saffronDerived from the flower saffron crocus, saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world. The flower is native to Asian and European countries. Saffron is extracted by removing the long, fibrous threads from the flower and drying them. It is often used in cooking to add aroma and flavor.

Saffron was detailed in a 7th-century BC Assyrian botanical reference compiled under Ashurbanipal.  Documentation of saffron’s use over the span of 4,000 years in the treatment of some 90 illnesses has been uncovered. Saffron-based pigments have indeed been found in 50,000 year-old depictions of prehistoric places in northwest Iran. The Sumerians later used wild-growing saffron in their remedies and magical potions. Saffron was an article of long-distance trade before the Minoan palace culture’s 2nd millennium BC peak. Ancient Persians cultivated Persian saffron (Crocus sativus ‘Hausknechtii’) in Derbena, Isfahan, and Khorasan by the 10th century BC. At such sites, saffron threads were woven into textiles, ritually offered to divinities, and used in dyes, perfumes, medicines, and body washes.  Saffron threads would thus be scattered across beds and mixed into hot teas as a curative for bouts of melancholy. Non-Persians also feared the Persians’ usage of saffron as a drugging agent and aphrodisiac. During his Asian campaigns, Alexander the Great used Persian saffron in his infusions, rice, and baths as a curative for battle wounds. Alexander’s troops imitated the practice from the Persians and brought saffron-bathing to Greece.

Almost all saffron grows in a belt bounded by the Mediterranean in the west, and the rugged region encompassing Iran and Kashmir in the east. The other continents, except Antarctica, produce smaller amounts. These flowers only bloom for about one week in a whole year, requiring lots of delicate care and perfect cool, dry climates to blossom. Each flower also yields only 3 stigmas of saffron, which then have to be picked by hand and dried before being packaged and sold. With such intensive growth and harvesting requirements, it’s estimated that out of an acre of purple crocus flowers, only one pound of saffron will result.

Saffron is excellent for dry skin and the complexion, making it perfect for use in hydrating creams, scrubs and facial masks. It can be used in homemade beauty aids directly, or it can be converted and added as saffron milk. Saffron milk can be used to make a facial scrub when mixed with rosewater, dry milk and sandal powder. It is also useful in a facial mask when mixed with clay and rosewater. Whole saffron can be broken down with milk and butter to create a hydrating massage cream, while mixing saffron with sandalwood and milk will create a luxurious dry skin paste.

Saffron helps to keep the skin looking smooth and youthful. It has uses as a cleanser and toner. Saffron is considered one of the best herbs for skin ailments. It effectively repairs dry skin and enhances the skin’s texture. Saffron and rosewater make a powerful, hydrating skin toner. You can also create a cleanser when you mix saffron with warm milk and yogurt. Saffron can be irritating to some skin types.  It is recommended that you perform a patch test to be sure that your skin has no allergic reaction.

Saffron’s aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet.  As a flexible base note, Saffron is a component sure to produce an exotic, well wearing fragrance or natural essential oil blend.