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The Mediterranean herb saffron, long used in cooking, is made from the dried stigma (top of the female portion) of the Crocus sativaflower. Each flower has only three small stigmas, and it requires about 75,000 flowers to produce one pound of saffron. As a cooking herb, saffron is valued for its intense orange-yellow color and its subtle flavor. Medicinally, it has been used since ancient times for strengthening digestion, relieving coughs, smoothing menstruation, relaxing muscle spasms, improving mood, and calming anxiety. Saffron contains vitamin B 2 along with a yellow flavonoid called crocin, a bitter glycoside called picrocrocin, and the volatile, aromatic substance safranal.
In the studies of depression described above, saffron was used at a dose of 30 mg daily of an alcohol-based extract.