Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the "saffron crocus". The vivid crimson stigma and styles, called threads, are collected and dried for use mainly as a seasoning and colouring agent in food. Although some doubts remain on its origin, it is believed that saffron originated in Iran. Saffron crocus slowly propagated throughout much of Eurasia and was later brought to parts of North Africa, North America, and Oceania.
Saffron's taste and iodoform-like or hay-like fragrance result from the phytochemicalspicrocrocin and safranal. It also contains a carotenoid pigment, crocin, which imparts a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes and textiles. In the 21st century, Iran produces some 90% of the world total for saffron. At US$5,000 per kg or higher, saffron has long been the world's costliest spice by weight.
The two major carotenoids in saffron, crocin, and crocetin may have antitumor effects. These compounds may also reduce inflammation risk. Safranal, another compound in the spice, was found to promote retinal health.