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Saffron - Crocus sativusA study at Sydney University and the University of L'Aquila in Italy has found that when eaten, saffron may protect eyes from UV damage and slow the progress of diseases such as macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.
Saffron has a long history as part of traditional healing; modern medicine has also discovered saffron as having anticarcinogenic (cancer-suppressing), anti-mutagenic (mutation-preventing), immunomodulating, and antioxidant-like properties. Early studies show that saffron may protect the eyes from the direct effects of bright light and retinal stress apart from slowing down macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.
Used as a diaphoretic for children and for chronic haemorrhage of the uterus in adults.
Saffron's aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet. Saffron also contributes a luminous yellow-orange colouring to foods. Saffron is widely used in Iranian (Persian), Arab, Central Asian, European, Indian, Turkish, and Cornish cuisines. Confectionaries and liquors also often include saffron.
The true Saffron is a low ornamental plant with grass-like leaves and large lily-shaped flowers, inhabiting the European continent, and frequently cultivated for the sake of the yellow stigmas, which are the part used in medicine, in domestic economy and in the arts.
The domesticated saffron crocus (C. sativus) is an autumn-flowering perennial plant unknown in the wild. It is a sterile triploid form, possibly of the eastern Mediterranean autumn-flowering Crocus cartwrightianus that originated in Central Asia. The saffron crocus resulted when C. cartwrightianus was subjected to extensive artificial selection by growers seeking longer stigmas. Being sterile, the plant's purple flowers fail to produce viable seeds; reproduction depends on human assistance: corms, underground bulb-like starch-storing organs, must be dug up, broken apart, and replanted. A corm survives for one season, reproducing via this division into up to ten "cormlets" that yield new plants. Corms are small brown globules up to 4.5 centimetres (1.8 in) in diameter and are shrouded in a dense mat of parallel fibers.