Seek the goodness of saffron this summer, for glowing skin and better health
Za’afran, azafran, kesar, or simply the golden spice, as it is sometimes referred to as, saffron, has intoxicated and enchanted many. It is derived from the flower saffron crocus (Crocus sativus). The bright purple flower has crimson stigmas (threads), which are dried and readied for use.
It is said that Alexander the Great had his forces mix saffron into their teas and their rice, as he led them on his conquest of Asia. Among the Greeks and Romans, saffron was also used as a perfume and a cosmetic to lend a glow to the complexion. Cultivated in Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, saffron was brought to India by merchants and traders from Persia, where it was extensively used in the preparation of food. Legend has it that Mughal emperor Akbar loved its fragrance so much that the baths of his palaces would be built to overlook saffron fields.
However, saffron is not limited to being the hallowed flavour-enhancer or cosmetic we know it to be. It has multiple health benefits. “Saffron is rich in manganese and helps regulate blood sugar. It is a rich source of riboflavin, an important vitamin for the heart. It also helps reduce stress hormone levels, and ease the psychological symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome),” says nutritionist Kavita Devgan. “Saffron needs moisture to release its flavour, so soak it in milk before using. Add it to desserts like kheer and custard,” she adds.
Saffron is excellent for the skin, too. Known for its cooling properties, it helps reduce inflammation, remove tan and soothe irritated skin. “Saffron works miraculously on the skin keeping it hydrated and blemish free. A little bit of this precious spice goes a long way; it is calming and soothing,” says beauty expert Ambika Pillai.
Saffron also helps bring a natural glow to the skin. “It helps treat dull skin and acne. It gives radiance to the skin, and improves skin texture,” says beauty expert, Naina Arora. The time-tested milk-and-saffron pack is a go-to remedy in Indian households. She suggests adding sandalwood powder to it for the summer. “Massage this mix on your face for a few minutes and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water. This pack can be used once a week,” she says.
Even though saffron-based creams have been in use for the longest time, they might not be the best bet in summers. Use saffron gel, “as it keeps away acne and calms irritated skin,” Pillai says.
Below are some easy-to-make, saffron-based recipes that can be used on the face and neck. With ingredients readily available at home, these recipes can be easily added to your skincare routine. If you already have a skincare regime in place, then you can instead add saffron water to face packs. Instead of using tap water as the base, simply mix soaked saffron water with chandan (sandalwood) or multani mitti (fuller’s earth).
For exfoliation: “Soak a pinch of saffron in cold milk. Mix some powdered rock salt and sugar in a small bowl, 1 tsp of coconut oil and add saffron milk to form a paste. Use it as a face scrub to exfoliate and soothe the skin. For people who are prone to acne, leave out the oil and for people who are lactose intolerant soak saffron in filtered water,” shares Pillai.
For dull skin: “Take 2-3 strands of saffron and soak them overnight in just 1 tsp of water. In the morning, you can even mix 1 tsp milk. Mix some coconut or olive oil and apply on the face. Leave it for 10-15 minutes and wash it off,” says Arora.
For instant rejuvenation: “Make your own face mist that you can spray on your face and neck any time by soaking a pinch of saffron in a glass of water overnight. Strain and pour in a small spray bottle,” says Pillai.
For acne: “Take 10-12 strands of saffron and mix them with basil leaves and make a paste. Apply on the face and leave for 20 minutes. Wash it off with cold water. This pack has anti-fungal properties and works great on acne and blemishes,” shares Arora.
For open pores: “When you choose to steam your face, replace regular water with saffron water. It helps cleanse open pores and keeps skin healthy,” says Pillai.
And if you are looking forward to include saffron in food and drinks, here’s how you can do it. While kesar thandais and milk-based drinks are popular across the country, here’s a refreshing twist to kesar summer coolers. These zesty, refreshing drinks use saffron in combination with tender coconut water, and juices of fruits like mangoes and pineapples — the ultimate summer coolers.
Zafrani Tender Coconut Mojito
Soak some saffron strands in normal water for 30 minutes. In a pitcher, add some water, ½ tsp rock salt, 20ml sugar syrup, and 30ml lemon juice. Top it off with 100ml tender coconut water and saffron water. Serve in a highball glass with some ice cubes, and garnish with a sprig of mint or lemon rind.
Recipe by chef Gautam Chaudhry of World In A Box.
Muddle 4-5 sprigs of mint in a tall glass. Mix 90ml mango juice, 30ml each of lime and pineapple juice, 20ml saffron syrup. Garnish with few mint leaves and strands of saffron.
Recipe by mixologist Vivek Negi of Philtre.
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