Quiz: What’s the Most Expensive Spice in the World? Hint: It’s part of a flower that heralds the arrival of spring…

Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on January 5, 2011 by Paulina Nelega, RH

Answer: The crocus flower (Crocus sativa) yields the most expensive spice/herb in the world… Saffron. These thin, thread-like fragments are the colored stalks that extend out of the flower. It’s so costly because it takes about 50,000 to 75,000 flowers to make one pound of Saffron threads!

Though mostly known for the beautiful yellow color that it imparts to food and textiles, Saffron also holds great medicinal value. Modern studies have confirmed its antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties, as well as being immunomodulating (balancing the immune system). It’s rich in zeaxanthin, a reddish-colored pigment which is also found in the retina of the eye, and which may help to slow down macular degeneration.

Amazingly, Saffron pigment dating back 50,000 years has been found in cave paintings in Iran. Now that’s what I’d call some serious “staying power”! Tells you a lot about its medicinal power, too.

Let’s hear it for Saffron – more amazing “food as medicine”!

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Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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