Nutrition Expert: Sana Saiyed, practicing Clinical Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, Mumbai.
Saffron is harvested from the Crocus sativus flower, commonly known as the “saffron crocus.” The term “saffron” applies to the flower’s thread-like structures or stigma.
It originated in Greece, where it was revered for its medicinal properties. People would eat saffron to enhance libido, boost mood, and improve memory. (1)
As of October 2019, the average price of saffron in Delhi, India stood at about 120 thousand rupees per kilogram. In manufacturing, saffron extracts are used as a fragrance in perfumes and as a dye for cloth.
Saffron is used for depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Women use saffron for menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Men use it to for early orgasm (premature ejaculation) and infertility. Saffron is used for many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support many of these uses.
Health Benefits of Saffron:
Saffron is one of the expensive spices that holds various health benefits, however, there is very little scientific evidence available to support that saffron can be used for treating cancer, cholesterols, heart diseases. According to a review study from 2015, it’s time to move into more advanced stages of study or to even develop a drug for the use of saffron in the treatment of depression and Alzheimer’s disease. (2)
- According to researchers, saffron appeared to have a significant impact on anxiety and depression compared to those receiving a placebo, and side effects were rare. (3)
- Saffron extract may help relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), according to a 2008 study from the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. After taking saffron supplements daily throughout two menstrual cycles, study participants had a significantly greater decrease in PMS symptoms than those who took a placebo for the same time period. (4)
- The saffron extract shows promise as a means of controlling compulsive eating, according to a small study published in Nutrition Research in 2010. When used as a weight-loss aid, saffron supplements are purported to curb appetite and reduce cravings. Some proponents suggest that saffron increases brain levels of serotonin and, in turn, help prevent compulsive overeating and the associated weight gain. (5)
- Taking a specific saffron extract by mouth for up to 22 weeks seems to improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Saffron might work about as well as the prescription drug donepezil
Dosage and Preparation
As a dietary supplement, up to 1.5 grams of saffron can be safely taken per day. It’s considered toxic when ingested at doses higher than five grams and could be lethal at doses of more than 20 grams a day.
Clinical studies have evaluated doses ranging from 20 mg a day to 400 mg a day, though the most common effective doses being applied in clinical trials are 30 mg to 50 mg a day. (6)