Although saffron (Crocus sativus)
is best known as a spice, mounting research suggests there are benefits from consuming saffron other than its taste. This year alone, clinical trials linked saffron consumption to relief from anxiety, depression, mild cognitive impairment, and even UV skin damage.(1–4) And the results corroborate numerous previous studies.
Where, then, are all of the saffron dietary supplements? The fact remains that saffron dietary supplements aren’t yet a big sell, but some industry experts believe that’s likely to change. A feature on the cover of the American Botanical Council’s (ABC; Austin, TX) May–July 2016 issue of HerbalGram
, for one, could help raise awareness within the industry.
If and when saffron becomes a popular dietary supplement, manufacturers and marketers may have to grapple with saffron’s high price. Or maybe not. Though saffron is said to be the world’s most expensive spice because it’s made out of hand-picked saffron stigmas
, saffron dietary supplements, on the other hand, might be able to incorporate saffron petals too. According to HerbalGram’s
latest feature, saffron's lesser-researched petals
are now backed by at least a few clinical trials (including research on depression) where they have been used in final saffron extract formulas. A saffron extract made from stigma and petal would inevitably be less expensive than one using stigmas alone. All the while, interested parties—such as Iran, the leading producer of saffron—are researching how to improve yields.(5)
In particular, if saffron continues to show promise in cognitive health, some experts believe it could steal dietary supplement shares from St. John’s wort, which is widely used for anxiety and depression but carries a a risk of drug interactions
Photo © iStockphoto.com/george tsartsianidis
1. M Mazidi et al., “A double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled trial of Saffron (Crocus sativus L.)
in the treatment of anxiety and depression,” Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine
, vol. 13, no. 2 (April 2016),:195–199.
2. N Pitsikas, “Constituents of saffron (Crocus sativus L.)
as potential candidates for the treatment of anxiety disorders and schizophrenia,” Molecules
, vol 21., no. 3 (March 2016): 303.
3. M Tsolaki et al., “Efficacy and safety of Crocus sativus L.
in patients with mild cognitive impairment: one year single-blind randomized, with parallel groups, clinical trial,” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease
, published online July 27, 2016.
4. T Ohba et al., “Crocetin protects ultraviolet A-induced oxidative stress and cell death in skin in vitro
and in vivo
,” European Journal of Pharmacology
, published online July 21, 2016.
5. M Bayat et al., “Determining the most effective traits to improve saffron (Crocus sativus L.)
yield,” Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants
, vol. 22, no. 1 (January 2016): 153–161.