Payasam which originated from South India, is a fluid nectar like dessert that is served on special occasions. While this sattvic dish may be delicious and healthy, we should be careful not to indulge in it too frequently.

Eastern View: Saffron-This exotic herb is famous for its medicinal, coloring and flavoring properties. Valued all over the world, especially by culinary and medical experts.

Despite its cost, many medical practitioners consider saffron’s health benefits to be worth their weight in gold. Saffron has its importance in Ayurveda, Chinese, Unani, and Tibetan medicine.

In ayurveda reference of Saffron is found in the ancient books (Vedas).  Its snigdha (oily) and laghu (light) properties, along with its bitter taste pacifies all doshas. Saffron also has a unique vipaka (post  digestive process) of helping assimilate nutrition. It is also hot in potency and said to pacify and support all three doshas (vata,pitta and kapha). Saffron is considered a sattvic food which means it calms and grounds the central nervous system too.

Saffron has been traditionally prescribed to control phlegm, improve respiratory function and as a lung tonic. Saffron has bronchodilator effects it helps in improving pulmonary oxygenation hence it’s used in conditions like whooping cough, asthma, cold, cough, and  throat ailments. Saffron also has properties that improve vision and correct weak eyesight.

Saffron is a cardio tonic and has anti-atherosclerotic effects which help in lowering blood cholesterol and triglycerides.

This spice is a powerful liver tonic and carminative. It is used for the improvement of digestion and increases appetite. It helps in ailments like indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea, acidity, spleen ailments.

The sedative action of saffron helps in curing insomnia, a pinch of saffron taken with warm milk at night helps curing insomnia. Saffron is also known for its exhilarant and antidepressant activity which leads to the sense of well being.

Saffron also possesses aphrodisiac properties hence it’s used to cure impotence. Saffron consumption is really potent in enhancing the vitality of men. The positive effects of saffron include increasing libido, enhancement of erectile function, and amelioration of semen quality.

Ayurvedic medicines containing saffron are used to treat acne, dry skin, blemishes, dark circles around eyes and several such skin ailments. It helps to beautify skin by enhancing its glow.

And lastly, saffron is also known to produce positive effects on people with neurodegenerative disorders. Saffron helps promote learning, memory retention, and recall capacity.  It is useful in the treatment and management of age related mental impairment. Saffron has been known as an effective and safe treatment for early Alzheimer’s disease. These gorgeous red stigmas help to rejuvenate body and act as “Rasayana.” They improve your body’s immune system and increases energy levels.

Western View: Saffron contains several plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have been antioxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.

Their flower pistils compose several essential volatile oils, but the most important of them all is safranal which gives saffron its pleasant flavor. Other volatile oils in saffron are cineole, phenethenol, pinene, borneol, geraniol, limonene, p-cymene, linalool, terpinen-4-oil, etc.

This colorful spice has many non-volatile active components; the most important of them is α-crocin, a carotenoid compound, which gives pistils their natural golden-yellow color. It also contains other carotenoids, including zeaxanthin, lycopene, α- and ß-carotenes. These are important antioxidants that help protect the human body from oxidant-induced stress, cancers, infections and acts as immune modulators.

The active components in saffron have many therapeutic applications in many traditional medicines as antiseptic, antidepressant, antioxidant, digestive, anti-convulsant.

This novel spice is an excellent source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. The human body uses manganese and copper as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidasesenzymes.

Additionally, it is also rich in many vital vitamins, including vitamin-A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin-C that is essential for optimum health.

Sago Payasam

Ingredients

  • 12 strands saffron
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 1 cup sago (tiny tapioca)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups raw cow’s milk or unpasteurized milk
  • ¼ cup unrefined brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom

Instructions

Soak saffron for 10 minutes in 3 teaspoons water.

In a large skillet, melt the ghee and saute the sago until light brown. In a separate pan, boil the water and add to the sago. Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sago becomes transparent.

In a small saucepan bring the milk, sugar, saffron (and soaking water) and cardamom to the boil; add to sago. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Chill and serve.

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In health,