As we all know, saffron, also known as red gold, is a spice widely used in our cuisine to add colour and flavour to dishes such as risotto alla Milanese. On the other hand, it has recently been scientifically proven that this spice, extracted from the stigmas of the flower of the saffron plant or Crocus sativus, contains many compounds with medicinal and curative properties. In this sense, numerous studies support the effects and benefits of saffron for a wide range of therapeutic indications. One of its compounds, colchicine, for example, has also recently been studied for its potential against Covid-19.
So, it is clear how saffron, in addition to its culinary use, has enormous potential also in herbal medicine as a medicinal plant.
But what are, then, the benefits of saffron? Let’s find out together in this article.
Therapeutic uses of the spice
Saffron stigmas, and sometimes also the petals, are also used for the production of medicines. Among many uses, it proves useful for treating asthma, cough, sore throat, whooping cough and to dissolve phlegm, as an expectorant. In addition, it is also used for sleep problems such as insomnia.
Not only that. Women use saffron for menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS), while men use it to prevent premature ejaculation.
The spice is also used to induce sweating, increase interest in sex, as an aphrodisiac, and improve blood sugar levels in patients taking medication for schizophrenia. Even some people apply the flower extract directly to the scalp in cases of baldness or alopecia.
Below are the main benefits of saffron that have been the subject of scientific studies in recent years and that support its therapeutic use.
A 15 mg dose of saffron twice a day, morning and evening, has been shown to be effective in treating mild depression. In fact, a study published in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, considers treatment with this spice effective.
In addition, a 2019 meta-analysis, including up to 11 scattered studies, confirms that saffron is significantly more effective than placebo in treating symptoms of mild to moderate depression, and no less effective than other known antidepressant medications.
2. Saffron benefits: protective against toxins
Regular use of saffron protects body tissues, particularly the brain, heart, liver, kidneys and lungs, from natural or man-made toxic compounds. This is due to the antioxidant property of saffron, whose flavonoids help reduce the damage caused by free radicals generated by oxidation in the body.
3. Saffron benefits: reduces appetite
Among the benefits of saffron is that it promotes weight control, as it helps reduce appetite. An effect, this, demonstrated by a study conducted by Iranian researchers in 2017. Therefore, in addition to being used as a spice, saffron extract can be taken at 175 mg per day.
In summary, both crocin, an active component of crocus sativus, and aqueous extracts thereof have The crocin, mentioned above, contained in saffron also serves to improve the cognitive abilities and memory of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. However, one cannot compare the benefits of saffron with those obtained from certain drugs, as scientific medicine is still the starting point for the treatment of certain diseases.effective in reducing appetite and improving obesity-related parameters such as abdominal circumference and body fat mass.
4. Increases memory
The crocin, mentioned above, contained in saffron also serves to improve the cognitive abilities and memory of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. However, one cannot compare the benefits of saffron with those obtained from certain drugs, as scientific medicine is still the starting point for the treatment of certain diseases.
5. It’s great for athletes
Professional and amateur athletes can take advantage of saffron’s benefits to relieve fatigue and inflammation in their muscles.
6. Saffron benefits: improves premenstrual syndrome
A daily amount of 30 mg of saffron, divided between morning and evening, can help reduce PMS symptoms, according to a study published in An International Journal of Obstetrics and Ginaecology more than a decade ago. Specifically, improvements in mood, pain and breast tension were observed.
In contrast, a second, more recent study, published in Advanced Biomedical Research, confirms the effectiveness of saffron in the treatment of menstrual dysphoric disorder. To reach this conclusion, they administered fluoxetine or saffron to 120 women diagnosed with the disorder during the luteal phase for two cycles. In detail, fluoxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, is the active ingredient in antidepressant drugs such as Prozac.
The researchers concluded that saffron is as effective as fluoxetine in treating premenstrual discomfort, but without undesirable side effects.
7. Helps skin health
As an ingredient in creams, saffron is used to soothe itching, protect against sunlight and maintain hydration. These uses are supported by the antioxidant and photoprotective properties of compounds found in saffron such as safranal.
8. Diabetes Supplement
People who suffer from type 2 diabetes can benefit from saffron in several ways, such as protecting against nerve damage caused by excess blood sugar and preventing vision problems, which are common in this disease.
Generally, saffron is a safe spice with few or no side effects. In fact, when used in cooking in small quantities, it does not seem to cause any adverse effects in humans.
As a dietary supplement, you can safely take up to 1.5 grams of saffron per day. However, it has been shown that only 30 mg of saffron per day is enough to get the health benefits.
On the other hand, doses above 5 grams or more can have toxic effects. As such, pregnant women should avoid high doses.
It goes without saying that, as with any other substance natural or otherwise, you should consult your doctor before taking saffron in supplement form.