Saffron, also called the red gold spice, is frequently recommended to expecting mothers by elderly women due to its medicinal properties1. Not only that, but also because of a common misconception around it– that consuming saffron during pregnancy will help lighten a baby's skin, making them fair. There is no scientific evidence to support it.2 There are however, both beneficial and harmful effects of consuming saffron during pregnancy. Curious? Read on to know more!
Saffron is a spice from Asia commonly known as Kesar or Zaffran. Saffron is primarily used to season and colour food. It is harvested from the purple flowers of the plant Crocus sativus. The harvesting process, which includes handpicking and drying the stigmas (part of the flower), is labour-intensive and tedious. Therefore, it is considered one of the world’s most expensive spices. 3,4
Let's look at how saffron, a health-promoting spice, can help pregnant moms.
According to research, saffron during pregnancy plays an important role in the treatment of various digestive system disorders5. It is common for pregnant women to have lowered metabolism which makes their digestive system slow down. Saffron is known to stimulate blood flow in the arteries of the stomach, which helps aid digestion6.
Heart rate and blood pressure fluctuations are common in pregnant women. Consuming saffron during pregnancy can help these variations. Saffron contains antioxidants called crocin, picrocrocin, safranal, and crocetin which are known to reduce high blood pressure. 7
We all know that mood swings are one of the most common symptoms experienced by pregnant women. Studies suggest that saffron during pregnancy helps improve mood swings and helps reduce postpartum depression8. Saffron acts as an antidepressant by increasing serotonin (a mood-elevating chemical) levels in the brain 9.
Saffron is known for its benefits on gastrointestinal disorders including peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. Carotenoid crocin and crocetin found in saffron have anti-inflammatory effects and can help relieve morning sickness10.
One thing that most pregnant women crave is a good night’s sleep. As the pregnancy progresses it becomes difficult for expectant moms to get quality sleep because of discomfort and cramps. Saffron not only is a great antioxidant but also a herbal sedative which can relieve cramps and make you feel relaxed which facilitates quality sleep 11,12.
Saffron has antioxidants, flavonoids and potassium that reduce the risk of heart disease. Crocetin found in saffron reduces cholesterol levels in the blood and decreases the buildup of fat and cholesterol in and on the artery walls of the heart 6.
Apart from these benefits, studies have revealed that consuming saffron during pregnancy can increase the readiness of the cervix in full-term pregnancies.13
Consumption of saffron comes with many benefits. However, eating too much of it can be toxic and dangerous. Up to 1.5 grams of saffron per day is generally safe. But a toxic dose, according to researchers, is 5 grams 14.
Pregnant women may be more at risk if the dosage or intake is more than the recommended level. For example, the authors of one study state that pregnant women should refrain from consuming more than 5 grams of saffron daily because it stimulates the uterus. And this could cause miscarriage 15.
Some other side effects of excessive consumption of saffron during pregnancy includes:
Research suggests that saffron is not safe for expectant moms in their first trimester, so it is best to avoid it 13. You can however consume recommended doses of saffron from the second trimester of your pregnancy because of its numerous benefits. Also, it is best to consult a gynaecologist before consuming saffron during pregnancy. You shouldn't proceed until they give you the all-clear for a specific amount.
Once you get an all-pass from your doctor, you can relish saffron as a culinary flavour, tea, milkshake or anything else. But make sure to remember the correct quantity of its usage in mind.