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Saffron (Kesar) During Pregnancy: Safety, Benefits And Side Effects

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There is a belief in some cultures that consuming saffron during pregnancy can help give a fairer complexion to the baby. While this may sound unconvincing, people do advise pregnant women to have saffron by mixing it in milk or some other food.

So, are there any proven benefits of saffron for pregnant women? Why do women have saffron during pregnancy? Find out in this post, as MomJunction tells you about the good and the bad of eating saffron during pregnancy, tips to consume it safely, and more.

Is Saffron Safe To Take During Pregnancy?

Saffron, one of the most expensive spices in the world, is considered safe during pregnancy, provided you take it in a small quantity. According to the Drug Information Database, exposure to saffron in excessive amounts could lead to uterine contractions, thrombocytopenia, bleeding, and abortion (1).

Some people believe that consuming saffron during pregnancy makes the baby fairer (2). This, however, has no scientific backing.

Does Saffron Have Benefits During Pregnancy?

When consumed in small quantities, saffron is believed to have some benefits during pregnancy, owing to its medicinal properties.

  1. Digestion: A survey published in the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences in 2013 has found that the astringent properties in saffron help cleanse the digestive tract, improve the blood flow, increase appetite, and support digestion (3) (4).
  1. Blood pressure: A study done on rats has found that the components, including crocin and safranal, in saffron have properties that might control the increase in blood pressure (5). It may, therefore, reduce blood pressure during pregnancy.
  1. Pains and cramps: Your muscles and bones stretch to accommodate the growing baby. This might cause cramps and pain in the joints and stomach. The anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties could help soothe these cramps (6) (7).
  1. Sleep: Some women, who find it difficult to get good sleep during pregnancy, use saffron to feel relaxed and sleep well. Saffron’s sedative and hypnotic properties are believed to help in such cases (8).
  1. Mood enhancement: Anxiety amongst mixed emotions are common during pregnancy. Saffron is known to be an anti-depressant (1) and could help in elevating your mood.
  1. Heart health: According to a review done in Iran, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of saffron might help keep the cholesterol levels under control and maintain the health of arteries and blood vessels (9).
  1. Might facilitate labor: Saffron is known to affect uterine contractions. This is believed to help in cervical ripening and might ease labor when taken during labor (10).

These benefits are likely to be derived from the actual spice, while saffron is available in the form of extract as well.

[Read: Cherries During Pregnancy]

Is Saffron Extract Safe During Pregnancy?

Saffron extract is highly concentrated. In some Asian countries, it is used as a supplement for depression, weight loss, burning fat, and reducing sugar cravings. However, there is no scientific research on how safe the use of the extract is during pregnancy. Therefore, it is better to avoid the extract as it usually has high concentrations of crocin and safranal.

When Can You Take Saffron During Pregnancy?

Alternative medical practitioners believe that expectant mothers may take saffron during the second trimester, preferably from the fifth month — the time when the baby starts moving in the womb. Also, the pregnancy gets stable by then.

Women usually take just a couple of strands (20 to 30 milligrams) of saffron a day. Intake of more than the said amount of saffron might have some side effects.

Side Effects Of Saffron During Pregnancy

Saffron can be harmful when you take it in excessive quantities.

  1. Premature labor or abortion: As mentioned above, the intake of excessive saffron may increase body heat, and might lead to premature labor or abortion (11). Therefore, you should be careful about the dosage you take.
  1. Other effects: Some may have bleeding, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (1).

People use saffron in minimal quantities due to its toxicity, as well as the exorbitant cost. However, it might be consumed in multiple ways.

Various Ways Women Consume Saffron During Pregnancy

Here is how you may try consuming saffron. But talk to your doctor before adding saffron to your diet:

  • Saffron milk is one of the most popular ways pregnant women have this spice. A few strands of saffron are added to a glass of milk or other dairy products.
  • It is also used as a flavoring agent to enhance the taste of a dish. A strand or two of saffron is added to soups and rice preparations or desserts.

There are two most common methods of using saffron in milk or food:

  • Soaking: The threads are crushed in a mortar and pestle and put in warm milk or water. It is infused for about 10 to 15 minutes and then added to milk or any recipe.
  • Crumbling: The threads are crumbled with fingers and added to any preparation.

If you want to have saffron and your doctor has given the go-ahead, then you would want to choose good quality saffron and not the counterfeit.

Tips To Choose And Store Saffron

Use these tips to choose and store saffron:

  • Since it is an expensive spice, you may get several adulterated varieties of saffron. Buy from a well-known brand or store that has government-approved quality trademarks.
  • Check the label, manufacture, and expiry dates.
  • Pure saffron is crimson with a soft orange-red tip. The highest-grade variety has a deep color. Adulterated types might look completely crimson and have white or yellow threads.
  • Store in an airtight container and put in a dark place. This way, its taste and fragrance remain for some months.
  • You can also wrap it in a foil, put it in an airtight container, and refrigerate it.

[Read: Almond Milk During Pregnancy]

Saffron enhances the aroma and the look of the dishes and might make them more appetizing. However, make sure you are not taking it in high quantities. Also, consult your doctor before including it in your regular diet.

Did you use saffron when you were pregnant? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below.

References:

1. Mohammad J. Siddiqui et al.; Saffron (Crocus sativus L.): As an Antidepressant; J Pharm Bioallied Sci (2018)
2. Sreetama Chakrabarti and Abhik Chakrabarti; Food taboos in pregnancy and early lactation among women living in a rural area of West Bengal; J Family Med Prim Care (2019)
3. Behjat Javadi et al.; A Survey on Saffron in Major Islamic Traditional Medicine Books; Iran J Basic Med Sci (2013)
4. Mansoureh Gorginzadeh and Mansoureh Vahdat; Smooth muscle relaxant activity of Crocus sativus (saffron) and its constituents: possible mechanisms; Avicenna J Phytomed. (2018)
5. Zohreh Nasiri et al.; Dietary saffron reduced the blood pressure and prevented remodeling of the aorta in L-NAME-induced hypertensive rats; Iran J Basic Med Sci (2015)
6. Amin Mokhtari-Zaer et al.; Smooth muscle relaxant activity of Crocus sativus (saffron) and its constituents: possible mechanisms; Avicenna J Phytomed (2015)
7. Hossein Hosseinzadeh; Saffron: A Herbal Medicine of Third Millennium; Jundishapur J Nat Pharm Prod (2014)
8. Sasan Andalib et al.; Sedative and hypnotic effects of Iranian traditional medicinal herbs used for the treatment of insomnia; EXCLI J (2011)
9. Kamalipour M and Akhondzadeh S; Cardiovascular effects of saffron: an evidence-based review; J Tehran Heart Cent (2011)
10. Hasan Badie Bostan et al.; Toxicology effects of saffron and its constituents: a review; Iran J Basic Med Sci (2017)
11. Roghaieh Sadi et al.; Effect of Saffron (Fan Hong Hua) On the Readiness of The Uterine Cervix In Term Pregnancy: A Placebo-Controlled Randomized Trial; Iran Red Crescent Med J (2016)
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