Saffron, the king of spices, also known as ‘Zafran'(ज़ाफ़रान), ‘Kesar'(केसर), ‘Koung’ or ‘Kumkumapoovu’ finds use in traditional dishes as a spice and has also made it way to be a medical supplement. It is often recommended to be consumed by pregnant women owing to its medicinal benefits. Saffron has therapeutic properties and is consumed to aid digestion and improve appetite of pregnant women. But, like with any other herb, the key to taking saffron is moderation. Many myths and beliefs are also associated with consumption of saffron by pregnant women, and we will present you with the facts in this article.
What Is Saffron?
Saffron is the dried stigma of Crocus Sativus flower, i.e. the thread like part at the center which contains pollen. Only three strands of saffron are obtained from a single flower! Saffron traditionally involves a great deal of human labor thus making it one of the most popular and expensive herb across the globe. In India, this golden herb is produced in the Kashmir valley and has always been in high demand. It is often regarded as the ‘king of spices’ and commands a huge price.
Uses Of Saffron
Saffron has been diversely used from flavoring Biryani, Kheer, sweets to beauty creams and in health supplements. Apart from aiding digestion, saffron is possibly effective for women to get relief from menstrual discomfort and PMS. Saffron is also recommended for cases of male infertility, asthma, erectile dysfunction, cancer baldness etc. though no scientific evidence enlists that saffron is helpful in combating them. However, people who have used saffron claim it’s efficacy and swear by its benefits.
Does Saffron Influence Your Child’s Complexion?
With traditions, come myths and one around saffron advocates its consumption during pregnancy leads to fairer complexion of the baby. Stop! Don’t gobble those precious strands! Are you aware that over consumption of saffron – merely more than 10 gm a day can be fatal for you and your baby? There has been no research that proves having saffron and milk regularly in pregnancy leads to having a fairer baby, though saffron does have other benefits during pregnancy. Moreover, the complexion of the baby is in no way dependent on the intake of saffron by the mother. Excessive intake of saffron in during pregnancy can cause other complications and even miscarriage. A child’s complexion is determined by hereditary factors and the genes, and anything you eat or drink will not have any effect on him or her. Since our country has always been obsessed with being ‘fair’ and having a light complexion, many women consume saffron hoping the child will be fair. The fact is that saffron does have a lot of medicinal benefits for pregnant women and can be consumed in moderate amounts. Though saffron can influence the skin color when used as a beauty agent, and applied on the skin, the same does not hold true for an unborn baby. Take saffron to ease the discomforts caused during pregnancy, but not in the hope that the baby will turn out fair. That is the game of the genes.
Is It Good To Drink Milk With Saffron (Kesar) During Pregnancy?
It is safe to add a little amount of saffron or kesar to milk and drink it during pregnancy- but in moderation. Because saffron is an exotic spice and has many health benefits, many people recommend drinking saffron milk during pregnancy. Milk, again, is a great source of calcium – that you need a lot of – when you are pregnant. Adding a strand or two in your glass of milk can relax your muscles, heal you internally, improve and boost digestion, and soothe you. You can even add saffron to your meals while cooking- especially in kheers,biriyanis and lassis. However, drinking saffron milk to have a fair baby is largely a myth and does not hold true. In large doses, saffron could stimulate the uterus and cause contractions, which may spell trouble during your pregnancy.
Advantages Of Saffron During Pregnancy
Taken in moderation, a few strands a day not exceeding 10 gm in milk or in meals, saffron can be found useful for pregnant women in the following ways:
- Busts mood swings: Hormonal surges during pregnancy can make you cranky and impulsive. Saffron acts as an anti-depressant for those teary, gloomy days by boosting blood flow to brain which produces serotonin, a hormone which will definitely raise your spirit. Next time you feel jittery about your body image, grab a bite of saffron-dashed snack!
- Reducing blood pressure: Just 3 to 4 stands of saffron in milk would help to reduce the blood pressure in pregnant women. Saffron relaxes the muscles and acts as a uterine stimulant
- Aids digestion: Constipation, gas and bloating are very common complaints during the gestation period. Saffron promotes blood flow to the digestive system and increases metabolism. Milk is recommended for high protein and calcium, but may not be easily digested by everyone. Saffron helps in digesting milk too
- Curbs morning sickness: These exquisite strands fight nausea and dizziness – your daily fiends during pregnancy. So ditch your usual English Tea and start sipping the amazingly flavored Saffron Tea!
- Soothing: Our very own Kesar is a natural painkiller and has anti-spasmodic properties. It relaxes muscles and relieves joint/stomach pain. Say bye bye to those pesky cramps!
- Combats anemia: Most women are anemic. Saffron is loaded with iron and essential for formation of red blood cells. Regular intake of saffron in the food will boost hemoglobin in blood
- Keeps heart diseases at bay: With those untimely hunger pangs and food cravings for ultimate junk like cheese burst pizza or double chocolate Belgian ice cream – you cannot ignore the tons of calories and fat going in the tummy! With high antioxidants, potassium and crocetin contents, saffron protects you and your baby’s heart by reducing cholesterol and triglycerides. In short, keeps your arteries free from fat deposits
- Promotes sleep: Those are the nights spent tossing and turning or watching TV to sleep. Try having a warm cup of saffron milk or tea before bed. It works as a mild sedative
- Relieves sore gums: With your body becoming sensitive with pregnancy, brushing can become a daunting task. Grind the saffron strands and massage it on your gums to relieve pain and avoid any more blood with the brush
- Fights allergies: You are more prone to allergies during pregnancy. Saffron infused milk will soothe cough, asthma, allergies and relieve congestion. Applying the paste of sandalwood and saffron is said to bring down fever. Go natural!
- Aids hair growth: Hair fall is another concern during pregnancy. Saffron to the rescue! Apply a paste of liquorice, milk and saffron to the balding spots and see the difference!
- Beats the zits: With hormonal imbalance, pimples and darkened skin is nothing new. Saffron is a blood purifier and will help combat these
- Baby Movement: A pregnant woman can feel her baby move the moment she has a glass of saffron and milk. As the body heat increases with saffron, you can feel your baby move. However, never take large quantities of saffron and note that baby movements can be felt only after months
Apart from these, saffron is a natural antacid. It regulates blood pressure and keeps away kidney and bladder problems. This wonder herb contains nutrients such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, Vitamin A and C as well as folic acid which are essential for you and your baby’s health.
Side Effects Of Saffron During Pregnancy
Even though a lot of health benefits are attributed to saffron, it’s not wise to assume that it will be best for you. Check below:
- Miscarriages: Doctor’s advise against over 10 gm consumption of saffron per day. Saffron increases body’s heat which may lead to abortive conditions. It also triggers movements of the baby which are usually felt after the second trimester. It’s better to consult your obstetrician before consuming saffron. Yes, it’s that serious!
- Allergies: If you experience dry mouth, anxiety, headache and nausea then you may be hypersensitive to saffron. These are simply going to complicate pregnancy
- Vomiting: Forced throwing up of food leads to acid disturbance in stomach and contractions
Serious Side Effects Of Saffron During Pregnancy Which Need Immediate Medical Attention
- Bleeding from nose, lips, eyelids
- Blood in urine/stools
- Feeling of vertigo i.e. loss of balance and dizziness, blackouts
5 Quick Tips for Choosing And Storing Saffron
Being expensive, saffron has often been adulterated when sold loose or without proper packaging. Saffron is a pungent spice and buying, choosing and storing saffron is different than that for other spices. This is so because saffron picked and used differently than other spices. Given below are some tips that will come handy when you are buying and storing saffron:
- Opt for packaged Saffron: Local kiryana shops often sell these precious strands, but because pregnancy is a delicate matter, opt for saffron that comes packed. Always buy saffron that is packaged properly, is from a good manufacturer and carries an ISI mark. It has to be approved by the government and should be of a good brand
- Check the labels: Never forget to read the label and the expiry date
- Look for deep red color: When shopping, opt for saffron that looks deep red and dark. The darker the color, more aromatic the spice
- Fresh saffron: Go for fresh saffron strands and stay away from powders- they are much less pungent and lose their antioxidant properties
- Airtight containers: Always store saffron strands in airtight containers wrapped tightly in aluminium foil to keep the spice fresh for long
What Is The Cost Of Saffron?
Saffron is an exotic spice and needs specific weather conditions to grow. Introduced in India by the Persians, saffron in India is primarily grown in Jammu and Himachal Pradesh. Saffron is obtained from the flower Crocus Sativus and each flower has only 3 saffron strands. Imagine how many flowers it takes to get just a pound of saffron? About 14000 strands! To get 450 grams of dry saffron 50,000–75,000 flowers need to be harvested; a kilogram requires 110,000–170,000 flowers. No wonder the spice is expensive. As per Wikipedia, saffron prices at wholesale and retail rates range from US$500 to US$5,000 per pound, or US$1,100–11,000/kg. A gram of saffron can cost anywhere from Rs. 300 to Rs. 2000. This requires no saying but do use these precious strands carefully.
From Which Month Can I Have Saffron During Pregnancy?
Given the immense benefits saffron has, pregnant women can take it from the second trimester onwards, preferably from the 4th or 5th month. The Indian science of Ayurveda advises the consumption of saffron from the fifth month onwards as that is the time when the mother can feel the baby move. Saffron is believed to aid the baby’s movements as well. Just add a few strands of saffron in a warm glass of milk and feel the difference. You can also add some of these precious strands in cooking, but make sure that you do not exceed 10 gm in a given date. You can add some almonds, pistachios, a little bit of cardamom, some sugar and 4-5 strands of saffron. This milk is nutritious, filling, will aid digestion and uplift your mood. If you do not like milk, you can add a few strands of saffron to other side dishes or prepare rice with it. Consuming a few strands of saffron in water will aid in digestion during pregnancy.
Saffron Flower In Pregnancy
Saffron flower and milk together cannot aid in having a fairer baby, but can certainly aid digestion in pregnant women, which is slow during pregnancy. Pregnant women often suffer from gas and bloating and other problems with digestion. Saffron helps in forming an extra layer so as to soothe the gastrointestinal acidity.
You can use the antibacterial properties of saffron to down a healthy, glowing look. Blend saffron in your facial mask and experience the rejuvenated clear skin. All bodies are unique and you might not be able to tolerate more than 4 gm. Try to get in touch with mothers who had saffron during pregnancy So, say hello to this luxurious spice and bask in its glory but be safe! To derive optimum benefits, make sure you talk about this to your doctor who can advice you better on consumption of saffron.