From the day man realized that seasoning could make a meal taste better, spices have been objects of desire both for the kitchen and the bedroom. This early reputation of spices to spark sexual desire and aid fertility inspired men to risk their lives and travel the world to obtain these potent and flavorful ingredients. And saffron aphrodisiac benefits put this spice on the list of exotic ingredients worth risking one’s life to obtain.
Is saffron an aphrodisiac?
Saffron was considered an aphrodisiac ingredient by multiple cultures throughout history. Interestingly, in many cultures, golden saffron was considered most effective as an aphrodisiac when used on women. According to one Greek myth, eating saffron for a week would make a woman irresistible to her lover. But the Romans adopted a slightly differing opinion, using saffron to scent the baths of both aristocratic gentlemen and their female lovers.
Science-backed health benefits
Saffron’s benefits go well beyond seductively scenting a bath. The many health benefits of saffron might surprise you.
Let’s start with safranal, the compound that gives saffron its unique aroma. Studies show it may help improve mood and memory. (And if the Romans are to be believed, it might also put you in the mood.)
So powerful is saffron’s mood-elevating ability that multiple trials have found this spice successful in treating clinical depression. Although results showed some positive effects, the trials are all preliminary studies so don’t go reaching in the spice drawer to treat clinical illness just yet.
The link between saffron and weight loss
Some researchers also believe that nutrients in saffron may be successful in supporting weight loss. Studies, like this one from Nutrition Research, demonstrate that saffron extract is useful in curbing snacking. The randomized, placebo-controlled study relied on overweight but healthy women to self-record daily in nutrition journals. According to the journals, saffron reduced snacking frequency.
The theory behind the study was that the mood-boosting effects of saffron would naturally curb urges to snack. Results of clinical trials like this one are certainly promising. But to the best of my knowledge at the time of writing, there is no prescribed amount of saffron to take to support weight loss. However, I have read multiple accounts of enthusiasts of this spice drinking saffron tea as an aid in controlling weight. I highly recommend checking with your doctor before starting a saffron tea weight loss plan.
Evidence-based saffron aphrodisiac benefits
Earlier I touched on saffron’s historical aphrodisiac reputation, which was based mainly on the spice’s aroma, golden hue and relative scarcity. But aphrodisiac saffron may have more to offer from a nutritional standpoint. In fact, thanks to a study in 2011 at Canada’s Guelph University, we now know that there’s something to the folkloric claims. The research showed that saffron, (along with ginseng), improves sexual function in both men and women.
Saffron benefits for male sexual health
But there may be additional benefits of saffron for men. It may not be impactful for all men but a study published in 2012 demonstrates that the nutritional benefits of saffron improve sexual function in men on antidepressants. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, men diagnosed with a major depressive disorder complaining of erectile dysfunction were assigned to take 15mg of saffron, twice each day. The International Index of Erectile Function was used to assess any changes in sexual function. By week four, those administered saffron showed a significant improvement in sexual function and sexual satisfaction over the control group. (It is believed that treatment with saffron may also improve sex drive in women on certain antidepressants.)
A review of data published in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine indicated that saffron shows potential as a treatment for erectile dysfunction in all men. However, the paper acknowledged that further research is required to better understand how saffron can best help men suffering from ED if it actually works.
Benefits for female sexual health
There is also evidence that saffron may benefit women sexually. According to a 2013 study, saffron may also be beneficial to women with reduced sex drive from antidepressants. Of the women in the study, those who took saffron for four weeks showed increased sexual desire and lubrication over a placebo group.
There is also research into using saffron to treat symptoms of women’s PMS. According to one 2011 study, the aroma of saffron reduced certain PMS symptoms.
Are there saffron milk benefits?
You may have heard of the Indian drink Kessar Doodh or saffron milk. It is a drink made from saffron steamed in warm milk and sweetened or blended with additional spices. Users say the benefits of saffron with milk include improving skin health. It is possibly true since a noted property of saffron nutrition is an abundance of antioxidants. But although saffron is commonly used for skin health, I’ve yet to hear this beauty regime endorsed by a medical professional. Nevertheless, it makes a delicious and exotic drink!
Cooking with saffron
The slightly pungent, herbal taste and stunning hue dominate in the cuisines of the Middle East But its allure crosses cultures, adding spice to Europe’s glamorous Mediterranean coast. It provides that certain something that gives bouillabaisse and paella their unique flavor.
Saffron aphrodisiac recipes
Although it is expensive, saffron is a fun spice to use in cooking. It adds depth of color to pale broths–and cocktails. Here’s my favorite Champagne cocktail, which uses saffron to give the pale gold wine a glowing, golden hue.
From an alluring ingredient in a seafood paella to the earthy element in a healing tea, (this is our closest recipe to saffron milk), saffron uses are wildly varied and limited only by imagination…and maybe your wallet!
This article was written in 2010 and most recently updated in April, 2021.
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