Saffron – Crocus sativus

Saffron from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants 1887
Saffron from Koehler’s Medicinal-Plants 1887

The saffron of virtue and contentment
Is dissolved in the water-gun of love and affection.
Pink and red clouds of emotion are flying about,
Limitless colours raining down.

 By Mirabai, (1498-1546)

This crocus’s origin is obscure, but some believe it originated in Asia Minor. The history of cultivation dates back 3000 years; with the first documentation in the 7th century BC, in an Assyrian botanical. It is believed that cultivation of and hybridizing of the wild crocus Crocus cartwrightianus resulted in the sterile flowering plant we now know. Saffron is even mentioned in the Bible.


In herbal medicine it has been used to treat coughs, whooping cough, stomach gas, colic, and insomnia. In salve form it has been used to treat gout.


The flower styles are commonly used as a flavoring and yellow coloring for various foods such as bread, soups, sauces, rice and puddings. They are an essential ingredient of many traditional dishes such as paella, bouillabaisse, risotto milanese and various other Italian dishes.


The yellow dye obtained from the stigmas has been used for many centuries to color cloth. It is the favored coloring for the cloth of Indian swamis. A blue or green dye is extracted from the petals.

The above pic is from Koehler’s Medicinal-Plants 1887 [Image in Public Domain]

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