You may know about saffron’s reputation for being the most expensive spice in the world, and you may even have used it in your culinary endeavors to flavor paella and curry.
But did you know that saffron also has potent medicinal properties?
Saffron’s reputation in herbal medicine has spanned over 2,500 years. And, recently, researchers have been delving more and more into its pharmacological activity.
While saffron’s use as a medicine has been long known by the likes of Hippocrates, modern research has unearthed some exciting findings to substantiate the age-old claims.
Of course, taking a concentrated Luma Nutrition saffron extract (rather than using small amounts of it in food) is the most effective way to reap this spice’s amazing benefits.
Here are three ways saffron can improve your health.
1. Improve Mood and Cognitive Function
Studies have shown that saffron may alleviate anxiety and depression – and, unlike antidepressants, it produces little to no side effects. Saffron’s mood-elevating properties can be attributed to crocin, a key component in saffron that also acts as an antioxidant.
One study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2014 revealed something even more striking. Adults who suffered from mild to moderate depressive disorders were given either saffron extract or the antidepressant drug Prozac.
The study followed the participants for six weeks. At the end of the study, the saffron extract was found to have just as much of an effect on depression as Prozac.
While saffron’s mode of action on depression is not fully understood, researchers have proposed that it works similarly to an SSRI by increasing the levels of serotonin (the “feel-good” hormone) in the brain.
Other studies have also shown that saffron may be a valuable asset in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease because it is thought to reduce the number of beta-amyloid plaque deposits in the brain.
In one study, participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease were given either 30 gm of saffron or a placebo daily over a six-week period. The results observed by the researchers were astounding: the participants who were given saffron showed a dramatic improvement in cognitive function.
2. Suppress Appetite and Reduce Cravings
When saffron’s effects as a weight-loss aid were examined in a small 2010 study, it was found to decrease cravings and appetite in participants.
The study, published in Nutrition Research, followed women who were slightly overweight for eight weeks. The participants were given either saffron extract or a placebo, and the women had no restrictions on their caloric intake throughout the duration of the study.
The results of the study found that the women who were given the saffron extract experienced a significant decrease in cravings and lost more weight than the placebo group. This study noted that the effects of saffron on compulsive eating may be attributed to saffron’s mood-enhancing properties.
3. Support Eye Health
Saffron is a common ingredient in vision-supporting supplements because it has shown promising results in slowing the progress of age-related macular degeneration.
In a 2018 placebo-controlled, double-blinded trial, participants with mild to moderate age-related macular degeneration were given either a placebo or 20 mg of saffron over a three-month period. At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that saffron improved the participants’ vision.
The study also noted that, due to the chronic progression of age-related macular degeneration, using saffron supplements may be more beneficial when taken over the long term.
Another 2016 study also showed that supplementation of 30 mg of saffron daily over a six-month period significantly improved the retinal function in participants.