In 1966, when Donovan crooned "I'm just mad about Saffron/Saffron's mad about me," we don't think he knew it takes 70,000 to 250,000 purple saffron crocuses to make one pound of the amber-red seasoning. (It's made from dried stigma, the part of the flower where pollen germinates.) No wonder it costs $75 or more an ounce.
But its delicate flavor, wonderful color and nutritional payload (vitamin B-2, flavonoids) turn out to be only part of its powers: A new study reveals that taking the spice (most sold in North America is from Spain and Kashmir) is a more effective way to prevent and control post-exercise pain than taking an anti-inflammatory pain reliever called indomethacin; it is a NSAID, like ibuprofen.
Researchers had a group of inactive 18-year-olds go through a series of strenuous exercises: Those who took the powdered saffron (300 milligrams, or 1/100 of an ounce, daily for one week before and for three days after working out) were pain-free for 72 hours after exercising; those who took the NSAID had minor pain 24 hours later; and those who took neither had severe muscle pain for three days afterward.
So the next time you're getting ready to take a hike, join a charity walk-a-thon, do a fun run or are just looking for a flavor treat, cook up some paella, vegetable soup or Moroccan seafood stew, and add some saffron. Luckily, it takes just a pinch (and you can buy it by the gram) to impart its flavor and goodness.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.