Research Breakdown on Saffron
Research Breakdown on Saffron
An Introduction to Saffron, it’s Sources and Composition.
Crocus sativus, or saffron (as it is more commonly known) is a world renowned spice that is harvested by hand from the bulb of the crocus sativus flower. The name ‘saffron’ comes from the Arabic word for yellow; zafaran. While saffron is now most commonly harvested and produced in Iran, which accounts for 90% of the world’s saffron, saffron historically has been used, known and championed all over Europe.
Saffron has always been arguably the most prized culinary spice in the world. The health benefits of saffron and its medicinal properties are still being tested however saffron has been used for medicinal purposes consistently throughout history. In ancient Rome saffron was used as a hangover cure due to its sedative capabilities. In traditional Persian medicine saffron is used as an antidepressant due to these same sedative qualities.
Despite its wide uses and popularity, the production that goes into harvesting saffron is very labour intensive which is reflected in the price of saffron. In order to harvest 1kg of dried stigma, the saffron spice, anywhere between 150,000-200,000 flowers and 400 hours of labor is required. Per crocus sativus, only three stigmas can be harvested. This is why saffron is such an expensive spice.
There are several components to saffron. These can be divided into either small aromatic aldehydes and carotenoids.
Saffron stigma contains:
Saffron crom tends to contain:
Neurology and Saffron
The Physicochemical Properties of Saffron
The labour of harvesting saffron does not end once the threads have been plucked. In order to ensure that flavour and medicinal properties can be extracted from saffron, a drying phase is required. This can be achieved using several different methods including sun drying, toasting or using a temperature controlled room. This is done so that the moisture content of the threads can be reduced to 10-12%. If done incorrectly or with too low temperatures, the aromatic properties of saffron are compromised and the quality of saffron is severely reduced.
Food Intake and Appetite
Anxiety and Stress
Largely due to saffron’s serotonergic capabilities, the oral ingestion of 150-600mg/kg of crude saffron extract has been proven to reduce mild to moderate depression symptoms in rats when administered in a dose-dependent manner.
The use of 30mg of saffron for depressive symptoms against a placebo found saffron to be more effective. When tested and compared against prescription anti-depressants there was a significant difference in effectiveness with saffron being less effective. However, the use of saffron was still effective and caused less side-effects which can make it the more desirable treatment option.
The petals of the crocus sativus have also been found to reduce symptoms of mild to moderate depression. As the petals are a byproduct of harvesting saffron stigmas, this is a much cheaper alternative for boosting moods.
Saffron has also been noted to effectively boost the mood in people who are not suffering from depression.
Obsession and Compulsion
Cardiovascular Health and Cholesterol
Soreness, Injury and Recovery with Saffron
Inflammation and Immunology
Immunoglobulins and Interferons
Higher than normal doses of saffron, of about 100mg, administered to healthy men once a day for three weeks temporarily improved the immunoglobulin concentrations in their serum. Lower doses have not yet been tested.
Saffron and Hormones
Interactions with Oxidation & DNA Damage
Interactions with Skin
Sexuality and Pregnancy
Saffron has the proven ability of promoting libido in male rats and thus has been tested for its ability to treat SSRI-related sexual dysfunction.
Women who benefitted from SSRI therapy for depression yet experience a lowered sex drive or sexual dysfunction were administered 15mg of saffron stigmas twice daily for four weeks. Statistically these women had improvements on their Female Sexual Function Index regarding sex drive, lubrication and pain. However, these women did not see an increase in desire, sex life satisfaction or orgasm. Similar results were found in men.
Erectile dysfunction was found to be treated using 200mg of saffron daily over 10 days during a small pilot study. A larger study found that 15mg of saffron petal extract twice daily for four weeks did not have any improvement on erectile dysfunction thus suggesting 200mg for 10 days as much more effective.