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The dried stigmas and the tops of the styles of the saffron crocus, Crocus sativus, picked early in the morning when half open, then gently dried on a slow fire, form saffron; 75,000 to 100,000 flowers are required to produce one pound of it. In the chill of an early November morning the sight of a saffron field in Kashmir covered with mauve saffron crocuses waiting to be plucked is truly unforgettable.

Saffron is pungent, bitter and sweet. It controls and balances all the doshas. Being a reproductive organ it is mainly used on the reproductive tract. It regulates the menstrual cycle, relieves dysmenorrhoea and PMT and promotes fertility. It is widely regarded as an aphrodisiac for both sexes, especially when dissolved in milk and is also digestive and relieves respiratory congestion. Saffron and opium dissolved in brandy and painted on the cheeks drives colds from the head; for children the opium is dropped and the brandy is replaced with milk. Saffron is used in pastes to adorn the skin and improve the complexion, both of humans and of deities in temples; ancient texts hail saffron paste as the supreme cosmetic for a woman's breasts. Saffron is also said to purify the mind.

Ayurveda Life Health and Longevity by Robert E. Svoboda - Penguin Books.