This section is from the book "A Treatise On Therapeutics, And Pharmacology Or Materia Medica Vol1", by George B. Wood. Also available from Amazon: Part 1 and Part 2.
The term saffron is, in common language as well as officinally, used to designate a product of the Crocus sativus, or common cultivated saffron, consisting of the convoluted stigmas and a portion of the attached style, separated from other parts of the flower. The plant is a native of Greece and Asia Minor, and is cultivated in most of the temperate regions of Europe, as well as in Egypt, Persia, and Cashmere. It is cultivated also in the United States, not only in our gardens as an ornamental plant, but to some extent, moreover, for medical use. The saffron, however, used in this country is generally imported; and most of it is brought from Gibraltar, Trieste, and other Mediterranean ports. As a medicine, it is so little valued as hardly to merit a place in a Materia Medica catalogue; yet it is still much used as an ingredient in various officinal preparations, especially tinctures, in which it was formerly supposed to perform an active part remedially, but in which it is now retained, partly because it adds a certain richness of appearance to these preparations, and partly from an unwillingness to disturb long established formulas. It is, therefore, an object of interest much more to the pharmaceutist than the physician; and I must content myself with referring, for its sensible and chemical properties, to the U. S. Dispensatory; merely stating here that it has a rich deep-orange colour, a sweetish, aromatic odour, and a warm, bitter, somewhat pungent taste, and yields all its virtues to water and alcohol.
It was formerly very highly esteemed as a medicine, and was supposed to possess extraordinary powers as an anodyne, antispasmodic, emmenagogue, etc.; but it is believed at present to have little remedial power of any kind. The most, probably, that can be said of it is, that it is a moderate nervous stimulant, and may possibly add somewhat to the efficiency of other remedies, with which it is combined chiefly in reference to its sensible properties. In domestic practice, it is sometimes used in the form of hot infusion, to hasten the appearance of the eruption, in certain exanthematous fevers, as measles and scarlatina, when from any cause delayed, or to restore it if suppressed.
An officinal Tincture (Tinctura Croci, Br.) may be used internally in the dose of one or two fluidrachms; but is employed mainly to give flavour and colour to other liquid preparations.
The dose of saffron itself is stated at from ten to thirty grains.