Latin Name: Crocus sativus (autumn flowering crocus)
The autumn flowering crocus is a fantastic plant. It produces copious amounts of flowers but no leaves in the autumn when not much is in bloom and then produces leaves in the spring. if that was not enough to cheer you up as we move from Summer to Winter the Autumn flowering crocus produces the most expensive spice (more valuable than gold weight for weight) Saffron. which is the dried stamens from the flower.
The use of saffron has been indicated in frescos that date back 3,500 years ago, the frescos show a woman treating a bleeding foot with saffron (link). Ancient Romans used it to reduce inflammation, removes itching sensations and acts as a diuretic. In England 17thC culpeper made the following observation (among others):
Saffron is endowed with great virtues, for it refreshes the spirits, and is good against fainting-fits, and the palipitation of the heart: it strengthens the stomach, helps digestin, cleanses the lungs, and is good in coughs. (Complete Herbal by Culpeper 17C)
Modern research suggests that saffron acts as an antidepressant is cardioprotective, neuroprotective and a memory enhancer. Research on the effects of saffron on the skin cells show that it has an inhibitory effect on matrix metalloproteinases responsible for aging and is a strong photoprotective agent (link).