Saffron means “yellow” in Arabic because when used in cooking, it confers a yellow tint to foods. Harvesting saffron requires intensive labor; an estimated 75,000 flowers are need to produce just 1 lb. of saffron, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. As a result, it may have the highest market value of all herbs in the world. Unfortunately, saffron’s purity is often compromised. Marigolds and other herbs are often added illegally to lower production costs. Be sure to buy saffron from a reputable source. Saffron contains medicinal substances such as vitamin B 2; crocin, a yellow flavonoid; picrocrocin, a bitter glycoside, and safranal, a volatile, aromatic compound. A physician should always be consulted prior to using saffron for medicinal purposes.
The NYU Langone Medical Center notes that saffron might offer benefits for those suffering from depression. According to the website, saffron has comparable efficacy to fluoxetine for depression, but reports that conclusive studies are still needed to make a firm conclusion. Saffron may be beneficial when long-term treatments are needed to alleviate depression because there are no known side effects associated with taking the herb medicinally.