Autumn Crocus, Azafrán, Azafron, Croci Stigma, Crocus Cultivé, Crocus sativus, Indian Saffron, Kashmira, Kesar, Kumkuma, Saffron Crocus, Safran, Safran Cultivé, Safran Espagnol, Safran des Indes, Safran Véritable, Spanish Saffron, True Saffron, Zafran.


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, and sometimes the petals, are also used to make medicine.

People use saffron most commonly for depression, anxiety, Alzheimer disease, menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Saffron is also used for many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support many of these uses.

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?

Saffron contains chemicals that alter mood, kill cancer cells, decrease swelling, and act like antioxidants.


Uses & Effectiveness?

Possibly Effective for

  • Alzheimer disease. Taking a specific saffron extract by mouth for up to 22 weeks seems to improve symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Saffron might work about as well as the prescription drug donepezil (Aricept).
  • Depression. Research shows that taking saffron or saffron extract by mouth for 6-12 weeks improves symptoms of major depression. Some studies show that saffron might be as effective as taking a prescription antidepressant, such as fluoxetine, imipramine, or citalopram. Early research in patients already taking an antidepressant shows that taking crocin, a chemical found in saffron, for 4 weeks reduces symptoms of depression more than taking the antidepressant alone. However, taking saffron might not help for all types of depression.
  • Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea). Some research shows the taking a specific product containing saffron, anise, and celery seed reduces pain during the menstrual cycle.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Some research shows that taking a specific saffron extract improves symptoms of PMS after two menstrual cycles.

Insufficient Evidence for

  • An eye disease that leads to vision loss in older adults (age-related macular degeneration or AMD). Early research shows that taking saffron for up to 6 months might lead to small improvements in vision for people with AMD.
  • Sexual problems caused by antidepressants (antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction). Taking an antidepressant can make some people lose interest in sex. Early research shows that taking saffron for 4 weeks improves satisfaction with sex in men and women taking an antidepressant. But it doesn't seem to improve desire for sex or orgasm.
  • Metabolic side effects caused by antipsychotic drugs. Some antipsychotic drugs can increase blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Early research shows that taking saffron for 12 weeks can prevent this increase in blood sugar. But taking saffron doesn't seem to prevent the increase in blood cholesterol.
  • Anxiety. Some research shows that taking saffron extract by mouth for 8-12 weeks can reduce anxiety symptoms in some people.
  • Asthma. Early research shows that taking saffron might reduce some symptoms of asthma in people with allergic asthma.
  • Athletic performance. Early research shows that taking saffron, or a chemical from saffron called crocetin, can decrease fatigue and improve muscle strength in men during exercise.
  • Diabetes. Taking saffron might reduce blood sugar in people with diabetes who have not eaten. But it doesn't seem to help people with diabetes to control their blood sugar when used for up to 3 months.
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED). Early research shows that applying saffron to the skin can improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction. Some research has also shown that taking saffron by mouth can benefit men with erectile dysfunction. But other research shows that taking saffron by mouth is not beneficial. More research is needed to understand if saffron is useful for treating erectile dysfunction.
  • Muscle soreness caused by exercise. Early research shows that taking saffron might prevent sore muscles in men who do not typically exercise.
  • A group of eye disorders that can lead to vision loss (glaucoma). Early research shows that taking saffron for 4 weeks, in addition to regular treatment, might reduce some of the symptoms of glaucoma.
  • High levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia). Taking saffron doesn't seem to reduce lipid levels in most people. But more research is needed in people with high levels of fats in the blood.
  • High blood pressure. Early research shows that drinking black tea containing saffron three times daily for 8 weeks does not reduce blood pressure in people who have diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Conditions in a man that prevent him from getting a woman pregnant within a year of trying to conceive (male infertility). Some research shows that saffron might improve sperm function in men. But other research has not shown this benefit.
  • Depression after childbirth (postpartum depression). Early research shows that taking a specific saffron product for 6 weeks works as well as fluoxetine for reducing symptoms of depression in women after giving birth. Other early research shows that taking saffron for 8 weeks might reduce symptoms of depression in breastfeeding women. But it's not clear if saffron caused this effect or if the depression went away on its own.
  • Baldness.
  • Cancer.
  • Cough.
  • Early male orgasm (premature ejaculation).
  • "Hardening of the arteries" (atherosclerosis).
  • Insomnia.
  • Pain.
  • Psoriasis.
  • Stomach gas.
  • Vomiting.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate saffron for these uses.

Side Effects

Side Effects & Safety

When taken by mouth: Saffron is LIKELY SAFE in food amounts. Saffron is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken as a medicine for up to 26 weeks. Some possible side effects include dry mouth, anxiety, agitation, drowsiness, low mood, sweating, nausea or vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, change in appetite, flushing, and headache. Allergic reactions can occur in some people.

Taking large amounts of saffron by mouth is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. High doses of 5 grams or more can cause poisoning. Doses of 12-20 grams can cause death.

When applied to the skin: There isn't enough reliable information to know if saffron is safe or what the side effects might be.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Taking saffron by mouth in amounts larger than what is normally found in food is LIKELY UNSAFE. Larger amounts of saffron can make the uterus contract and might cause a miscarriage.

There isn't enough reliable information to know if saffron is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and stick to food amounts.

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.

Diabetes: Saffron might affect blood sugar levels. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use saffron.

Heart conditions: Saffron might affect how fast and how strong the heart beats. Taking large amounts of saffron might worsen some heart conditions.

Low blood pressure: Saffron might lower blood pressure. Taking saffron might make blood pressure become too low in people with low blood pressure.



We currently have no information for SAFFRON Interactions.



The following doses have been studied in scientific research:


  • For Alzheimer disease: 30 mg of saffron extract daily for 22 weeks.
  • For depression: 30 mg of a saffron extract or 100 mg of saffron daily for up to 12 weeks.
  • For premenstrual syndrome (PMS): 15 mg of a saffron extract twice daily.
  • For menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea): 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.

View References


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