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Saffron is a spice that is derive from the stigma of the flower Crocus sativus. It is mainly used as a colouring agent and as seasoning in food.

Saffron was used in the Compendium as an emmenagouge, and could also be used in combination with other treatments to assist those suffering from ague or intermittent fever. Syrup of saffron was used in a variety of prescriptions recorded in the Compendium.

British Pharmacopoeia 1867

Saffron Crocus

“The dried stigma, and part of the style, of Crocus sativus… Imported from Spain, France, and Italy.”[1]


“Thread-like styles, each terminated by three long orange-brown stigmas, broadest at the summit. Has a powerful aromatic odour. Rubbed on the wet fingers it leaves an intense orange yellow tint.” [2]Used in the preparations of:

  • Decoctum Aloes compositum
  • Pilula Aloes et Myrrh
  • Pulvis Crete aromaticus
  • Tinctura Cinchonae composita
  • Tinctura Croci
  • Tinctura Opii Ammoniata
  • Tinctura Rhei

Preparations of Saffron

Compound Decoction of Aloes / Decoctum Aloes compositum[3]

  • Extract of Socotrine Aloes (120 grains), myrrh (90 grains), saffron (90 grains), carbonate of potash (60 grains), extract of liquorice (1 oz), compound tincture of cardamoms (8 fl oz), distilled water (as needed)
  • Dose: ½-2 fl oz

Pill of Aloes and Myrrh / Pilula Aloes et Myrrh [4]

  • Socotrine aloes (2 oz), myrrh (1 oz), saffron, dried (1/2 oz), confection of roses (2 ½ oz)
  • dose: 5-10 grains

Aromatic Powder of Chalk / Pulvis Crete aromaticus[5]

  • syn: confection aromatica
  • cinnamon bar, in powder (4 oz), nutmeg, in powder (3 oz), saffron, in powder (3 oz), cloves, in powder (1 ½ oz), cardamom seeds, in powder (1 oz), prepared chalk (11 oz)
  • dose 10-60 grains

Compound Tincture of Cinchona / Tinctura Cinchonae composita [6]326-27

  • Pale cinchona bark, in moderately fine powder (2 oz), bitter-orange peel, cut small and bruised (1 oz), serpentary root, bruised (1/2 oz), saffron (60 grains), cochineal, in powder (30 grains), proof spirit (1 pint)
  • dose ½-2 fl drachm

Tincture of Saffron / Tinctura Croci [7]

  • Saffron (1 oz), proof spirit (1 pint)

Ammoniated Tincture of Opium / Tinctura Opii Ammoniata [8]

  • Opium, in coarse powder (100 grains), saffron, cut small (180 grains), benzoic acid (180 grains), oil of anise (1 fl drachm), strong solution of ammonia (4 fl oz), rectified spirit (16 fl oz)
  • dose ½-1 fl drachm

Tincture of Rhubarb / Tinctura Rhei [9]

  • rhubarb root, in coarse powder (2 oz), cardamom seeds, freed from the pericarps, and bruised (1/4 oz), saffron (1/4 oz), proof spirit (1 pint)
  • dose: 1-2 fl drachm (stomachic), 4-8 fl drachm (purgative)

A Compendium of Domestic Medicine, 1865

Saffron is classified by Savory as an Emmenagogue (remedied which promote the flow of the menses)

“Was known to the ancients, and was employed by the Romans, both as a medicine, and for strewing the temples and theatres, to diffuse an agreeable odour through them. It was brought to England in the reign of Edward III., by a pilgrim, who concealed a bulb of it in his staff, made hollow for that purpose. Much evil is sometimes produced by the custom, prevalent among the lower classes, of administering saffron at the commencement of fevers attended with cutaneous eruptions—as, for example, measles and small-pox—with the idea of throwing out the eruption. It is also much used in cookery, confectionery, and by the dyers.” [10]

Remedies Containing or to be used with Saffron

  • Bark, Canella: saffron is used in the recipe for usquebaugh (whisky), used to treat individuals with “gouty habit[s]” or individuals who suffer regularly from cramps or stomach spasms.[11]
  • Saffron: see def[12]

Diseases Treated with Saffron

General Diseases

  • Ague, or Intermittent Fever: syrup of saffron included in a cordial diaphoretic draught used during the first (cold) stage of the disease[13]

Medical Articles Containing Saffron

  • To Prevent Nightmare: syrup of saffron[14]

Prescriptions Containing Saffron


  • Stomach Mixture (Another): syrup of saffron [15]


  • Diaphoretic Draught: syrup of saffron[16]



  • An Emetic Draught, in case of Poison being taken into the Stomach: syrup of saffron [18]

Narcotics and Anodynes

  • Narcotic Draught: syrup of saffron[19]


  1. General Medical Council of Great Britain, British Pharmacopeia, (London: Spottiswoode & Co.,1867), 93
  2. GMCGB, 93
  3. GMCGB, 96-97
  4. GMCGB, 235
  5. GMCGB, 263
  6. GMCGB, 326-27
  7. GMCGB, 329
  8. GMCGB, 338
  9. GMCGB, 339-40
  10. Savory, John. A Compendium of Domestic Medicine (London: John Churchill and Sons, 1865), 127-28.
  11. Savory, 28
  12. Savory, 127-28
  13. Savory, 204
  14. Savory, 303
  15. Savory, 323
  16. Savory, 327
  17. Savory, 349
  18. Savory, 330
  19. Savory, 331

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