Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, and believe me, it is truly a wonderful herb to be added to your diet and beauty regimes. Saffron has very impressive health benefits and is a revered spice not only just in India but across the world as well. As revered as it is, saffron does hold great significance in the greatest journeys of a woman- pregnancy and motherhood. Saffron during pregnancy is largely traditionally recommended for various reasons. And in this article, we will list our take on consuming saffron during pregnancy.
Saffron For Babies’ Complexion
Our country’s obsession with fairness is nothing new. So much so that the quest to have a fair baby starts with conception itself. Most of us have been advised to eat or consume saffron, or kesar, in varied forms to have a baby with a clear, fair complexion. It is believed that consuming saffron, particularly saffron milk during pregnancy will make the baby fair and he/she will have a light complexion. Which brings me to discuss the actual and real reasons why saffron is recommended to pregnant women, which are primarily health benefits; and as long as genetics are involved in baby-making, saffron seems to have no role to play in determining the baby’s skin colour.
What is Saffron?
The most expensive, orange-coloured strands sitting on the most prized shelves in small boxes emanating a pleasing aroma is the wonder spice saffron. It has been acclaimed as the ‘king of spices’, and for all the right reasons.
Ingeniously cultivated in the beautiful valley of Kashmir, saffron is the dried stigma of Crocus Sativus flower. The precious strands look like a thread and actually contain pollen. The extraction of these strands involves a great deal of human labour, and owing to limited produce, the prices of saffron are quite high. It is probably one of the most expensive spice in the world!
Saffron is known by many names in India and other countries, namely Zafran'(ज़ाफ़रान), ‘Kesar'(केसर), ‘Koung’ or ‘Kumkumapoovu’, and is often used as a condiment in various desserts and savoury dishes. Saffron is also known for its beauty enhancing properties, and many cosmetic selling companies use saffron as an active-marketing agent in their products.
So what does this commercially acclaimed, highly prices spice got to do with pregnancy? Well, since ancient times, it has been customary to feed expecting mothers milk laced with saffron strands, and it has come to be believed that consuming saffron milk can make you have a fair baby. Saffron during pregnancy does have other medicinal benefits as well, but the belief that consuming it will give one a lighter complexioned baby is the most common reason that makes pregnant women have saffron during pregnancy.
Well, research has it that saffron has got nothing to do with how your baby’s complexion turns out, nevertheless, it is a healthy spice that offers many benefits to the pregnant mother and her unborn baby. Let us discuss the same.
Benefits of drinking saffron milk during pregnancy
For a spice, saffron rather has an impressive nutritional profile. A 100 gm of this wonder spice is loaded with vitamin C (80.8 mg), magnesium (264 mg), potassium (1724 mg), iron (11.10 mg), niacin (1.46 mg), manganese (28.408 mg) and 3.9 gm of dietary fiber. Now, it may be noted that saffron has more than recommended daily dosage of manganese and potassium – and it is never used in such huge quantities. It is usually recommended to use half a teaspoon of the strands, but for nutritional information, the standard 100 gm of spice is used.
Given the impressive nutritional profile saffron has, it is no wonder it is deemed as an excellent health remedy for various ailments in traditional Indian medicine. When it comes to pregnancy, saffron can be useful as –
1. Facilitating digestion during pregnancy
Pregnancy brings about a very genuine problem for all women – digestion. With so much going on in the abdomen, digestion becomes an issue and the growing uterus exerts pressure on the stomach. Since everything inside is more focussed on the baby’s well-being, the whole digestive process takes a backseat.
Having saffron in various forms can help you combat common issues like bloating, constipation and indigestion. Thanks to the dietary fiber, and the increased blood flow to the digestive system, saffron can be used as a remedy for tackling digestive issues during gestation period. Potassium also eases tension in the blood vessels, which further helps to keep blood pressure in check.
2. Saffron keeps blood pressure in check
High blood pressure during pregnancy can cause many complications, pre-eclampsia and premature delivery being the major two. Saffron contains potassium which is a key ingredient to balance the negative effect of salt. It helps the kidneys store less liquid, and balances the blood pressure.
Given the high amount of potassium in kesar, it is recommended for pregnant women and prevent related complications of high-blood pressure.
3. Helps bust pregnancy mood swings
Pregnancy can be a nasty time with the hormones surging up and down and affecting your mood. Emotional outbursts are more common than one thinks. You may feel depressed at times, thanks to all the discomforts that pregnancy brings along, while at other times you may feel overwhelmed with impulsive emotions.
Research (1) has it that saffron supplementation can improve symptoms of depression. In such times, a glass of milk with a few strands of saffron infused can help curb your mood swings and make you feel calm and composed.
4. Provides relief from muscle cramps
Pregnancy is a time when the whole body is committed to the well-being and development of the unborn baby. Any deficiency at this time can manifest itself as serious diseases later on. Pregnant women commonly complain of pains and ache in the muscles and joints.
Saffron contains magnesium and potassium, the deficiency of which can cause muscle cramps and pains in the joints. Kesar is a natural painkiller and has anti-spasmodic properties, which can easily help you deal with pregnancy related muscle cramps.
5. Combats pregnancy anemia
As listed above, saffron is an excellent source of iron. 100gm of saffron contains as much as 129% of recommended daily allowance of iron! Imagine what this wonder spice could do if you have low levels of anemia during pregnancy!(2)
Getting enough iron during pregnancy ensures that you and your baby can have requisite levels of haemoglobin. Iron also helps transfer oxygen from your lungs to the other organs of your body, and the fetus. Having some saffron during pregnancy ensures that you stay energetic and do not suffer from low iron levels.
6. Promotes relaxation and good sleep
Sleep is a luxury for most expectant mothers, especially during the later stages of gestation. However, getting a good night’s sleep is vital for the healthy development of the fetus and for a relaxed you.
Saffron has natural sedative properties that make it easier for you to get some much-deserved rest. Thanks to niacin, even chronic stress can be dealt with taking some saffron everyday (3) . Take a glass of warm milk and add a few strands of saffron before hitting the bed to sleep better, and wake up refreshed the next morning.
7. Beats pregnancy acne
While many may talk of the wonderful pregnancy glow, moms like me will have another story to tell. Pregnancy acne – that makes a pregnant woman look ugly, and it hurts so much to touch! Whatever relation it may have with the baby gender, pregnancy acne is just not a welcome side-effect of carrying a baby.
Saffron has niacin and other compounds that make it excellent for the skin. And well, there is a reason cosmetic companies are all flooding the market with saffron creams! You could even apply a paste of saffron and milk on the skin to benefit from the amazing spice.
8. Makes the baby move
It is always a thrill to feel the baby move in the womb – well, unless it is 2 am in the night and you are dying for some sleep! Jokes apart, pregnant mothers are actually advised to track their baby’s movement during the later stages of gestation.
But what if the baby refuses to budge an inch? Before you call your doctor in worry, take a warm glass of saffron milk – and I promise you your baby with move. Now whether it happens due to the heat-effect of saffron, or it is due to the taste, that can be left to science.
9. Protect yourself from common cold and fevers
The last thing you’d want during your pregnancy is to get down struggling with sniffles and with fever. Having saffron in milk during this delicate phase ensures that you get enough non-volatile active components; the most important of them is α-crocin, a carotenoid compound – which can protect you
and your baby from immune threatening modulators and common infections.
And if you do happen to develop a fever, just make a paste of a few strands of saffron with sandalwood and little water. Apply this paste topically on your forehead to make the fever come down. This is a natural way to get rid of fever during pregnancy without having any medicines.
10. Saffron fights morning sickness
Nausea during pregnancy is one of the most annoying side-effects. Saffron is known to have properties that can combat morning sickness and keep those nauseating times at bay. Have a cup of tea infused with saffron and watch morning sickness go away from being a part of your pregnancy
From which month can I have saffron milk during pregnancy?
Saffron is believed to be a heat inducing food in Ayurvedic science. Heat inducing foods are further related to uterine contractions which can be fatal during early pregnancy. For this very reason, foods like papaya, pineapple, ginger etc. are avoided during this delicate phase.
Experts are of the view that kesar milk can be had from the onset of the second trimester of pregnancy, when most of the hormones have settled and pregnancy is in a more definite phase. You could start having saffron in food and milk from the start of your fifth month of pregnancy.
What are the potential side effects of drinking saffron milk during pregnancy?
Like with all good things, saffron too can be a bad influence on your pregnancy should you have it in large quantities. It is believed that ingesting saffron in large quantities can stimulate uterine contraction and cause a miscarriage. Other side effects of high dosage of saffron during pregnancy include-
- Risk of miscarriage
- Hypersensitivity allergies
How to make saffron milk during pregnancy?
Pregnancy is a very delicate time for any woman, and it is but obvious to be cautious when eating or drinking anything. If you are thinking of having the much coveted ‘kesar milk during pregnancy, just add a few strands of saffron to a glass of warm milk and keep saffron soaked in it for about half an hour. This will enable release the flavour and colour of saffron in the milk, and infuse the taste. Next, you can add some chopped dry fruits like pista, almonds and cashews to enhance both the taste and nutrient value of this saffron milk.
The other way to make saffron milk during pregnancy would be to heat a glass of milk in a pan, and add a few saffron strands. Keep stirring till you see saffron release the colour and the aroma fills your kitchen. Garnish with chopped dry fruits and enjoy.
How Much Saffron To Use In Milk During Pregnancy?
A dosage upto 5gm daily is the upper limit during pregnancy, and ingesting saffron above this has been known to have toxic effects (4).
When making saffron milk for pregnant ladies, use no more than 2-3 strands of saffron – and do not have more than two glasses of saffron milk in a given day. Discontinue in case of any discomfort that may arise.
How can I buy and store saffron?
Because there has been no modernisation in the way saffron is cultivated and harvested, and it is still a manual job to extract those precious strands from the flowers, saffron commands an exorbitant price. The cultivation is limited, and the demand is huge. This also makes way for a parallel market that sells saffron-look-alike strands derived from other substances like the Indian safflower or compositae.
For this very reason, it is important to saffron from high-end grocery stores, in packaged pre-packs from reputed companies. Avoid cheap, local-supermarket saffron as you may be investing in toxic red-version fake strands being sold as saffron. Saffron is expensive, so no one can sell it cheap!
Thankfully, for the price it commands, it is a good thing that it can be stored in airtight containers for several years retaining its colour and freshness.