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Health benefits of Saffron 1.) Saffron contains several plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have been anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties. 2.) Their flower pistils compose several essential volatile oils, but the most important of them all is safranal which gives saffron its pleasant flavor. 3.) This colorful spice has many non-volatile active components; the most important of them is a-crocin, a carotenoid compound, which gives pistils their characteristic golden-yellow color. 4.) These are important antioxidants that help protect the human body from oxidant-induced stress, cancers, infections and acts as immune modulators. 5.) The active components in saffron have many therapeutic applications in many traditional medicines as antiseptic, antidepressant, anti-oxidant, digestive, anti-convulsant. 6.) This novel spice is a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. 7.) Additionally including vitamin A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin-C that is essential for optimum health. Medicinal uses 1.) The active components present in saffron have many therapeutic applications in many traditional medicines since long time as anti-spasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic. 2.) Research studies have shown that, safranal, a volatile oil found in the spice, has antioxidant, cytotoxic effect on cancer cells, anticonvulsant and antidepressant properties. Selection and storage Fresh saffron is available in the special spice markets. Try to buy dried whole stigma (pistils) instead of powdered saffron since oftentimes it may be adulterated. Choose well-sealed container from the authentic selling company label displaying date of package and expiry. Fresh spice should feature bright crimson-red color, and when rubbed between fingers, should release a very pleasant aroma and stain golden-yellow. Look for long stamens, each measuring 2 to 4 cm in length. Avoid inferior quality product featuring grey color streaks or light spots on the stigma. This spice has a characteristic pungent bitter-honey taste with pleasant aroma. Culinary Uses 1.) Saffron stigmas have been used as a flavoring base and coloring base in both food and drinks in Mediterranean, and Asian cuisines. 2.) Popularly known as "kesar" in Indian subcontinent, it has been in use in the preparation rice-pulov, rice-pudding, "halwa" and other sweet dishes in many Indian, Pakistani, and Cental Asian countries. It is also used as a color and flavoring base in the preparation of kulfi, ice-creams, cakes and drinks. Safety profile High doses of saffron can act as uterine stimulant and in severe cases can cause miscarriage. Therefore, pregnant women may be advised to avoid this spice in the diet.