Known as one of the most expensive herbs in the world, saffron packs a punch both in terms of flavor and potential health benefits.
Similar to many herbs and spices, it is important to be cautious with the amount of saffron that you use while pregnant. Enjoying foods and drinks flavored with saffron is not only safe, but offers a boost of antioxidants.
On the other hand, large, supplemental amounts of saffron are best avoided due to their connection with miscarriage and labor timing.
Saffron’s health benefits are no new discovery. Read on to learn how traditional and Ayurvedic medicine have been incorporating saffron and how certain saffron dishes can benefit you during pregnancy.
Is Saffron Safe During Pregnancy?
Great things certainly do come in small packages- and that includes saffron. Saffron, which is a vibrant red exotic spice with a sweet floral flavor is sometimes called the ‘most expensive spice in the world. Even a small vial can be quite costly, especially when you consider saffron’s featherlight weight.
In many countries, turmeric is often called saffron, despite coming from an entirely different plant.
Due to the price point, true saffron is typically used in very small amounts in foods. It is popular in Spanish, Indian, and Middle-Eastern styles of cooking, such as saffron spiced chicken, paella, and saffron rice.
On the contrary, saffron is also used as dietary supplements and in extracts. When consumed in these ways, you are taking a much larger amount of saffron than from foods seasoned with the floral spice.
The amount of saffron is important in its safety during pregnancy. While consumption of saffron in foods is likely safe during pregnancy, several studies have shown that taking large amounts of saffron, such as amounts found in saffron supplements, can impact labor timing and even miscarriage.
One study found that women who took saffron supplements near their delivery date were more likely to show a larger number of labor readiness signs.
While this may sound like an exciting way to speed up the last days/weeks of pregnancy, the study only included a small number of expecting mothers and the safety of saffron supplements haven’t been studied during other stages of pregnancy (source: IRCMJ).
Another study had more worrying findings. Researchers discovered that women who tended saffron fields during their pregnancies, leading to substantial exposure to saffron, were 10% more likely to experience miscarriage (source: APJMT).
Because large, supplemental amounts of saffron can interact with labor timing and fetal safety, it is best to stick to the smaller amounts of saffron found in foods.
Is Saffron Good for Pregnant Women?
While large, supplemental doses of saffron should be avoided during pregnancy, there are some health benefits to come from enjoying saffron seasoned foods.
Saffron has long been used in traditional and Ayurvedic medicines as treatments for everything from gastrointestinal woes to pain, and even fevers. Recent research has shown that practitioners of traditional medicine may have been onto something. Saffron contains a number of bioactive compounds, including crocin, crocetin, and safranal.
These compounds function as antioxidants, working against inflammation and conditions such as cardiovascular disease, mental health disorders, and certain eye conditions (source: Nutrition Today).
There is limited research to back up these amazing benefits, particularly throughout pregnancy. If you enjoy the flavor of saffron and saffron-seasoned dishes, then you can also enjoy its possible health benefits.
Saffron Milk When Pregnant: Are There Benefits?
Saffron milk, or Kesar, is a popular drink across India. Made with good quality saffron, cardamom, almonds, and a hint of sweetener, Kesar can be served warm either warm or cold. It is especially popular as a drink for pregnant women to relax as well as give a boost of calcium and vitamin D from milk to support the baby’s bone development.
Feeling thirsty yet? There are numerous recipes available online to make your own at home. If you’re not feeling up to cooking or simply don’t have access to saffron, there are several store-bought Kesar mixes available on the market as well.
Bear in mind that saffron drink mixes may contain extra herbal ingredients. Be sure to read the label carefully to ensure you aren’t accidentally drinking any unsafe herbs.
Will Saffron Lead to Having a “Fair Baby”?
Among the list of pregnancy-related rumors swirling around is that consuming saffron while pregnant leads to having a baby with a lighter skin tone. This is another one of the rumors that is simply that- a rumor.
There is no scientific evidence to show that saffron (or any other herb for that matter) impacts your baby’s physical features. Skin tone and other physical features are passed on with genetics, not with the foods you eat.
Knowing which herbs and spices are safe during pregnancy, and in which amounts, is a serious undertaking. Hopefully, this article has de-mystified this lesser-known but certainly not any less flavorful herb.