Saffron: The Spice that’s Worth its Weight in Gold for Your Health

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Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice for good reason. This golden spice has been referenced extensively in ancient texts for its many uses – from dying clothes to spicing food to treating many common ailments. 

Today I’m going to share a little about saffron’s history and, most importantly for us, share with you the wide array of health benefits this amazingly versatile spice can provide.

What is Saffron? 

Saffron comes from the crocus genus flower which belongs to the iris family.* The spice itself comes from the stigma of the plant which is the tiny center tip (pistol) of a flower’s blossom.* And the high price of saffron is due to the high volume of blossoms needed to get even a small amount.

If you’re wondering how many blossoms are needed, it takes an astounding 75,000 blossoms to harvest just one pound of saffron!*

Saffron has a bright yellow-orange color and strong flavor, making it useful for both dying garments, tapestries, and even hair, as well as flavoring food.* And when I say saffron has been around for a long time – I mean a really long time.*

The golden spice is mentioned in the Bible as an herb used in cooking and after Buddha died, his priests used the color produced by saffron as their official robe color.*

The Romans also used saffron to dye their hair and the Greeks used saffron as a fragrance in their homes.* 

The Wide-Ranging Health Benefits of Saffron

Documents dating back more than a thousand years mention the healing properties of saffron. A staple of Ayurveda and folk medicine, saffron has been used for centuries to address a wide range of health issues ranging from vision, anxiety, sleep and more.* 

So let’s explore what modern science has to say about the health benefits of saffron.

Saffron and Mood Balance

If you’re looking for a natural mood boost, saffron may be able to help. Several studies have shown how saffron can help reduce the severity of depression symptoms when taken daily.*

When compared to certain prescription antidepressants, saffron proved to have similar effects on depression symptoms. Researchers think this may be due to the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuro-protective effects of saffron.*

Saffron may even support serotonin production; serotonin being the hormone which is found to be lower in individuals who suffer from depression.*

Saffron and Eye Health

Saffron has also been shown to help support eye health and restore lost eye function resulting from age-related conditions.

This is thought to be due to the high concentration of antioxidant-rich carotenoids found in this spice.* One study exploring the eye health benefits of saffron found it to improve retinal function in those suffering from age-related macular degeneration.*

Macular function improvement was noted, and visual improvements were reported by participants in as few as three months after starting saffron supplementation.* Participants also noted increased quality of life because of the visual changes and no adverse effects were noted.*

Another study found similar results and improvement in retinal function after saffron use. The 2016 study followed participants for six months after supplementation and although there was significant benefit to eye health while taking saffron daily, these improvements started to subside after the study participants stopped taking saffron.* 

Saffron and Women’s Health Issues

Saffron has been used to support women’s health for centuries. Egyptian women used it for menstrual cramping, and today women use saffron for a variety of common concerns.

The golden spice can reduce pre-menstrual symptoms in women who suffer from pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) when taken daily.*

Not only can it help with PMS symptoms, but saffron may help manage symptoms related to the more severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). When compared to fluoxetine, a commonly used antidepressant, saffron provided similar relief with fewer adverse effects.*

Experiencing a decreased libido is common when women take prescription antidepressants. Saffron has been shown to combat some of those symptoms in women according to a 2013 study.*

In a smaller study, women taking antidepressants who suffered from decreased libido noted improvement with saffron. When they took saffron daily for four weeks, women reported increased libido, increased lubrication, and less pain compared to those taking a placebo.* 

Saffron and Weight Management

If you’ve ever tried losing weight or improving your diet – you may have struggled with food cravings. Saffron has been shown to help with appetite suppression which can help someone who is trying to kick those cravings.*

Thanks to the appetite reduction benefits, saffron has been found to reduce overall daily calorie consumption.*

Saffron may also help reduce how much snacking you do throughout the day. By reducing food cravings and snacking, this golden spice in supplement form is a potent and effective addition to any comprehensive weight loss plan.*

Saffron and Sleep

Saffron was used as a sedative centuries ago. With researchers focusing so much attention on uncovering safe and non-habit-forming sleep aids, saffron has received more attention recently as a way to address this massive problem.

A small study gave participants either a sugar pill or saffron extract at night for six weeks to see how saffron impacted sleep. Researchers found that participants fell asleep more easily and had improved sleep quality when they took the saffron extract.* Participants also slept longer when taking saffron daily – getting full nights of zzzzz.*

Another study found similar results when participants who had self-reported poor sleep quality took saffron for 28 days. Saffron improved overall sleep quality, and participants had no reported adverse effects.*

The Easy Way to get a Therapeutic Dose of Saffron Every Day

When considering how to increase your daily saffron intake, the nice thing is you don’t always have to go for the exotic, complicated dishes. Sure, a nice bouillabaisse or Moroccan chicken dinner is delicious but not very practical for everyday dining. Adding saffron to rice or risotto can add a rich flavor as well as enhance the dish with its golden color.

But it is hard to get enough saffron through diet alone. So, the easiest way to enjoy the vast array of health benefits from saffron is to add a supplement containing a research-based dose of saffron extract to your daily wellness regimen.  

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