You know it as the world’s costliest spice. The Persians introduced it to India. It gives a unique flavour of its own to culinary dishes. It is also used as a flavoring agent in traditional recipes like biryani, kheer, and other sweets. Then, how come saffron (kesar in hindi) is the “most sought after” product for preggie ladies (despite a couple of doubts about it)?
This blog will tell you the benefits of taking saffron during pregnancy without “saffron-ising” your thoughts.
What Is Saffron?
Well, “clinically” and biologically, saffron happens to be the dried stigma of the Crocus sativus flower. It has culinary and therapeutic properties, both. A win-win situation!
Did you know it takes about 75,000 saffron flowers to make one pound (i.e, 450g) of saffron? This is the main reason that makes it the most expensive spice of the world.
Where is saffron cultivated? Not only in the Mediterranean region, but also in Middle East. In India, J&K is the sole region where it is cultivated for commercial reasons. Having said that, let us get back to the main issue – how saffron helps pregnant ladies?
Benefits Of Saffron During Pregnancy
The traditional belief is that saffron boosts appetite and helps in digestion, as far as pregnant ladies are concerned. Is that all? It does a lot more than what meets the eye.
Let’s find out:
1. Reducing blood pressure
Kiss high blood pressure a happy goodbye! Because Saffron reduces BP. It might sound weird, but it’s true. And what are the elements that help achieve this benefit in saffron? It’s potassium and crocetin (as per scientific evidence).
2. Curbs morning sickness
Ask any pregnant woman, and she will complain of morning sickness. It’s a perennial problem in expecting mothers. Combat it by taking saffron. This will help cut out on nausea and dizziness.
3. Busts mood swings
Hormonal surges are bound to happen in pregnancy. This might make the mom-to-be moody, impulsive and depressed at times. Since saffron is an anti-depressant, it helps elevate your mood. This will make you glow and feel good about yourself.
4. Aids digestion
Gas, constipation and bloating are part and parcel of pregnancy. Any clue why? The growing foetus exerts some amount of pressure on the digestive tract, and on top of that there are hormonal surges. Saffron enables blood flow to the digestive system, enhances metabolism and helps in better digestion.
7. Keeps heart diseases at bay
Food cravings will always be there in expecting moms. This ends up affecting the cardio-vascular system. More calories/fat consumption during pregnancy, makes the heart health go in for a toss. But, there is potassium, crocetin, and antioxidants to protect you and your lil-one-in-the-womb from heart diseases.
6. Combats anemia
Moms-to-be are generally anemic. That is why, OBS/GYN tell the preggie ladies to have foods rich in iron. Saffron has plenty of iron and will shoot up hemoglobin levels. Thereby making the pregnant lady iron-full!
5. Promotes sleep
With belly growing, bones stretching and surges in hormones, nights become extremely uncomfortable for pregnant women. Taking saffron in tea or milk comes of great use. It relaxes you and puts you to sleep.
Saffron is a skin and respiratory soother. It is a good treatment aid for asthma, cough, whooping cough and loosens phlegm (as an expectorant).
9. Relieves sore gums
Hormones, I tell you! They make the gums sore during pregnancy, making brushing teeth a pain in itself. Grind some saffron strands and apply the powder of it on the gums gently for relief.
10. Aids hair growth
Saffron repairs hair follicles, combats hair loss and promotes hair growth.
11. Fights allergies
Allergies and infections are likely to happen during Pregnancy. This happened due to compromised immune system. Drink milk with saffron and say goodbye to allergies. Down with fever? Make a paste by mixing saffron strands in sandalwood. Now apply it on your forehead and bring down the body temperature.
12. Get rid of those pesky cramps
Cramps in stomach and joints are likely to happen in pregnancy. Why so? Because your bones and muscles will tend to shift and stretch to give space to the growing baby. Saffron is a natural anti-spasmodic and painkiller which brings relief from these cramps.
13. Helps in Kidney and Liver Problems
The saffron spice is found to be of great use while treating kidney, urinary bladder and liver disorders.
13. Helps in Eye problem
Did you know saffron maintains healthy eye sight by slowing down the development of eye diseases like macular degeneration?
15. Great iron source
Saffron is a great source of minerals such as potassium, copper, calcium, manganese, and iron of course.
16. Reduces pregnancy-related hair fall
Fluctuations in hormones can adversely affect your hair, thereby causing hair loss. This can be done away with by applying a paste of saffron, milk, and licorice on the scalp and bald spots.
17. Beats the zits
Pimple-breakouts are a common skin-problem that pregnant women have to face as a result of hormonal changes. Saffron when taken during pregnancy helps tackle this skin problem.
18. Baby movement
Good news (in terms of a boy or girl) is yet to come for an expecting lady. But since saffron ups the body heat, it increases the body temp, making the baby move around. Obviously, the mommy-to-be would love the kicks!
Saffron is truly beneficial. Does it have any side effects?
Let’s check out that part too:
Side Effects Of Saffron During Pregnancy
Considering saffron comes from a flower doesn’t mean it is 100 per cent safe for pregnant mothers. It has its share of side effects and warnings. Did you know – a saffron dose of 12-20gms can cause death?
Saffron can lead to contractions in the uterus. This can cause miscarriage. Since saffron increases body heat, it can cause abortion of the fetus. Always consult an obstetrician before taking saffron. Saffron when consumed during second trimester is safer.
Some of the acute side effects of saffron consumption are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea among others. These symptoms can last for a couple of hours.
For pregnant women, who are sensitive to foods, and who have a history of allergy to lolium, olea, and salsola plant, eating saffron can compound the risk of further allergies.
Nausea, anxiety, dry mouth, and headaches are common symptoms after taking saffron. This means you are allergic and should stay away from saffron intake.
5. Bleeding from nose, lips, eyelids
Depending on the past experience of saffron intake, and the stage of pregnancy and allergy, complications can also include bleeding from lips, nose and eyelids.
Heard or experienced a tingling sensation in hands and feet? This is numbness. There can be numbness of eyelids and lips too.
7. Blood in urine/stools
Seeing blood in urine and stools can be quite a dampener for pregnant women. These are a part of the side effects of saffron.
8. Feeling of vertigo i.e. loss of balance and dizziness, blackouts
This is a common cause in case of pregnant ladies.
High dosage of saffron can lead to toxic reactions in the body. For eg. jaundice.
Being a lady of the house, you have to store kitchen spices, right? Do you know how to choose the right saffron?
Let’s find out:
Tips For Choosing And Storing Saffron
“Original Versus Fake”. This is the first thing that will come to a conscious buyer when it comes to buying saffron. There are unscrupulous sellers of saffron who might cheat you, by selling saffron strands at half-the-price. But when “aged rice” and “aged wine” is always in demand, so also is “original saffron”.
- Pure Saffron (and unadulterated) is crimson-colored (with a ‘soft orange’ red tip). If the saffron you have bought is completely crimson, then my dear, it is FAKE!
- Saffron is ‘graded’ based on the color. The deepest color gets the highest grade and is naturally very expensive. An experienced saffron vendor will always tell you first about the grading system. So that you buy the best grade.
- See to it that the saffron you buy does not have white or yellow threads. In case it does, then you have been duped into buying unoriginal saffron.
- Saffron is available in two ways – “powder” and “thread”. The second option is advisable, as you can do a fast check of it (either at home or at the counter). Original color takes its own sweet time – when it comes to imparting its color to liquids. An example – immerse few saffron strings in warm water. If after 10-15 min, the color turns to reddish gold, bingo! The Saffron is Pure! If on the other hand, the color of saffron colors the water you have immersed it in, then it is fake to the core.
How should pregnant ladies take saffron? Here are some tips to be noted down.
Tips To Taking Saffron Safely During Pregnancy
As a first time pregnant woman, you will have many doubts about taking saffron. Here are some tips so that you have no second thoughts in taking saffron:
- Talk to other mothers: Have a word with other mothers in your neighborhood/fraternity/social network and find out their experiences (positive and negative) after taking saffron. This will guide you whether you should take saffron (as ‘first time’ or ‘follow-up’)
- Consult your treating Doctor/Obstetrician: Who can be your best friend during pregnancy? Undoubtedly, your obstetrician. Feel comfortable talking about “saffron” intake to your consulting doc in your pregnancy stage.
- Saffron-n-Milk: The one thing you and your growing baby need during pregnancy is calcium. But when you are in the 5th month of the gestation period, add saffron strands to your milk. Alternatively, you can make a creamy paste by grinding saffron strands with almonds and pistachios and mix it in your glass of milk to make it more nutritious.
- Saffron-in-rice dishes and soups: Saffron is superb as a flavoring agent. And yummy for enhancing the taste of the recipes! So, go ahead and add it to soups and to rice preparations. Finger-licking good it is!
This section answers a couple of questions on saffron intake by a pregnant lady.
Hope this will be able to clear your doubts:
1. From Which Month Can You Have Saffron During Pregnancy?
Any time is the best time to have saffron through saffron milk. But ideally, start having it from the second trimester onwards, from the 4th or 5th month. Just add 1-2 saffron strands in a glass full of milk during pregnancy and drink it slowly, not too fast. You can also add few strands of saffron in your cooking. Good health, good babies, remember?
2. How Much Saffron Should You Have?
Saffron should be taken in moderate quantity. Not in excess. To be specific, having a few strands of saffron a day, not exceeding 10 gm in milk or in meals, is fine.
3. Does Saffron Influence Your Child’s Complexion?
There has been no research that confirms this belief. Also, the complexion of the womb-baby is in no way influenced by the preggie mother including saffron in diet. Genes and other hereditary factors have a larger role to play in the skin complexion of the born-baby.
4. Is It Good To Drink Milk With Saffron (Kesar) During Pregnancy?
Yes, you can add saffron in milk and have it while you are expecting. But, every spice or herb has its limitations. So, take saffron in diet (foods/liquids) in limited quantity (one or two strands only to a glass of milk), not excess when you are in the thick of pregnancy.
5. What Is The Cost Of Saffron?
Saffron is not a normal spice, but an exotic one. So is its price. Each saffron flower has only 3 saffron strands. To get a pound of saffron takes how many flowers? About 14000 strands! Now in order to get 450 grams of dry saffron, calls for harvesting of 50,000–75,000 flowers; a kilogram would therefore need 110,000–170,000 flowers. Now you know why the saffron spice is so expensive?
According to Wikipedia, the wholesale and retail rates of saffron vary from US$500 to US$5,000 per pound, or US$1,100–11,000/kg. This means, a gram of saffron can cost anywhere from INR 300 to INR 2000. This explains the phenomenal cost of the precious strands of saffron. So use it carefully.
6. Loose Or Packed – Which Is a Better Option In Buying Saffron?
See, local kirana shops and neighborhood stores no doubt sell the precious strands of saffron. But since pregnancy is a sensitive issue, it makes more sense to buy saffron in “packed” form. Check out the packaging as well. ISI mark on the saffron container is compulsory, so also the fact that it is a quality certified and good brand.
7. Are Checking Labels Important In Saffron Container?
Yes, it’s a must to check out the expiry date on a saffron box.
Phew! Reading the above, Saffron, I think, deserves a place in Madame Tussauds, what say? For now, all expecting moms can bask in the glory of this luxurious spice, by taking it in moderate and prescribed quantity. Do consult your doctor on saffron intake, as the months of your pregnancy increases. It’s always better to be on the safer side, because saffron consumption involves two lives – mother and the sweet little “tiny tot” in the womb.