Saffron Can Boost Energy Levels
The active chemicals in saffron belong to a group of molecules called carotenoids. These molecules improve our energy supply and power (ergogenic effects) [R].
In a study (DB-RCT) of 28 healthy men, saffron supplementation for 10 days increased muscle strength and improved reaction time. This is likely due to improved mitochondrial function in the cell (antioxidant activity) and function of the region of the brain responsible for reacting to visual and auditory stimulus (motor cortex) [R].
Saffron improves blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles during exercise, which may also account for these effects
Saffron Can Reduce Symptoms of PMS
One of the oldest uses of saffron is for the treatment of
premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. The symptoms of PMS include mood swings,
cramps, bloating, and acne.
In a group of 35 women, exposure to the odor of saffron for 20 minutes significantly reduced symptoms of PMS and improved irregular periods. This effect occurred through a reduction of the stress hormone, cortisol [R].
Additionally, in 50 women, saffron supplementation daily for 6 months reduced symptoms of PMS (DB-RCT)
Saffron May Improve Heart Function
Saffron may improve heart function by increasing the pumping capacity of the heart ventricles. This may be due to the presence of kaempferol, a molecule that reduces the incidence of heart attacks and coronary heart disease
In a study of 20 subjects, 10 of which had heart disease, saffron improved health in all patients but had the most profound improvement in patients with heart conditions
This may be because saffron’s constituent crocin, upon conversion to crocetin, can reduce cholesterol levels and the hardening of blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
Saffron Is Beneficial for Alzheimer’s
Saffron extract supplementation for 16 weeks improved cognitive function and reduced dementia in a study of 46 patients with Alzheimer’s (DB-RCT)
Crocin, the active ingredient of saffron, can inhibit the deposit of amyloid-beta proteins, a hallmark characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease
Similarly, injection of crocin into rats improved cognitive ability and memory
Saffron may in part improve dementia by inhibiting an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine (acetylcholinesterase). This enzyme is a current target of donepezil, one of the only approved medications used to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disorder [R].
In 54 patients with Alzheimer’s (DB-RCT), treatment with saffron twice daily for 22 weeks was found to be as effective as donepezil for Alzheimer’s treatment
Saffron May Promote Weight Loss
Saffron may aid in weight loss by
- Reducing fat absorption
- Reducing digestion
- Reducing calorie intake by lowering appetite
- Improving glucose and fat utilization for energy
High doses (176.5 mg twice daily) of saffron for 6 months slightly reduced late-night snacking in a group of 60 overweight women (DB-RCT)
Saffron can reduce cholesterol levels, which decreases the risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes
In rats, the active chemical crocin significantly lowered fat levels in the blood. It also increased the amount of fat excreted from the body, which may prove beneficial for weight loss