SAFFRON Overview Information
Saffron is a plant. The dried stigmas (thread-like parts of the flower) are used to make saffron spice. It can take 75,000 saffron blossoms to produce a single pound of saffron spice. Saffron is largely cultivated and harvested by hand. Due to the amount of labor involved in harvesting, saffron is considered one of the world's most expensive spices. The stigmas are also used to make medicine.
Saffron is used for asthma, cough, whooping cough (pertussis), and to loosen phlegm (as an expectorant). It is also used for sleep problems (insomnia), cancer, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), intestinal gas (flatulence), depression, Alzheimer’s disease, fright, shock, spitting up blood (hemoptysis), pain, heartburn, and dry skin.
Women use saffron for menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Men use it to prevent early orgasm (premature ejaculation) and infertility.
Saffron is also used for to increase interest in sex (as an aphrodisiac) and to induce sweating.
Some people apply saffron directly to the scalp for baldness (alopecia).
In foods, saffron is used as a spice, yellow food coloring, and as a flavoring agent.
In manufacturing, saffron extracts are used as fragrance in perfumes and as a dye for cloth.
How does it work?
There isn't enough information to know how saffron might work.
Possibly Effective for:
- Depression. Taking specific saffron extracts (Novin Zaferan Co, Iran) seem to improve symptoms of major depression after 6-8 weeks of treatment. Some studies suggest that saffron might be as effective as taking a low-dose prescription antidepressant such as fluoxetine or imipramine.
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Some clinical research shows that taking a specific saffron extract (Department of Cultivation and Development of Institute of Medicinal Plants, Iran) significantly improves symptoms of PMS after two menstrual cycles.
- Menstrual discomfort. Some clinical research shows the taking a specific product containing saffron, anise, and celery seed (SCA, Gol Daro Herbal Medicine Laboratory) reduces pain severity and duration during the menstrual cycle.
- Alzheimer’s disease. Some research shows that taking a specific saffron product (IMPIRAN, Iran) might improve symptoms about as well as the prescription drug donepezil (Aricept) over 22 weeks of treatment.
Possibly Ineffective for:
- Male infertility. Some clinical research shows that taking a specific saffron extract (Novin Zaferan Co, Iran) for 26 weeks does not improve sperm count or motility in infertile men.
- “Hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis).
- Stomach gas.
- Early male orgasm (premature ejaculation).
- Other conditions.
SAFFRON Side Effects & Safety
Saffron seems safe for most people when used as a medicine for up to six weeks. Some possible side effects include dry mouth, anxiety, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, change in appetite, and headache. Allergic reactions can occur in some people.
Taking large amounts of saffron is UNSAFE. High doses can cause poisoning, including yellow appearance of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes; vomiting; dizziness; bloody diarrhea; bleeding from the nose, lips, and eyelids; numbness; and other serious side effects. Doses of 12-20 grams can cause death.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Don’t take saffron in amounts larger than those normally found in food. Larger amounts of saffron can make the uterus contract and might cause a miscarriage.
Not enough is known about the safety of using saffron during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Bipolar disorder: Saffron seems to be able to affect mood. There is a concern that it might trigger excitability and impulsive behavior (mania) in people with bipolar disorder. Don’t use saffron if you have this condition.
Allergies to Lolium, Olea (includes olive), and Salsola plant species: People who are allergic to these plants might also be allergic to saffron.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For depression: 30 mg/day of a specific saffron extract (Novin Zaferan Co, Iran). A different saffron extract 15 mg twice daily has also been used.
- For premenstrual syndrome (PMS): 15 mg of a specific ethanol saffron extract twice daily (Department of Cultivation and Development of Institute of Medicinal Plants, Tehran, Iran).
- For menstrual discomfort: 500 mg of a specific combination product containing saffron, celery seed and anise extracts (SCA, Gol Daro Herbal Medicine Laboratory) taken three times a day for the first three days of menstruation.
- For Alzheimer’s disease: 30 mg/day of a specific saffron product (IMPIRAN, Iran).