The 13 Best Saffron Benefits

 

Saffron is a spice derived from Crocus sativus. It is often called saffron crocus, the autumn crocus, Kesar, and Safran.

The stigmas of the plant are collected to create an incredibly expensive spice.

This explains why safflower is sold as not only a substitute but mixed in with saffron to make diluted products.

In more egregious cases, turmeric is sold as Indian saffron, American saffron or Mexican saffron though it doesn’t provide the same significant health benefits saffron crocus does.

However, it is not just the precious stigma that can be used in herbal medicine.

Authentic saffron has been used as everything from an expectorant, asthma remedy, aphrodisiac, baldness remedy, sedative, pain reliever, and menstrual reliever.

Compounds within the plant can be used to stave convulsions, fight inflammation and improve blood flow.

Saffron finds its way into anti-itch creams, beauty products, and teas.

However, what are the 13 best saffron benefits?

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1. Saffron Is Good for Fighting Depression

One double-blind study, the gold standard of medical studies, found that those taking saffron twice a day had decreased levels of depression and anxiety at the end of eight weeks.

While being treated for depression, they also saw reductions in their level of social anxiety and general anxiety. [1]

The doctor behind the research study thought that the reason it worked was that saffron is both anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant.

These traits enhance the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, the deficit of which is thought to cause depression.

Summary: It fights anxiety and depression.

2. It Holds Promise as an Anti-Obesity Drug

Obesity brings with it a host of health problems. It raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It increases the odds someone will develop debilitating arthritis.

The obesity rate continues to rise around the world.

This means there is significant demand for any drug that can fight the tendency to overeat, become sedate and see your metabolism slow down as your body packs on the pounds.

The crocetin compound, a compound in saffron that is thought to make it such a strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and free radical scavenger shows promise as an anti-obesity drug. It does this by altering the regulation of metabolic functions. It doesn’t suppress appetite or accelerate metabolism.

Instead, the bioactive compounds in saffron seem to reduce problems like high lipids and cardiovascular degeneration. This would make saffron a power anti-obesity drug, though it doesn’t mean you can have a donut with your curry.

On top of all of this is how the mood-improving effect of saffron could reduce appetite and an impulse to snack out of boredom or depression. Its mood-altering effects lower stress levels, too, and this can contribute to a decreased appetite because one isn’t made hunger by a body that reacts to stress by saying stock up on calories before the hard times hit.

Summary: Saffron holds promise as an anti-obesity drug, and the known benefits may help some consumers reduce their stress eating that contributes to obesity.

3. It Is Anti-Inflammatory

Drugs derived from saffron plants, both the stigma and the petals, fight inflammation on a systemic level. Saffron even reduces histamine responses. [9] This may contribute to its ability to counteract neurodegenerative disorders. [4]

On the flipside, saffron is so safe that it has no real side effects. When medical trials are held with this medicinal plant, almost no one drops out because of the side effects. The only restriction is related to pregnancy since saffron stimulates the uterus.

The rare adverse effects in patients who aren’t pregnant are minor like dry mouth and, occasionally, nausea.

Summary: Saffron is a safe anti-inflammatory remedy that protects the body at all levels.

4. It Is Anti-Diabetic

We should list among the top saffron health benefits how saffron staves off the development of diabetes. In animal studies, saffron was shown to fight hyperglycemia.

On top of that, it provided a degree of protection for the pancreas. The saffron compounds reversed damage to the pancreatic islets to the near-regular appearance in diabetic rats.

This doesn’t mean that saffron will cure diabetes in humans, but it suggests that saffron usage will reduce the odds of people developing diabetes. [3]

Summary: Saffron helps prevent diabetes, and it may be able to reverse it partially.

5. It Can Ease PMS

We mentioned the way saffron stimulates menstrual blood flow, so pregnant women shouldn't use it. However, for every other woman of childbearing age, this effect may be beneficial.

Patients suffering from PMS found that their symptoms were reduced when they tried saffron. The reduction in symptoms was as high as 50%. Their mood may have also improved because of the psychological effects of the herbal remedy that we’ve already discussed.

Summary: Saffron can ease PMS symptoms of all kinds.

6. It May Stop Vision Loss

While this is not one of the historically known benefits of saffron, University of Sydney researchers in 2010 found that saffron slowed the progression of AMD or age-related macular degeneration.

More than ten million people in the U.S. suffer from AMD. It can cause blindness over several years, though steps can be taken to slow down the progression.

In the University of Sydney, a world-first, they found that patients taking saffron pills every day for three months saw real improvements in their vision. All patients saw improvements in their vision, though the degree varied.

Nearly all were able to read smaller lines of text before, while a few lucky patients were able to resume reading again. When they stopped taking the saffron pill, the benefits were lost.

The researchers think that saffron’s anti-apoptotic property, the way that it makes oxygen available to cells and prevents cell death, explains these benefits.

Due to this study, saffron is now being studied as a treatment for other vision disorders such as retinitis pigmentosa.

Summary: Saffron may be an excellent way to halt conditions that cause blindness.

7. It Can Ease Pain and Nerve Irritation

In addition to fighting inflammation, animal studies have shown the water, and alcohol-based extracts of the saffron petal and stigma reduced irritation, the sensation of pain and the impulse to writhe when exposed to irritation. This is scientific backing for the historical use of saffron as an antispasmodic and anticonvulsant.

This is aside from the ancient method of saffron as a treatment for anxiety and insomnia. In animal studies, [9], saffron extract increased the amount by which animals slept, but when awake, they were relaxed but had no severe reduction in their motor coordination.

The only area where saffron came up short in the lab relative to its folk medicine usage was as an anticonvulsant. While it had an anticonvulsant effect in rats with the PTZ induced seizure model, saffron didn’t suppress PTZ induced seizures. [10]

Safranal reduced the duration of PTZ induced seizures, and it had some impact on reducing the frequency of seizures. However, saffron may help prevent the development of Parkinson’s disease, a condition that causes involuntary movements. [19]

Summary: Saffron reduces pain, irritation, and insomnia. Moreover, it does this without leaving subjects with severe impairments.

8. It Protects Your Cardiovascular System

Saffron extract brings down blood pressure in animal studies. [10] In some of these studies, the animals taking saffron extract saw heart function preserved though they were stressed.

This is aside from the high level of oxidants in saffron that could slow the deterioration of the cardiovascular system. Because crocin increases blood flow to the retina and choroid, it may be able to treat ischemic retinopathy, as well. [13]

Summary: It protects your cardiovascular system from degradation.

9. It Protects the Brain from Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease or AD is a devastating condition, robbing people of their memories before it robs them of their personalities, eventually claiming their lives. Saffron extract has been shown to improve the cognitive function of rats with Alzheimer’s disease.

A biochemical analysis [11] found that saffron extract inhibited the activity of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and the breakdown of acetylcholine by up to a third. This is currently the primary therapeutic approach for treating Alzheimer’s disease.

Patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease were given saffron for 16 weeks and shown to have improvements in their cognitive function. [12]

Summary: It may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but it can also be used as a therapy for the disorder.

10. It Eases Coughing

One study confirmed the historical use of saffron extracts, both from the stem and petals, as antitussives or a cough suppressant. The alcohol-based extract of the saffron plant and safranal reduced the amount of coughing. [13]

Add that pain relief among saffron benefits, and you can see why it was often used for those suffering from a sore throat.

Summary: This remedy has traditionally used for respiratory infections, and science confirms the reasons why.

11. It Has an Aphrodisiac Effect

Studies showed that crocin at any dosage had an aphrodisiac effect in animal studies. There was no such benefit from safranal. [13]

Saffron supplements would reasonably improve sexual performance in those suffering from depression by merely treating the depression. How saffron improves blood flow has led to it being used to enhance sexual performance in those taking antidepressants that lower libido. [16]

It has also been used to treat idiopathic infertility. Another benefit of saffron that may lead to the aphrodisiac is when it is used to boost energy levels. By raising mitochondrial function, stimulating the brain and improving blood flow to muscles, it is normal for those who have otherwise not felt like engaging in such activities suddenly being able to do so. [18]

Saffron simultaneously improved muscle blood flow, oxygen transport to muscles, and performance of the motor cortex.

Summary: Saffron has been used to treat sexual dysfunction due to many causes.

12. It May Be a Viable Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders

The antioxidant effect of saffron maybe contributes to it being a therapy for those in the initial and chronic phases of multiple sclerosis. In one study, [14], saffron was able to reduce observed numerous sclerosis symptoms.

Critical components of crocetin may prevent the demyelination and neurodegeneration that leads to disability with multiple sclerosis. On top of this, the study by Ghazavi observed a reduction in symptoms in an experimental model of autoimmune encephalomyelitis. In this rare condition, the body mistakenly attacks healthy brain cells. [15]

A side benefit of saffron is how it can treat the memory decline observed in many people with multiple sclerosis.

Summary: Saffron holds promise as a treatment for multiple sclerosis and other disorders where the immune system attacks the nervous system.

13. It Protects Against Toxicity and Treats It, Too

Saffron is regularly used as a food additive both to enhance its color and its flavor. The many beneficial compounds in saffron also protect the consumer from a variety of chemical toxicities and may treat toxic exposure as well. [17]

Various constituents of saffron preserve the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs from both natural and chemical toxins in a variety of animal studies. That is aside from saffron being prescribed as a way to stimulate urine production since stimulating urine production tends to force the body to purge itself of toxins.

Various studies have shown that compounds within saffron have antidotal effects against [17] snake venom, aflatoxins and 3-nitropropionic acid (3- NP). One study found that saffron and crocin extract were safe, reliable treatments in managing the severe effects of severe alcohol detox. [20]

This is all aside from the protective benefits of saffron from the rigors of everyday life and modern stresses because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Summary: Saffron extract protects against a variety of toxins, and it can be used to treat exposure to a variety of toxins.

Conclusion

Saffron health benefits range from long-term protection against what life throws at us to treating severe disorders. Interestingly, you can reap a number of the health benefits of saffron by trying extracts derived from the petals, not just the rare, expensive stigma.

The biggest impediment to enjoy saffron benefits is the sheer degree to which it is adulterated, whether it is diluted by the addition of cheaper ingredients or the products sold as saffron that contain none of the authentic, medicinal plants.


References:

[3] anti-diabetic

https://scialert.net/abstract/?doi=jbs.2009.302.310

[4] anti-inflammatory

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22934747 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC101384/

[5] PMS

http://jprsolutions.info/newfiles/journal-file-56e950232f4a49.93145615.pdf

[6] vision loss

http://sydney.edu.au/news/84.html?newsstoryid=4452

[7] pain and nerve irritation

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC101384/

[8] hypnotic effect

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19142981

[9] fights histamine response and other biochemical sources of inflammation, in the introduction

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4599112/

[10] cardiovascular benefits

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4599112/

[11] fights Alzheimer's at a chemical level

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22655699/

[12] improved cognitive function in AD patients

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4599112/#B9

[13] coughing with mention of ischemic retinopathy and aphrodisiac effect

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249922/

[14] multiple sclerosis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5943931/#B79-molecules-23-00030 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5943931/

[15] autoimmune encephalomyelitis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19634472

[16] erectile dysfunction

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4744354/

[17] protects against and treats toxicity

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4418072/

[18] blood flow and energy

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26811090

[19] may prevent Parkinson's disease

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23938314

[20] alcohol detox

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30652054