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Saffron has nearly 150 compounds that make it the delectable spice that it is, but in terms of health benefits it all boils down to four main ingredients that really make saffron a powerful cooking cocktail for keeping a youthful countenance.
There’s a wide body of medical evidence that purports anti-oxidants to be a key player in retaining youthfulness and health. Antioxidants can serve a wide variety of benefits.
To better understand the role of an antioxidant, first we need to know why they help. Unsurprisingly, an anti-oxidant fights oxidation in the body. Oxidation in a living organism produces chemicals called free radicals. To understand free radicals, think of the beginning of a game of billiards when the balls are sitting in a nice triangle on top of the table; this is like the prime of your youth. As you age, imagine someone carefully lining up and… breaking your balls.
These free radicals bounce and carom around your body interfering with the regular operation of your internal ecosystem. Primarily damaging cell membranes and other structures, this is the beginning of a slow cascade reaction that has been scientifically linked to a variety of end game diseases such as heart disease and some types of cancer.
Sounds Horrible right? Luckily, science is beginning to understand the fratricidal relationship of oxidation vs. antioxidants & what role they play in human longevity. Antioxidants simply minimize the impact of microscopic yet exponential free radical accumulation.
When we talk about anti-aging, one often thinks about a lack of wrinkles, youthful exuberant skin, and shiny healthy hair. These are small parts of a much greater system. Anti-aging is also measurable in terms of disease prevention. If you want to look old fast, you could try chemotherapy, but it’s better off to avoid this all together; retaining youth by giving yourself the best chance to avoid damaging and disruptive disease. Protecting your internal systems can also be defined as anti-aging but it’s less apparent on the surface of things. Saffron can go a long way in protecting the quality of your youth, whether your wrinkles are internal or external.
The primary anti-oxidants (thus best weapons in anti-aging) in Saffron are Crocetin, Crocin, Lycopene & Safranol. Crocetin and crocin are similar; both being digested and utilized by the body in different ways. Lycopene has the largest body of anti-oxidant research behind it and is a front runner for effect. Saffranol’s anti-oxidizing effects are less well understood but there are several studies that show it has promise as both an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. These four chemical “elements” of Saffron work in concert to help fight off the assault of free radicals in your body.
In this very recent study, crocin was found to disrupt the oxidation - anti-oxidation balance in the body & provide some benefits in fighting diabetes. It’s highly technical & fresh research; we don’t claim to understand all of the chemistry here. Also of note, the trials have only been done in the lab, but the initial conclusions are promising. “In conclusion, crocin did contribute to the alleviation of some complications of diabetes.” How much did it contribute? Do these benefits translate well into the human body? What is an effective dose? Exciting questions!
Lycopene which is readily found in saffron is a carotenoid. Carotenoids are defined as a pigment that comes from plant parts & gives them their color. There are many anti-oxidants, and it should be noted that evidence points to natural ingestion (not supplements) being the most effective way to consume an anti-oxidant. In terms of lycopene, it’s noted that out of all the antioxidants you can usually find greater concentrations of the lycopene pigment in human blood serum. In various wide ranging studies the anti-aging properties of lycopene have been reported with the ability to:
Safronol, our lesser understood player in the role of anti-oxidization has some newer research pointing out its benefits but it also seems to play a role as an anti-inflammatory. This 2019 lab study concludes that “it can be said that safranal has an anti-inflammatory potential and has a strong anti-oxidive effect.”
Initial studies have found that Safranol can potentially have positive effects on the following physiological mechanics:
We’ve already established that ingesting it naturally is the best way to take advantage of the antioxidant properties of Saffron. Great news, we can head straight to youtube (for those new to cooking with it) or fish out one of several healthy, delicious dishes from the internet. Saffron tea is also a great way to get some on the go. Saffron is your “gateway drug” to great Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. Rare, healthy, sure to wow, and hey,
Learning keeps you young too.
Do you use saffron as part of your skincare regime. Share how you use it in the comments below.