin, saffron is powerful for healing and regenerating. It promotes circulation, aids skin brightening, improves the appearance of scars, lightens hyperpigmentation, and reduces the appearance of under-eye circles and fatigue lines. It’s a multifaceted powerhouse spice that brightens the overall complexion, which is why it’s a star ingredient in UMA’s Ultimate Brightening Face Mask and Absolute Anti Aging Face Mask. The exotic plant also has exfoliating properties that help to keep skin clear, glowing, and smooth.