Saffron Tea: Are There Health Benefits?

Saffron is a prized spice with a rich history. It's a star ingredient in many cuisines in the Middle East, India, and Europe today, lending its dark red coloring and sweet, earthy flavor to dishes.

While saffron’s exact origin is uncertain, its medicinal use is well-documented throughout history. Cleopatra bathed in saffron-soaked water for its supposed beauty and aphrodisiac qualities, and Greco-Roman physicians prescribed it to treat a range of ailments like:

Saffron tea is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and can provide some significant health benefits.

Because it’s harvested by hand, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Suppliers sometimes mix saffron with other ingredients or use low-quality sources in order to cut costs. When buying saffron, make sure to go with a reputable brand to get the best nutritional content from your tea. 

Nutrition Information

One tablespoon of saffron contains: 

  • Calories: 12
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 3 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

Saffron is a good source of: 

Saffron is also a great source of copper. This mineral helps support your body’s nervous system, aids in the production of red blood cells, and acts as an antioxidant to prevent cell damage that can lead to chronic diseases

Potential Health Benefits of Saffron Tea

Saffron tea is rich in nutrients that scientists continue to study for their potential health benefits. For example, it contains crocin and crocetin, antioxidants that may help improve memory function. Researchers believe these antioxidants may have the potential to treat diseases that affect the brain, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

Studies point to several other health benefits that may come with your cup of saffron tea: 

Depression Relief 

Clinical studies have found that saffron tea may treat depression symptoms as effectively as antidepressants. It's thought to increase the brain’s serotonin levels. Researchers are studying this effect to determine its potential as a substitute for medication used to treat depressive disorders.

Heart Health

Saffron tea may help reduce the risk of heart disease by strengthening the circulatory system. Its antioxidants have been shown to lower both cholesterol and blood pressure, which can reduce your risk of developing heart problems. It’s also a good source of minerals important to heart health like magnesium and potassium

Continued

Reduces Menstrual Pain

Menstrual pain and discomfort in women are associated with changing levels of hormones, including serotonin. Because saffron tea may raise serotonin levels, it has been studied for its ability to ease period-related symptoms. 

One study found that women taking saffron during their menstrual cycle experienced 50% fewer instances of cramps, bloating, irritability, and fatigue than those who did not.  

Anticancer Properties

Crocin and crocetin are antioxidants called carotenoids, plant pigments that give saffron its rich red color. Studies have shown that they may have anticancer and antitumor effects in the body, but more research is needed to study this effect in humans. 

However, saffron tea also contains many other antioxidants that are known to protect your body from cell damage. This damage is caused by factors like aging, the environment, and lifestyle, and is linked with many chronic illnesses including cancer.  

Immune System Support

Saffron is one of the richest sources of riboflavin, a B vitamin that helps you maintain a healthy immune sy stem. It fights inflammation in the body that can lead to chronic diseases like cancer, and some research suggests it may protect the brain from cognitive diseases and migraines.

Saffron tea also contains safranal, an antioxidant that may increase antibacterial and antiviral activity in your body. Safranal has also been found to improve sleep quality, which promotes good immune system function and better overall health. 

Potential Risks of Saffron Tea

Saffron is considered safe for most people, and it’s a staple ingredient in many cuisines. Consuming saffron tea in very large quantities can be toxic, however.  

Talk to your doctor before adding saffron tea to your diet, and consider the following potential health risks: 

Allergies 

People with an allergy to olives may also have a saffron allergy. 

Pregnancy Concerns

Some research has shown that saffron can stimulate uterine contractions and should be avoided by pregnant women.   

Heart Conditions

Saffron consumption may affect your heartbeat. While research is inconclusive, it may worsen symptoms in people with heart conditions.

Low Blood Pressure

Because saffron can lower your blood pressure, it’s wise to avoid saffron tea if you already have low blood pressure.  

Medication Interference

Avoid saffron tea if you are taking medication for high blood pressure, as it might cause your blood pressure to drop too low. Saffron may also trigger a manic state in people who take medication for bipolar disorder.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 29, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

Antioxidants: “Saffron: A Natural Potent Antioxidant as a Promising Anti-Obesity Drug.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.”

CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics: “Safranal enhances non-rapid eye movement sleep in pentobarbital-treated mice.”

Frontiers in Nuerology: “Riboflavin Has Neuroprotective Potential: Focus on Parkinson’s Disease and Migraine.”

Harvard Medical School: “Key minerals to help control blood pressure.”

Harvard Medical School: “Precious metals and other important minerals for health.”

International Journal of Molecular Sciences: “Riboflavin: The Health Benefits of a Forgotten Natural Vitamin.”

International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology: “Crocus sativus L. (saffron) in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: a double-blind, randomised and placebo-controlled trial.”

Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences: “Toxicology effects of saffron and its constituents: a review.”

Journal of Integrative Medicine: “Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and major depressive disorder: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials.”

Journal of Tehran University Heart Center: "Cardiovascular Effects of Saffron: An Evidence-Based Review.”

Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine: “Crocus sativus L. (saffron) for cancer chemoprevention: A mini review.”

McGill University: “History of Saffron.”

Penn State Hershey Medical Center: “Depression.”

Pharmacognosy Review: “Crocus sativus L.: A comprehensive review.”

Phytotherapy Research: “Effects of saffron extract and its constituent crocin on learning behaviour and long-term potentiation.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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