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A scoop of saffron ice cream


I have always been obsessed with the aroma and culinary magic of spices. From fiery curries, Christmas puddings and soothing broths. Spices always make a note in my cooking.

While studying it became clear to me that the purpose of spices are more than just making a dish flavorsome but possibly therapeutic.

In the spice trade, saffron has definitely royalty status. One kilogram of saffron can vary anywhere from $1300 -$7500 a kilo depending on where it is cultivated.

Saffron by far has become the one of the most researched spices in complementary medicine. Saffron (Crocus Stavius) now appears in many supplements and superfood products. For herbalists and practitioners of traditional medicine saffron has been used for centuries to treat a range of conditions from measles, leprosy to sexual dysfunction. Recently the therapeutic focus on saffron is due to its positive effects on treating anxiety and mild depression.


All relevant studies in saffron are conducted using saffron supplements. This is more cost effective method of dosing saffron due to the extraction process and includes the active constituents of saffron that are required to treat the condition.

Saffron therapeutic constituents are: Picrocrocin, Crocetin, crocin and safranal. Saffron is rich in lycopene, antioxidants and flavonoids.

Mood related disorders: Current research has shown positive results in saffron reducing symptoms of mild depression, anxiety and ADHD. Murdoch University study showed administration of 14mg twice a day over an 8 week period reduced symptoms of Teenage anxiety, social phobias and mild depression.

Alzheimer’s Disease and cognitive decline: study using 30mg a day for 22 weeks showed improvements in cognitive function in subjects suffering AD. Saffron may also support depression associated with AD, Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

Cardiovascular conditions: saffron may reduce cholesterol, remove atherosclerosis and reduce hypertension.

Gastrointestinal supplementation: of 90mg/day of saffron was shown to reduce inflammation and pain of peptic ulcers.

Saffron has shown promising therapeutic treatment for ulcerative colitis. This may be due to saffron’s action in reducing the inflammatory enzymes that aggravate colitis. Ulcerative colitis is often triggered by stress, saffron may reduce the mental stress that aggravates inflammatory bowel diseases.

Cancer treatment: in liver and stomach cancers, saffron has an antioxidant and antiproliferative action. Saffron may support the immune system in reduce cancer progression.


Do not be discouraged trying this recipe because you don’t have an ice cream machine or expensive multi-function food processor, neither do I. It works perfectly well using a basic mixer or hand blender.

Making your own ice cream allows you to use the finest ingredients and leave out the mass of sugar, inverted glucose syrups and other thickeners. It is a process but ice cream for me is a treat and worth the wait.


  • 6 egg yolks

  • ¼ cup of honey

  • 600mls of pouring cream

  • 1 tsp of pure saffron threads

  • ½ cup of ground pistachios

  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste


In a glass bowl whisk egg yolk, vanilla, saffron and honey together well until smooth and resembles a custard. Then add cream and whisk until it is well combined. Place the custard mixture over a saucepan of simmering water. When the mixture starts to heat whisk the custard until it starts to thicken slightly.

Freeze mixture for about 4 hours. Remove from the freezer, add the pistachios and churn in a mixer or food processor until smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl if it has frozen too much. Return to the freezer and repeat this process.

Pour the mixture into dariole molds so they can be served individually, this is not essential but it makes presentation really lovely. Remember that homemade ice cream doesn’t contain the emulsifiers, thickeners and other ingredients that make ice cream easy to scoop.

Leave the ice cream at room temperature for 30 minutes or dip the dish or molds in hot water to soften slightly.

Other culinary suggestions for saffron:

Saffron is definitely worth it’s weight in gold, so don’t waste it, a little goes a long way. Try adding saffron to these basic dishes.

  • Risotto: this is the classic risotto Milanese, fragrant and simple

  • Bouillabaisse: seafood soup with a hint of saffron,

  • Bone broth: add a pinch to any broth to add flavor and comfort

  • Custard: not too much as it can really be overpowering.

  • Butter chicken: make your own paste which traditionally contains saffron.

  • Saffron infused tea: add a few strands to your favourite tea.


  • Khorasany, A. R., & Hosseinzadeh, H. (2016). Therapeutic effects of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) in digestive disorders: a review. Iranian journal of basic medical sciences, 19(5), 455-69.

  • affron®, a standardised extract from saffron (Crocus sativus L.) for the treatment of youth anxiety and depressive symptoms: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study Volume 232, May 2018, Pages 349-357 Adrian L.LoprestiaPeter D.DrummondaAntonio M.Inarejos-GarcíabMarinProdanov

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