Saffron, also known as kesar, is a spice that has been used for centuries for its medicinal and culinary properties. Saffron is derived from the dried stigma and style of the saffron crocus flower, which is mainly grown in Iran, India, and some other countries. Saffron is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other bioactive compounds that may have various health benefits.
But is saffron safe during pregnancy? And what are the benefits of consuming saffron during this period? In this article, we will explore the answers to these questions and provide some tips on how to use saffron safely and effectively during pregnancy.
Is saffron safe during pregnancy?
According to a reliable source of drug information, saffron is generally considered safe during pregnancy, as long as it is consumed in small quantities. However, excessive intake of saffron may cause uterine contractions, bleeding, and miscarriage. Therefore, it is advised to avoid saffron during the first trimester of pregnancy, when the womb is not yet stabilized. A small study found an increased risk of miscarriage in women who worked in saffron fields during early pregnancy.
Saffron extract, which is a highly concentrated form of saffron, is also not recommended during pregnancy, as it may have unknown effects on the mother and the baby. Saffron extract is often used as a supplement for depression, weight loss, and other purposes, but there is no scientific evidence to support its safety or efficacy during pregnancy.
What are the benefits of saffron during pregnancy?
Saffron may offer some potential benefits during pregnancy, such as:
Improving digestion and appetite. Saffron may help relieve common digestive issues during pregnancy, such as nausea, vomiting, bloating, gas, and constipation. Saffron may also stimulate the appetite and prevent anemia by increasing the absorption of iron.
Enhancing mood and reducing stress. Saffron may have antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects, as it may increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Saffron may also help reduce stress and improve sleep quality during pregnancy.
Regulating blood pressure and inflammation.Saffron may have anti-inflammatory and blood pressure-lowering properties, which may reduce the risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension, a condition that can lead to pre-eclampsia and endanger the health of both the mother and the baby. Saffron may also have anti-spasmodic effects, which may ease cramps and prevent miscarriage.
Improving skin health and complexion. Saffron may have beneficial effects on the skin, as it may help prevent acne, pigmentation, and blemishes during pregnancy. Saffron may also improve the skin tone and texture by enhancing blood circulation and hydration. However, there is no scientific proof that saffron can make the baby’s skin fairer or lighter, as this is determined by genetics and not by diet.
How to use saffron during pregnancy?
The best way to use saffron during pregnancy is to add a few strands of it to milk, water, tea, or other beverages. Saffron milk is a popular drink in many cultures, as it may provide warmth, nourishment, and comfort to the pregnant woman. To prepare saffron milk, you will need:
A cup of milk (preferably full-fat or low-fat)
3-4 strands of saffron
A pinch of cardamom powder (optional)
A teaspoon of honey or sugar (optional)
To make saffron milk, follow these steps:
Heat the milk in a saucepan over low-medium heat and bring it to a boil.
Add the saffron strands and cardamom powder and simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
Turn off the heat and add honey or sugar to taste.
Enjoy your saffron milk while it is warm.
You can also use saffron in other ways, such as:
Sprinkling it over rice, desserts, or salads for a burst of flavor and color.
Adding it to soups, stews, or curries for a rich and aromatic taste.
Mixing it with yogurt, honey, or almond oil for a natural and nourishing face mask.
How much saffron is safe during pregnancy?
The recommended dosage of saffron during pregnancy is not clearly established, but most experts suggest that no more than 10 mg (about 5-6 strands) of saffron per day is safe. This amount is equivalent to a pinch of saffron or a few drops of saffron water. Consuming more than this may cause adverse effects, such as:
Allergic reactions, such as itching, rash, swelling, or difficulty breathing.
Headache, dizziness, or drowsiness.
Abdominal pain, diarrhea, or vomiting.
Bleeding, spotting, or contractions.
If you experience any of these symptoms after taking saffron, stop using it immediately and consult your doctor.
How to choose and store saffron?
Saffron is an expensive spice, so it is important to choose and store it carefully. Here are some tips to help you:
Choose saffron that is dark red in color, with no yellow or white parts. The color indicates the quality and potency of saffron.
Avoid saffron that is powdered, as it may be adulterated with other substances. Always buy saffron in strands, as they are more authentic and pure.
Store saffron in an airtight container, away from light, heat, and moisture. Saffron can last for up to two years if stored properly.
Before using saffron, soak it in a little warm water or milk for 10-15 minutes to release its flavor and color.
What are some alternatives to saffron?
If you are allergic to saffron or do not like its taste, you can try some alternatives that may have similar benefits during pregnancy, such as:
Turmeric. Turmeric is a yellow spice that has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and digestive properties. Turmeric may also help prevent infections, boost immunity, and improve skin health during pregnancy.
Ginger. Ginger is a root that has anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties. Ginger may also help regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and prevent blood clots during pregnancy.
Cinnamon. Cinnamon is a bark that has anti-microbial, anti-diabetic, and anti-spasmodic properties. Cinnamon may also help improve mood, memory, and cognitive function during pregnancy.
However, before using any of these spices, make sure to consult your doctor and follow the recommended dosage, as they may also have some side effects or interactions with certain medications.
Saffron is a spice that may have some benefits during pregnancy, such as improving digestion, mood, blood pressure, and skin health. However, saffron should be used with caution and moderation, as excessive intake may cause harm to the mother and the baby. Saffron should also be avoided during the first trimester of pregnancy, when the risk of miscarriage is higher. If you are interested in using saffron during pregnancy, talk to your doctor first and follow their advice. Saffron can be a wonderful addition to your pregnancy diet, as long as you use it safely and wisely.
Dr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam, MD, FRCP (London), FACP (USA)
Internal Medicine Specialist
Phone : 85000 23456