Saffron is not used in cosmetics and is banned in Italy and other European countries.
However, it is popular in Spain and Portugal, particularly in fashion.
But in Italy where saffron is usually used as a flavouring in foods and baked goods, consumers find it tastes like plastic.
What are the health warnings for saffron?
If you are considering consuming a small amount of saffron, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) warns users of the leafy green herb are not at risk of taking in harmful chemicals called phytoestrogens.
The FSA warns the herb can cause hair loss, reproductive issues and thyroid damage.
But it has received little attention outside of Europe.
Is saffron a good source of nutrition?
“We have a great deal of evidence from around the world showing saffron and its components have a beneficial effect on a variety of health issues,” says Dr Peter Brown of Leeds Beckett University in the UK.
“So it’s not surprising that saffron has been used in cooking and culinary preparations for centuries.”
Some studies suggest saffron can have health benefits beyond those reported in its leafy varieties, which contain more fibre.
In the last decade – although much smaller in scale – a number of studies have also showed that saffron may also boost your immune system, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol levels and improve cognitive abilities.
In Britain, some traditional recipes still call for two to three tablespoons of the green herb in the meal.
As well, studies now also suggest saffron can help you to live longer, particularly if you eat it as a supplement.
Why is saffron bad for you?
In the UK, saffron isn’t included in the list of foods recommended by the Government as essential:
Food safety standards on saffron are weak; no mandatory checks have been carried out
The FSA is also looking into whether saffron could be used in processed foods without meeting the criteria for health and safety
So it is not yet clear that saffron can cause harmful chemicals to be absorbed through your gut or even into your bloodstream, say experts.
But the most worrying ingredient? It’s phytoestrogens – the compounds that influence the growth and development of male fertility.
Phytoestrogens are thought to help to promote testicular growth
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