Saffron is perhaps the most expensive and ancient among incenses known to man. Saffron-based pigments were probably used to make stencil prints on the walls of caves by earliest cave inhabitants around 30000 BC. But the earliest saffron dye pigments used in paintings probably goes back to the Minoan period.
Saffron and other aromatic spices were often scattered on pillows and sheets in ancient Roman times for their aroma and freshness. The spice was mixed with olive oil to scent clothes and hair.
Homer states that Greek gods Zeus and Jupiter lay on a bed of saffron to enhance amorous emotions. Dioscorides, the Greek physician, mentions the aphrodisiac properties of saffron. It is also mentioned as a ritual incense in the Orphic mysteries of the cult of Dionysus.
Shen Nung, a ruler in China (c. twenty-seventh or twenty-eighth century BC) and regarded as the father of Chinese medicine, described medicinal uses of more than 300 herbs, including saffron, in one of the earliest of the extant Materia Medica called the Divine Husbandman’s Materia Medica, compiled in the first century AD.
The plant has been used as medicine across all herbal medicinal systems. Traditionally, the species is used for stomach cramps, flatulence, respiratory ailments, blood disorders, heart diseases, and as an aphrodisiac. It is a folk remedy for headaches, colds, has antidiarrheal, and antidysentery properties.
And there is much more to saffron. A whole book on the plant, its uses in ancient and modern times can be written.
Read the section on saffron to learn more on the herb – Holy Herbs: Modern Connections to Ancient Plants