Health & Medicine

The docs are just mad about saffron

In 1966, when Donovan crooned “I’m just mad about Saffron/Saffron’s mad about me,” we don’t think he knew it takes 70,000 to 250,000 purple saffron crocuses to make one pound of the amber-red seasoning. (It’s made from dried stigma, the part of the flower where pollen germinates.) No wonder it costs $75 or more an ounce.

But its delicate flavor, wonderful color and nutritional payload (vitamin B-2, flavonoids) turn out to be only part of its powers: A new study reveals that taking the spice (most sold in North America is from Spain and Kashmir) is a more effective way to prevent and control post-exercise pain than taking an anti-inflammatory pain reliever called indomethacin; it is a NSAID, like ibuprofen.

Researchers had a group of inactive 18-year-olds go through a series of strenuous exercises: Those who took the powdered saffron (300 milligrams, or 1/100 of an ounce, daily for one week before and for three days after working out) were pain-free for 72 hours after exercising; those who took the NSAID had minor pain 24 hours later; and those who took neither had severe muscle pain for three days afterward.

So the next time you’re getting ready to take a hike, join a charity walk-a-thon, do a fun run or are just looking for a flavor treat, cook up some paella, vegetable soup or Moroccan seafood stew, and add some saffron. Luckily, it takes just a pinch (and you can buy it by the gram) to impart its flavor and goodness.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit