زعفران (Saffron)

زعفران Saffronزعفران Saffronزعفران Saffron
lat. Crocus Sativus Linneaus
Group: Spices
Saffron Crocus Sativus Linneaus
Saffron Crocus Sativus Linneaus
Saffron Crocus Sativus Linneaus
Odor profile: A refined note coming from the prized stamens of Crocus sativus, a a small flower in the Iris family known since antiquity. Its odor profile is bittersweet, leathery, soft and intimate, with an earthy base note. Beautifully sweetened in the gourmand Safran Troublant (L'Artisan Parfumeur) or used as a leathery, earthy heart note in the modern chypre Agent Provocateur.

Botanical Name – Crocus sativus

Family – Iridaceae (Iris family)


Ayurvedic – Kumkuma, Rudhira, Vadrika, Kashmira, Kaashmiraka Agnishikhaa
(Charaka, Sushruta), Ghusrrn, Rakta, Vaalhika, Kshataja, Keshara.

Unani – Zaafraan

English – Saffron

Hindi – Kesar

Urdu - Zafran

Parts used - Stigma of the flower

Saffron is an aromatic and very expensive spice by weight, is known as “King of spices” and “red gold” and utilised for cooking, staining, medicine, cosmetics and some other purposes. It is a native plant of Southeast Asia. However, exact origin is uncertain, but was probably Asia Minor, where it has a long history of cultivation and is thus widely dispersed, and ultimately to China and Japan.

The saffron was probably known to the ancient Middle Eastern civilizations of Babylon and Assyria, as the name krokos predates Greek. Saffron was originally made from the dried stigmas of wild plants known as Crocus cartwrightianus and traded by the Phoenicians, and valued by the Persians, Greeks and Romans, and used for colour and spice foods, saffron water to perfume their baths, houses and temples, and an extract of saffron as a medicinal narcotic.

Saffron was named in early Hebrew as carcom, in the Sanskrit medical glossary Bhavaprakasa as kunkuma, and mentioned many times in the Ain-i-Akbari of AD 1590 compiled by Abdul Fazi. Iran has been a major producer since the early Persian empires, and exported saffron to China’s Yuen dynasty (AD 1280-1368), where it was known as sa-fa-lang.

Expansion of the Arabs along the Mahgreb in the 9th and 10th centuries, and on into the Iberian Peninsula, carried the plant and later its cultivation into Spain and Portugal, which became the major European producers, and saffron was known as the Alicante or Valencia crocus. Saffron was widely known in Europe but the plant is frost-sensitive and this limited its range. Records shows that saffron was cultivated on a commercial scale in Spain in the 9th century AD, in France and Germany in the 12th, and so severe were the penalties for adulteration that in Nurnberg in the mid 15th century, persons convicted of adulterating saffron were either burned or buried alive!


Author: Dr. Chandra Shekhar Gupta

Senior Research Fellow
Plant Quarantine Division
National Bearue of Plant Genetic Resources
Pusa Campus, New Delhi

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