Thursday, May 1, 2008

Cooking Spice Eases PMS Symptoms?

Ladies, you might want to stock up on saffron, a spice known for flavoring Mediterranean cuisine. A small study from Tehran University of Medical Sciences shows it has powers as an antidote for premenstrual syndrome, reports Reuters.

Saffron, which is the world's most expensive spice, has long been used for non-culinary purposes for everything from tummy aches to depression. In fact, results from some recent clinical trials suggest that saffron may really aid mild depression. How? It appears to interact with the brain chemical serotonin.

Because alterations in serotonin activity are suspected in PMS, the team of Iranian researchers led by Dr. M. Agha-Hosseini wondered if saffron supplements could relieve these symptoms, too.

The study: Fifty women ages 20 to 45, all of whom had suffered from PMS symptoms for at least six months, including cramps, bloating, irritability and fatigue, were randomly assigned to take either a capsule of saffron or a placebo twice a day for two menstrual cycles.

The results: Fully 75 percent of the women who took the saffron capsules reported a 50 percent reduction in their PMS symptoms, compared with just eight percent of the women taking the placebos. In addition, 60 percent of the saffron group showed a 50 percent improvement in depression symptoms, versus one woman in the placebo group, reports Reuters.

Agha-Hosseini says the findings support the idea that saffron alleviates PMS symptoms by affecting the brain's serotonin activity. This is the first study to test saffron for PMS, and longer, larger studies are needed to confirm the findings.

The study results were published in the medical journal BJOG.

--From the Editors at Netscape

Feeling hungry, ladies? Feeling tense and nervous? Have some saffron!

Saffron from Spainicon
Saffron is the golden stigma of the purple fall crocus and is the world's most expensive spice. The value of this spice is derived from the fact that it is such a labor-intensive crop. Only five to seven pounds of saffron can be produced from each acre of land. The flavor of saffron, however, is very concentrated. One gram of saffron is enough to flavor forty servings of saffron rice or two large batches of paella. Our saffron is Pure Mancha Superior Saffron from Spain and comes in individual boxes sealed as Genuine Spanish Saffron. The adorable, clear boxes are imprinted with “The Gathering of Saffron” and pictures of a woman picking saffron strands by hand and a family gathered for paella.

And if you need a little help in cooking with saffron spice, read this book:

Saffron Shores: Jewish Cooking of the Southern Mediterranean

Celebrated chef and author Joyce Goldstein has a gift for sharing her extraordinary knowledge of unusual and delicious cuisines in such an approachable and joyful way that they quickly become part of the home cook's repertoire. In Saffron Shores, she brings to the table the sensual aromas and exquisite flavors of the Southern Mediterranean in a celebration of its rich Jewish heritage. From Morocco comes a vibrant orange salad strewn with olives; from Algeria, a hearty tagine of chicken with quince; from Tunisia, a spicy eggplant puree; from Libya, a saffron and paprika infused fish soup-all are authentic, kosher, and a delightful introduction to a healthful, flavorful cuisine for the modern cook. A fascinating exploration of cultures and cuisine, lush with images, Saffron Shores is as beautiful to look at as its always-accessible recipes are delicious to eat.