Traded for over four millennia, saffron is one of the most expensive spices to cultivate and harvest, primarily due to the amount of labor required to properly harvest the plant. 90% of the world’s saffron comes from Iran. Use of saffron extract has improved the quality of life for sufferers of many of humanity’s greatest diseases.
Apart from punching up the flavor of many dishes, it has been used in traditional medicine for many years and modern medical research has backed up many of the claims that saffron fights many diseases and provides many health benefits. This includes working to prevent the degeneration of the retina that occurs with age. Additionally saffron extract provides calcium, copper, zinc, iron, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and folic acid.
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world because it takes 4,500 crocus flowers to provide one ounce of saffron but saffron extract is much cheaper! It comes in a pill too, rather than including it in food. The potential benefits of consuming saffron extract are numerous and several have scientific backing as to their validity.
The plant and extract are used for the following conditions:
- Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
- Atherosclerosis (Hardening of the Arteries)
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Hemoptysis (Spitting Up Blood)
- Dry Skin
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- Prevention of Premature Ejaculation
- Diabetes (Reducing Blood Sugar)
Dr. Oz has declared saffron extract to be the “miracle appetite suppressant.” It’s reported to curb appetite, boost metabolism, increase energy, reduce body fat, cause less sugar cravings, and lower the frequency of hunger. People taking saffron extract have reported higher levels of feeling sated as well as an increased quality of life. The mood boosting qualities of saffron created by increased serotonin production keeps dieters in a better, happier frame of mind. That means that they are less likely to be depressed about the diets they’re on, thus helping encourage their weight loss journey.
Studies have shown that the extract causes weight loss even when the amount of calories has not been lowered and the rate of exercise has not been increased. There is great potential as a supplement to curb compulsive and comfort eating that causes so much weight gain in those trying to lose significant weight.
Saffron contains anti-inflammatory elements that relieves joint pain and can possibly prevent symptoms entirely. It can also increase joint strength to the point that an individual can see a greater quality of life and can avoid the onset of arthritis with the help of an active lifestyle.
The extract can also speed the healing process of bruises, cuts, and sores. A paste made of saffron and water can also be applied topically that can possibly reduce skin cancer as well.
Because of saffron’s anti-inflammatory properties, it can aid in alleviating inflamed lungs. Thus it can clear airways to allow a person to breathe.
The benefits of saffron extract in regards to eye health are many. It can prevent or reduce the effects of macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. If an individual has a family history, taking saffron extract may prevent or at least slow the process of developing those conditions. Studies show increased blood flow in the retina and a marked effect in age related degeneration.
Evidence suggests that the regular consumption of saffron in Spain has led to lowered rates of cardiovascular disease. Indeed, aqueous and ethanolic saffron extracts can reduce blood pressure, including a decrease in systolic pressure. Patients with coronary artery disease have also shown improved antioxidant presence.
The Guardian reports that the carotenoid compounds (safranal, crocetin, crocin) that gives saffron its color can also restrict the growth of tumors. Studies of mice with induced liver cancer have shown that saffron extract can inhibit the growth of the disease in a similar manner to chemotherapy. (However the study has not been replicated in humans.) Using saffron extract at the same time as cytostatic drugs (for example, cisplatin) is reduced without affecting the drugs ability to fight the cancer.
Some studies have shown that taking saffron over the course of 22 weeks can help reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, particularly into comparison with the drug Donepezil (Aricept).
Taking saffron can reduce symptoms of depression as well as some low dose antidepressants if taken for 6-8 weeks. The recommended dose is 30 mg per day or 15 mg two times a day of the specific saffron extract. Experts believe that it boosts the production of serotonin and provides the body with antioxidants. Studies to date are extremely positive about the great effects of saffron on depression. These studies have pitted saffron extract against both placebos and SSRIs such as fluoxetine to prove it’s efficacy. However, since most of these studies were done in Iran, more studies are needed to back up those results.
The smell of saffron has even been reported to reduced anxiety as well, if only for a brief time. Taking the extract has positive effects for people with depression but it may cause excitability or mania in the case of being used to treat bipolar and should be treated with caution.
PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME (PMS)
PMS affects one out of three women every month, reducing their quality of life. Although there are over the counter remedies other than saffron, the extract has shown an ability to treat both the physical and emotional symptoms of the syndrome.
There have been reports of women successfully using 15 mg of an ethanol saffron extract to alleviate symptoms after two complete menstrual cycles. Women taking the extract reported significant relief of PMS symptoms over women taking the placebo.