Saffron is a spice made from the dried stigmas of saffron flowers. Although it was long thought to come from Kashmir at the foot of the Himalayas, a British study has just shown that its origin is Greek. 

As a result, of numerous crosses of the domestic plant (Crocus cartwrightianus) and the selection of the flowers with the largest stigmas, a mutant form (Crocus sativus) appeared in Crete at the end of the Bronze Age. This is the saffron we know today.


Saffron has its own hieroglyphic in ancient Egyptian and is mentioned in papyrus dealings with medicine in the second millennium BC. Imported to Asia in the 7th century BC by the Phoenicians, it was first cultivated in Europe in southern Gaul, when the Romans extended their influence over the continent. 

Saffron has played an important role in the culture of many civilizations throughout antiquity as a culinary condiment, but also as a dye, perfume and as a medicinal herb and continues to do so today. It has always been considered the most expensive spice in the world and is now grown all over the world.


In ancient times, saffron was considered the most valuable and rare spice. This is not surprising when one considers that 150,000 flowers must be collected to obtain 2.2 lb. (1 kg) of saffron. 

The process of drying (coal oven at about 122°F/50°C) and then sorting the stigmas to separate the reds from the yellows (the yellows have no value) has remained unchanged for centuries. 

The Greeks employed it to dye their finest fabrics a deep red, as well as in their traditional cooking. Saffron was used to enhance their dishes, but also added to certain liquors and drinks such as tea.


Saffron has been used as a medicinal herb for almost 5,000 years. Written traces of it can be found among the ancient Egyptians (Ebers papyrus 1550 BC), in China (collection of the emperor Chen Nong 2700 BC), in Minoan Greece (notably on frescoes), as well as in the writings of numerous Roman authors.

Saffron has been used to fight against various health conditions (insert link to category) throughout antiquity. The Latin quote, "confortare crocus dicatur laetificando et partes lascas firmare, hepare reparando", can be translated as "saffron comforts, excites joy, strengthens any viscera, and repairs the liver". 

Also recognized by the Persians for its benefits on depression, saffron is now scientifically documented for its effect on mood regulation and concentration.

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