Saffron is an important spice used in a wide variety of dishes and cuisines throughout the world. Due to its intense yellow hue, saffron lends its distinctive color to many dishes, either apart from or in conjunction with its flavor value.
Many people recognize saffron for its distinctive place within Spanish cuisine, particularly in world-famous dishes such as Paella. In Saudi Arabia, saffron is a chief ingredient, along with cardamom, of true Arabic coffee. In northern Italian cuisine, saffron is used in many risottos and in Sweden, saffron defines a traditional bread prepared on the feast day of St. Lucile. Indian cuisine uses saffron often, principally in rice dishes, sweets and ice creams.
Because the harvesting of saffron threads is extremely labor intensive, the price of the spice for culinary use is frequently quite expensive, costing more than luxury items such as caviar, truffles and real balsamic vinegar. In 2014, the price of one pound of saffron in the U.S. was estimated to cost between $2,000 and $10,000, according to What's Cooking America.
For medicinal purposes, people use saffron as an ameliorative for a wide array of afflictions, including asthma, whooping cough, sleep disorders, cancer, depression, Alzheimer's disease, infertility in men and menstrual cramping. Despite its widespread use in such cases, there is little empirical justification for it, nor is there any scientific medical consensus regarding its effectiveness, according to Web MD.