Whether it’s the delicious flavor or the homeopathic benefits of this diminutive plant, recipes using Crocus sativus are sure to improve your mood. More commonly known as saffron, from the Arabic word for “yellow,” this golden spice is made from the tiny stigmas of the autumn-blooming crocus. Rich in history both literally and figuratively, the delicate nature of harvesting saffron is what makes it one of the most expensive herbs in the world. There are only three of these stigmas to a plant, and they must be collected by hand in the morning over a narrow, two or three week window! Luckily, a little bit of saffron goes a long way in both its culinary and curative uses.
Saffron has been used to cure everything from depression to digestive problems to toothaches. To make a mood-improving tincture using Crocus sativus, add a pinch of saffron threads to a jar filled 3 ½ ounces of 100-proof alcohol, then steep for two weeks. Transfer to a dropper bottle and store in a cool spot away from direct light. To banish lethargy, substitute 1 cup of vegetable oil for alcohol, then add a couple of drops to water four times a day. To aid in digestion, crush a pinch of saffron threads and ¼ ounce finely chopped ginger root, then add to a pint of 100-proof alcohol and let sit in a cool, dark location for two weeks. Warm in a pan, strain, and take 1 tablespoon before a meal. Mixing a few threads with petroleum jelly makes a salve that can relieve aches and pains due to gout. Spread a thin layer on the affected area twice a day. To relieve pain in your mouth, rub saffron directly on your gums or mix with a little honey.
Perk up your tea ( and your mood) by adding a pinch of saffron. Start by placing your standard tea bag in a cup, then add a few strands of saffron and add boiling water. Let steep and remove the tea bag, but leave the saffron strands in for one minute more.
Saffron has many culinary uses, but to double the mood-lifting qualities of this herb, why not try making ice cream? Start by letting ½ teaspoon of ground saffron dissolve in 3 tablespoons of rose water. Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of milk and 1 cup of sugar to a boil over medium heat. Put 2 teaspoons powdered sahlab, found in Middle Eastern stores, in a bowl, pour 1 cup of the milk mixture in and mix well. Return this to the pan, bring to a simmer, and stir constantly until thickened. Remove from heat, add saffron and rose water, mix, and let cool for 2 hours, then follow directions for your ice cream maker. For extra creaminess, add a ½ cup of half and half, poured on a plate, frozen, and then broken into chunks before the final freeze. Serve garnished with chopped pistachios.
As with all homeopathic remedies, you should talk to your doctor before using. High doses of saffron can cause serious health risks and may be fatal. Watch for yellowing skin and eyes, vomiting, dizziness, numbness, and other signs of adverse reactions. Pregnant women may suffer miscarriages as a result of excessive consumption and should avoid use. Allergic reactions are possible in all users, especially those allergic to olives, lolium, and salsola. Crocus sativus may also trigger mania in those suffering from bipolar disorder.