Saffron

Chinese: 西红花

Pinyin: Xī Hóng Huā

Parts used: Dried stigma

TCM category: Herbs that invigorate the Blood

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: HeartLiver

Scientific name: Crocus sativus

Other names: Autumn crocus

Use of saffron (Xī Hóng Huā) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: When the flowers bloom, take off the stigma and dry it.

Dosage: 1 - 3g

Main actions according to TCM*: Activates Blood circulation and eliminates Blood stasis. Cools the Blood and detoxifies. Calms the mind.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which saffron may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Amenorrhea Depression Palpitations Postpartum hemorrhoids Erectile dysfunction Irregular menstruation Dysmenorrhea

Contraindications*: Use with caution during pregnancy

Key TCM concepts behind saffron's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), saffron are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that invigorate the Blood' category. Like the name indicates these herbs tend to stimulate the Blood flow. In TCM they're used to help the circulation of Blood in cardiovascular conditions or menstrual irregularities as well as to treat acute pains caused by Blood Stagnation. They can also be used to treat Blood Stasis in the case of certain tumors, cysts and hardened clots.

Furthermore saffron are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that saffron typically don't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin excess. The Neutral nature of saffron means that you don't have to worry about that!

Saffron also taste Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sweet ingredients like saffron tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such saffron are thought to target the Heart and the Liver. In addition to regulating blood flow, in TCM the Heart is believed to be the store of the "spirit" which basically refers to someone's vitality. The Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on saffron

Saffron supplementation improved symptoms in patients with major depressive disorders1.

Saffron odor exert some effects in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome, dysmenorrhea and irregular menstruation.2.

Saffron showed a positive effect on sexual function with increased number and duration of erectile events seen in patients with erectile dysfunction.3.

Sources:

1. Hausenblas HA; Saha D; Dubyak PJ; Anton SD (November 2013). "Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and major depressive disorder: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials". Journal of Integrative Medicine. 11 (6): 377–383. doi:10.3736/jintegrmed2013056

2. Fukui H, Toyoshima K, Komaki R. (2011). Psychological and neuroendocrinological effects of odor of saffron (Crocus sativus). Phytomedicine. , 18(8-9):726-30. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2010.11.013. Epub 2011 Jan 15.

3. Shamsa A, Hosseinzadeh H, Molaei M, Shakeri MT, Rajabi O. (2009). Evaluation of Crocus sativus L. (saffron) on male erectile dysfunction: a pilot study. Phytomedicine , 16(8):690-3. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2009.03.008. Epub 2009 May 9.

Use of saffron as food

Saffron are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Moroccan Saffron Chicken or Paella.