What is Saffron Used For

It’s the most expensive spice in the world—and one of the most ancient. Saffron has been with human beings since the dawn of agriculture in the Mediterranean and Near East. So perhaps it’s no surprise that in all that time, people have found dozens of uses for this amazing little plant.

Read on to discover the many ways that people from Spain and France all the way to the far reaches of China have used saffron throughout the centuries (and still do today).

Food and drink

Probably the most familiar use of saffron is in cooking. Saffron is behind the gorgeous color and rich, fragrant aroma of Spanish paella, Persian roast chicken, and French bouillabaisse.

But there are a host of less well-known sweets and baked goods that rely on saffron as well, including Scandinavian saffron buns, Iranian ice-cream sandwiches, and Indian rice puddings.

And all through the Middle East and Asia, saffron is used to flavor a variety of traditional spiced teas and coffees, both hot and cold!


Next up: saffron has always been considered an unbeatable beauty aid. Since the days of Queen Cleopatra in Egypt, women have used saffron for clear, radiant skin.

Saffron soap

And because saffron is excellent at increasing blood circulation, it can help provide that glowing flush that signals good health (which cosmetic powders and lipsticks can only imitate).

But saffron’s association with romance and beauty don’t end there, because it has one other property that has made it a favorite choice of lovers for thousands of years: saffron is a wonderful aphrodisiac!

Herbal medicine

Some of the earliest recorded uses of saffron come from ancient Persian medical texts, which detail a staggering number of health benefits.

So what is saffron used for in traditional medicine? There’s not enough space here to list all of saffron’s health benefits, but it has been used as a mild stimulant, as an aid to digestion and circulation, as a treatment for the common cold, as a laxative, an antidepressant, and even as a cure for PMS!

While saffron can be used effectively as a herbal medicine by just about anyone, care must be taken to use proper brewing methods so as not to break down the delicate bio-chemical compounds that give the spice its tremendous healing powers.

Ritual and culture

Saffron has always been regarded as special, perhaps because of its almost magical healing properties. Ancient Persians, who perhaps more than anyone were aware of the power of saffron, would often make ritual offerings of precious spice to their gods.

This association of saffron with the divine was not limited to one place or culture: Some of the earliest Greek depictions of saffron harvesting show the process overseen by a goddess.

The tremendous monetary value of saffron gave it another interesting use in Iran: families would often use blocks of the precious spice as dowries for their unmarried daughters, just as gold or land was used in the West.

saffron tea

And even today, in modern Iran, saffron holds a special place in cultural and religious ceremonies. Saffron is often served at weddings and funerals there. Persians, steeped in centuries of ancestral wisdom, still know to use the potent spice for its mood-lifting effects.

Medical research

So now that you’ve learned a bit about saffron’s many uses—some of which stretch back to the dawn of recorded history—you may be asking yourself a simple question: What is saffron used for nowadays?

Well, apart from its traditional uses that are still in full effect all over the world, saffron has recently become the subject of cutting-edge medical research as well.

Modern science has taken a new interest in this ancient remedy, and a range of promising studies are underway which hope to find new treatments for depression, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and MS.

The list of saffron’s many uses is long—and still growing!



  • I love that you know about the Scandinavian saffron buns! The exchange of and hunt for the best, moist saffron bun recipe is an important part of December preparations for Christmas. The connaisseurs even soak the saffron in rum some months before baking.

    In more recent years we have been introduced to the saffron croissant filled with marsipan. Yummy!

    Carolina Saf
  • Is there a video on, how to make saffron tea?

    Derrick Wilson

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