Iran is the biggest producer of Saffron in the world
Author : Hamed Biglari | 2023 Feb 23

Iran Is The Biggest Producer Of Saffron In The World

Iran is the biggest producer of Saffron in the world, with 90% of global production. cultivating saffron has been known as a business in Iran for centuries and its usage dates back to 3500 years ago in ancient Persia, when it was highly prized and used in special ceremonies and celebrations like the ancient Persian New Year, Nowruz. Achaemenes’s used saffron as a spice, fragrance, and dye. Scholars believe saffron may have originated in a wider geographical area. They suppose that this area included Greece, Asia Minor, and Persia, and later spread eastward to India and China. Ancient Persians sold and introduced Iranian saffron to Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Arabs. Later on, they cultivated saffron in parts of Europe and North Africa.  It still figures prominently in Iranian culture and Iranians widely apply in their dishes.

Saffron (Crocus sativus), is a bulbous perennial herb, a plant that does not grow from seeds; the underground bulbs divide to produce new plants. Flowers emerge in autumn; the outstanding feature of the purple-colored flower, is its three red stigmas 25 – 30 mm long, which droop over the petals.

Saffron harvest season begins in early September and lasts for about two weeks. During this time, men and women head to the fields, covered with the eye-catching purple flowers, before sunrise and before the flowers have bloomed. It is a sensitive and labor-intensive process to harvest the flowers and to separate and dry the stigmas. It takes 170 flowers to produce only one gram of saffron, which is why saffron is the most expensive spice in the world.

Also various ancient cultures has praised saffron for its miraculous medicinal properties in traditional medicine. Ancient texts on Ayurveda mention the use of herb as an aphrodisiac, which probably explains the kesar milk or saffron milk (saffron with milk) that is a part of the wedding night ritual.  The curative properties of saffron were described in The Canon of Medicine, the encyclopedia of medicine compiled by Avicenna (Ibn Sina), the Persian polymath, in 1025.

The Canon of Medicine represented an overview of medical knowledge in the Islamic world at the time, which also incorporated earlier traditions of Greco-Roman, Persian, Chinese, and Indian medicine. The therapeutic properties of saffron as described by Avicenna included its effectiveness as an antidepressant, hypnotic, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, bronchodilatory, aphrodisiac, inducer of labour, emmenagogue, and others. Scientists have studied most of these effects  in modern pharmacology. The pharmacological findings on saffron and its constituents, including crocin, crocetin, and safranal, are similar to those found in Avicenna’s work.

Saffron really is a storehouse of diverse health benefits and disease-prevention properties. What is even more impressive is that quite unlike most pharmaceutical products promoted and sold by the corporate giants, saffron has no harmful side effects. Its preventative and therapeutic effects include the following:

Iranian saffron-preventative and therapeutic effects

Antidepressant, antianxiety, aphrodisiac, antispasmodic, anticonvulsant, antineuropathic pain, and antigastric

Antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory , antioxidant,  antinociceptive,  antigenotoxic, antimutugenic, and antiparkinsonian

Reduction of coronary artery disease by lowering blood cholesterol and preventing blood vessels and arteries from clogging

Reduces blood pressure

Enhancement of cognitive functions and memory in Alzheimer’s disease

Improves ocular blood flow and retinal function and treats age-related macular degeneration

Anticarcinogenic agent which selectively kills cancer cells or suppresses their growth, while leaving normal cells unharmed. Studies have found that crocin, the main antioxidant in saffron, may make cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy drugs

Antihyperglycemic and pancreas- protective properties: lowers blood sugar and increases insulin sensitivity

Due to the hardships of cultivating and harvesting , saffron is the most precious spice in the world which is why people call it ‘Red Gold. The current USD to Rial exchange rate in Iran has created a golden opportunity for travelers to purchase pure and exquisite Iranian saffron for just fifty-cents per gram! Considering all the wide-ranging health benefits of saffron compared to the cost of medications and difficult medical treatments, the Iranian saffron price is really an incredible deal. It is nice to take saffron daily as a tea or in capsules, up to three grams per month safely. You can store saffron for up to two years in a dry place away from light for maximum potency.


Hamed Biglari

Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Engineering in Gonabad University of Medical Sciences, Razavi Khorasan, Iran

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