Saffron Skin Secret Benefits: Ayurvedic and Modern Insights
What Is Saffron?
Saffron contains over 150 phytonutrients, including carotenoids, anthocyanins, flavonoids, and terpenoids, which give it potent medicinal properties. In addition to its use as a luxurious spice in Iranian and South Asian cuisine, saffron is also a significant part of Hindu culture, where it is offered to the Gods.
Saffron is a highly valued ingredient in skincare products due to its skin-whitening properties. It is also known as kumkuma, kesar, and zafran. Ayurveda attributes several benefits to saffron such as wound-healing, anti-inflammatory properties, balancing of all three doshas, and brightening of skin tone.
Modern research confirms saffron's antioxidant, anti-acne, antidepressant, melanin inhibiting, analgesic, dermo-protective and antibacterial properties. This makes saffron useful for both topical application and consumption, which can visibly improve facial skin.
Despite its benefits, saffron is expensive because it requires a lot of flowers to produce a small amount. Around 150 Crocus sativus flowers are needed to produce just 1 gram of dry saffron threads. To produce 12 grams, one would need to cultivate a kilogram of flowers.
Benefits Of Saffron For Skin
Dr. Zeel Gandhi, who is the Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix, has stated that saffron, also known as Kumkuma, helps in balancing all three doshas. Saffron is highly valued for its complexion-enhancing properties known as Varnya. It is also said to be Vyanga hara, which means it has the ability to correct discolored patches on the skin.
Dr. Gandhi also mentioned that saffron helps in increasing glutathione levels in cells which triggers strong anti-oxidant and anti-melanogenic properties. Additionally, it assists in the metabolic conversion of Carotenoids to Retinoids, which is also known as Vitamin A. Retinoids are essential in enhancing complexion and have been well researched for their anti-aging benefits.
Some of the benefits of saffron include improving complexion, correcting discolored patches, and providing anti-oxidant and anti-aging benefits.
1. For Skin Pigmentation
You may have noticed that saffron is often illustrated or mentioned on the labels of various skin whitening creams. Kumkumadi tailam, a famous Ayurvedic product known for its rapid skin brightening abilities, is named after its key ingredient, kumkum (saffron).
According to a critical review of Ayurvedic Varnya herbs and their tyrosinase inhibition effect, saffron has excellent tyrosinase inhibition activity, which is the enzyme responsible for melanin synthesis. This proves its ability to promote complexion.
Saffron contains over 150 types of carotenoids such as safranal, lycopene, alpha and beta-carotenes, and zeaxanthin, which is why it has such effective skin brightening properties.
2. Treats Acne
Acne vulgaris is a skin condition that occurs due to blocked pores. The condition is characterized by inflammation of the skin. Saffron, which contains phyto-compounds like crocin and crocetin, has strong anti-inflammatory properties that help in treating inflammation caused by acne lesions. Additionally, saffron's antimicrobial abilities help heal bacterial infections in skin pores, while its antioxidant properties promote skin healing.
Saffron also inhibits melanogenesis naturally, preventing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and reducing the chances of acne marks and scars. Moreover, saffron acts as a detoxifier when consumed, purifying the blood and eliminating harmful toxins from the body. Ayurvedic belief holds that toxins in the body are a major cause of acne.
3. Treats Skin Infections And Heals Wounds
Topical application of saffron creams or including the herb in your regular skincare routine can prevent various skin infections due to saffron’s antimicrobial properties. Additionally, the rare apocarotenoid, crocetin, present in saffron makes it an excellent wound healer. The application of saffron extracts on wounds and burns reduces the epithelization period and enhances the strength of the repaired skin.
4. Delays Skin Aging
There are various factors that can speed up skin aging, such as sun exposure, a stressful lifestyle, smoking, and pollution. The production of free radicals and reactive oxygen species caused by these harmful factors can damage your skin, leading to premature cell death, collagen breakdown, and depletion of essential lipids.
To prevent oxidative stress-related skin aging, most anti-aging products contain antioxidants that restore the oxidant-antioxidant balance in your body. Saffron's anti-aging properties come from its antioxidant compounds called apocarotenoids, including kaempferol, safranal, crocin, crocetin, carotene, picrocrocin, and more. These compounds reduce oxidative stress, prevent wrinkles and fine lines, and keep your skin looking youthful for years.
A study called "Preparation and evaluation of anti-wrinkle cream containing saffron extract and avocado oil" applied an oil-in-water formula containing saffron topically on 20 volunteers for twelve weeks. Results showed that the formulation improved skin elasticity and significantly reduced wrinkles, proving its efficacy as an anti-aging treatment.
Saffron possesses anti-inflammatory properties due to the presence of crocin, making it a safe option for treating skin allergies, dermatitis, or psoriasis. It can inhibit skin edema and reduce pain in the lesions while calming the affected skin.
Saffron tea is also a part of an anti-psoriatic diet recommended in Edgar Cayce’s readings. Studies suggest that drinking saffron tea, along with other antioxidant-rich foods, can improve psoriasis symptoms in patients. Moreover, saffron is antipruritic, which makes it effective in relieving itchiness, a common symptom of eczema or psoriasis-affected skin.6. Protects From Sun Damage
6. Protects against sun damage
A study titled “Does Saffron Have Antisolar and Moisturizing Effects?” explored the potential of saffron as a natural sunscreen. The research suggests that saffron can be used as a UV absorbing agent due to the presence of flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol, as well as phenolic acids such as caffeic, ferulic, and cinnamic acid. In addition to shielding the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays, applying saffron topically may also prevent photosensitive reactions after undergoing a photo-dynamic skin treatment.
7. Prevents skin cancer
Saffron has been found to prevent skin cancer, according to a medical article titled “Plants used to treat skin diseases.” In animal subjects, saffron consumption prevented the formation of skin tumors (papillomas) and reduced the size of existing ones. Additionally, early treatment with saffron successfully inhibited skin cancer in mice.
8. Enhances all skin type
According to Ayurveda, our skin is influenced by three doshas - Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. Kapha helps maintain the skin’s moisture, Pitta regulates skin metabolism, and Vata promotes blood circulation and the supply of essential nutrients to the skin. But let’s face it - getting perfectly balanced skin is tough. So, we may have dry skin (Vata-type), oily skin (Kapha-type), or sensitive/allergy-prone skin (Pitta-type). Saffron, which is a ‘tridoshahara’ ingredient, can help balance these doshas and prevent aggravations. That’s why it can be used for all skin types and for treating various skin diseases.
In conclusion, saffron, with its rich history in both Ayurvedic and modern skincare, emerges as a remarkable ingredient for skin health. Its diverse benefits, from treating acne to delaying signs of aging, and its ability to balance the three doshas, make it a versatile and valuable component of any skincare routine.