Saffron (Kesar) Uses, Research, Remedies, Side Effects, Ayurvedic Medicines

Kumkum – Crocus sativus is an Ayurvedi herb used for the treatment of acne, black head, diarrhea, skin diseases, impotency and acts as immunity enhancer and memory booster. 

Latin name- Crocus sativus Linn.
Family- Iridaceae

Saffron – names in different languages:
Hindi name- Kesar
English name- Saffron
Arabic name- Jafran
Bengali name- Jafran, Kumkum
Guajarati name- Kesar
Kannada name- Kesar
Marathi name- Kesar
Tamil name- Kumkumappu
Telugu name- Kumkuma pubba
Morphology of Crocus sativus
Kukmum is a small herb growing to a height of 6-10 inches. The leaves have long lines in them.
The plant has a corm, which holds leaves, bracts, bracteole, and the flowering stalk. These are protected by the corm underground. The plant generally blooms with purple flowers in the autumn. The flowers have a good fragrance with the stigma having reddish orange color. These are collected and dried properly to be marketed as saffron. The fruits are small and round. The plant is a native of southern Europe and Iran. In India it is cultivated in Kashmir.
Medicinal properties of Kesar – Saffron: 
Rasa (Taste) – Katu (Pungent), Tikta (Bitter)
Guna (Qualities) – Snigdha (Slimy)
Vipaka – Katu (Undergoes pungent taste after digestion)
Veerya (Potency) – Ushna (Hot)
Karma (Actions) – Tridoshahara (reduces all the vitiated doshas )

Part used- Stigma/ Stamen
Powder- 0.5 to 1 g
Chemical composition of Crocus sativus:
Sa?ron contains a volatile oil composed of terpenes, terpene alcohols and esters. The herb also contains crocin, picrocrocin, crocetin, carotenoids and ribo?avin and thiamine.

Uses of Kumkum – Saffron:

  • The powder of Saffron is mixed with milk or honey and is consumed to improve the complexion of the skin.
  • The paste of the saffron is applied over the area affected with black head, pimples and skin discoloration.
  • Kumkum powder is mixed with either milk or sugar candy and consumed to improve the sexual vigor and as part of treatment in impotency, lack of libido and erectile dysfunction.
  • Crocus sativus powder is given along with Dashamoola lehya during post- partum period for improving the strength of uterine muscles.
  • Regular consumption of Kumkum powder along with ghee or milk act as memory booster and improves the immunity.
  • Crocus sativus powder is given with powder of Shunti (Ginger) and decoction of Dashamoola to relieve joint pain and fever.
  • Paste of Saffron is applied over forehead to relieve headache.
  • Paste of turmeric and saffron is applied over wounds and pustules as part of treatment.
  • Saffron is used world -wide in many cuisines and desserts.

Uses as per Ayurveda:
Varnya – Improves skin tone and complexion
Kantida – improves skin tone and complexion
Vrana Shodhana – cleanses and disifnects wounds
Doshatrayahara – Balances all the three Doshas

Indicated in –
Hikka – hiccups
Shiroroga – diseases of head, headache
Vami – vomiting
Krumi – worm infestation
Drushtiroga – vision disorders, eye diseases
Visha – Toxic conditions, poisoning
Vyanga – Freckles, melasma

Varieities of Saffron:
Saffron with thin strands, grown in Kashmir, Padmagandhi – having fragrance of lotus, is the best variety.
Bigger strands, which look like a creeper is of moderate quality
Parasika Kumkuma –
Slightly white, rough to touch, thick strands, Madhugandhi – having smell of honey.
Bahlika Saffron – from Punjab area, with tiny strands, white colour, with fragrance of flower of Ketaki (Kevda flower), is of medium quality

Adverse effect: There is no adverse effect known or reported after the normal use of Kumkuma.
Ayurvedic medicines containing Saffron:
Pushyanuga choorna: This is a medicine in powder form used for the treatment of Menorrhagia, Metrorrhagia, Leucorrhoea, Menstrual disorder, Excessive menstrual bleeding of various aetiology. It is also used in treating uterine infections and Haemorrhoids.

Nagavallabha Rasa: It is a medicine used in the treatment of diabetes, cough, asthma, etc. It is traditionally administered along with honey, fresh ginger juice, betel leaf juice.
Yakuti Rasa: Yakuti Ras is an Ayurvedic medicine in tablet form, used in the treatment of cardiac disorders, chronic fever and excessive sweating.

Kachuradi choorna: Kachuradi Choornam is an Ayurvedic medicine used to apply externally to relieve headache, burning sensation, dizziness and to treat insomnia.
Patrangasava: It is a medicine used mainly in gynecological conditions such as heavy menstrual bleeding, leucorrhea, fever, anemia, inflammatory conditions, low digestion power and anorexia.

Madana Kameshwari lehya: It is used in aphrodisiac treatment. It helps to improve sperm count, improves sperm and semen quality and quantity.

Nisoshiradi Taila: It is an effective Ayurvedic herbal oil used to treat diabetes carbuncles and abscesses.
Asana Eladi Taila: It is used in the Ayurvedic treatment of headache, ear and eye diseases. It is used externally for application.

Vajeekarana Capsule: It is a proprietary Ayurvedic medicine used in the treatment of lack of vigor and strength etc.

Memocap capsule: It is a proprietary Ayurvedic medicine used as an effective Ayurvedic nervine and memory tonic, improves analytical ability and memory power.
Research articles related to Crocus sativus:
Action on nervous system: In the present article, the effects of C. sativus and its constituents on the nervous system and the possible underlying mechanisms are reviewed. Our literature review showed that C. sativus and its components can be considered as promising agents in the treatment of nervous system disorders.

Action on memory related disorder: We critically review advances in research of these emerging molecular targets for the treatment of memory disorders, and discuss their advantages over currently used cognitive enhancers as well remaining challenges. Current analysis has shown that C. sativus and its components might be a promising target for cognition impairments.

Cancer chemo-prevention: Anticancer treatments such as anthracyclines, though effective, induce cardiotoxicity by releasing radical oxygen species (ROS). Saffron perfused during electrolysis helps trap ROS and appreciably recovers myocardial function; however, saffron was less effective against Doxo, thus suggesting that mechanisms other than oxidative stress underlie Doxo cardio toxicity.

Skin depigmentation activity: The antioxidant activity of C. sativus extract was determined using DPPH method. Water in oil (w/o) topical cream of C. sativus extract (3 %) was formulated and compared with the base (cream without extract). Both creams (formulation and base) were applied to the cheeks of 10 healthy human volunteers for a period of 8 weeks. Application of the formulation containing 3 % C. sativus extract to human skin may be useful in the management of melanoma.

The effect of extracts against acute inflammation was studied using xylene induced ear edema in mice. The activity of the extracts against chronic inflammation was assessed by formalin-induced edema in the rat paw. We used aqueous and ethanolic maceration extracts of Crocus sativus L. stigma and petals. In chronic inflammation, both aqueous and ethanolic stigma extracts, as well as ethanolic petal extract, exerted anti-inflammatory effects.

Flower bulbs of crocus sativus

Classical categorization of Kumkum:
Bhavaprakasha- Karpooradi varga
Dhanvantari Nighantu- Chandanadi varga
Kaiyyadeva Nighantu- Oushadhi varga
Shodala Nighantu- Chandanadi varga
Raja Nighantu- Chandanadi varga
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales
Family: Iridaceae
Subfamily: Crocoideae
Genus: Crocus
Species: C. sativus

Sanskrit Synonyms of Kesar
Kashmira – Grows/ cultivated in Kashmir
Shonitabidha, Rakta, Rudhira- The inside of the flower and stigma is red in color
Peetaka – yellow strands
Vara – a great spice / herb
Charu – beautiful
Varnya – improves complexion
Agni Shikha, Shika – saffron coloured strands, resembling the colour of fire
Bahlik, Kumkuma, Pishuna, Sankocha, Ghusruna,

Dr.B.K.Prashanth M.D (Ayu), Ph.D
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  1. Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

    Certified Grade 1, Kashmiri Saffron is available in amazon website here

  2. Dear Doctor,

    Can Saffron be consumed by all everyday. ?? I am 52 male…How will it benefit me at this age…

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      Yes. Just half a small strand of saffron in quarter a cup of milk or mixed with a teaspoon of honey can be used on daily basis to – enjoy all the benefits of saffron, explained above in the article.
      Kashmiri Saffron is available in amazon website here

  3. Smita Kumar says:

    How can one use it effectively daily?

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      Hi, just half a thin strand, mixed with half a cup of milk or a teaspoon of honey, just once a day, preferably before food, can be used daily.
      Because it is being used daily, just a very tiny small piece is good enough. Excess of it may cause side effects.
      Good Kashmiri Saffron is available with discount, in amazon website here

  4. vikram says:

    can one small strand of kesar consumed daily

  5. thank you dr

  6. Dear Dr.,

    How much saffron can pregnant women consume everyday? My grandmother has asked me to drink saffron milk every night. I am completing six months of pregnancy and have started drinking quarter glass of warm milk with 2-3 strands of saffron, after grinding it in the milk. Is this too much?
    Thank you.

  7. Thank you doctor. I will reduce the quantity now onwards. There are so many conflicting opinions, especially for pregnant women, and your clarification gives a lot of comfort.

  8. can saffron help with depression and/or anxiety? if so, how should one consume

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