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 InformationSaffron 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.
Saffron is used for depression and Alzheimer disease. Women use saffron for menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Men use it to for early orgasm (premature ejaculation) and infertility. Saffron is used for many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support many of these uses.
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?Saffron contains chemicals that alter mood, kill cancer cells, decrease swelling, and act like antioxidants.
Uses & Effectiveness
Possibly Effective for
- Alzheimer's 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.
- Menstrual discomfort. 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
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Early research shows that taking saffron for up to 6 months might lead to small improvements in vision for people with AMD.
- Improved sexual function in people taking antidepressants. 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.
- Increased blood sugar levels in people taking medications for schizophrenia (antipsychotics). 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. A small study shows that taking saffron for 12 weeks can reduce anxiety symptoms in some people.
- Asthma. Early research shows that drinking an herbal tea containing saffron and other herbal ingredients reduces asthma symptoms in people with allergic asthma. It's unclear if this effect is due to saffron or the other ingredients in the tea.
- 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.
- Erectile dysfunction. 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.
- Sore muscles due to exercise. Early research shows that taking saffron might prevent sore muscles in men who do not typically exercise.
- Glaucoma. Early research shows that taking saffron for 4 weeks, in addition to regular treatment, might reduce some of the symptoms of glaucoma.
- 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.
- Male infertility. Some research shows that saffron might improve sperm function in men. But other research has not shown this benefit.
- Depression after giving birth (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.
- Early male orgasm (premature ejaculation).
- "Hardening of the arteries" (atherosclerosis).
- Stomach gas.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & SafetySaffron is LIKELY SAFE in food amounts. Saffron is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth 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.
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.
Not enough is known about the safety of using saffron during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and stick to using only 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.
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's 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 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.
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- Falsini B, Piccardi M, Minnella A, Savastano C, Capoluongo E, Fadda A, Balestrazzi E, Maccarone R, Bisti S. Influence of saffron supplementation on retinal flicker sensitivity in early age-related macular degeneration. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2010 Dec;51(12):6118-24. View abstract.
- Feo F, Martinez J, Martinez A, et al. Occupational allergy in saffron workers. Allergy 1997;52:633-41. View abstract.
- Ghajar A, Neishabouri SM, Velayati N, et al. Crocus sativus L. versus citalopram in the treatment of major depressive disorder with anxious distress: a double-blind, controlled clinical trial. Pharmacopsychiatry. 2017 Jul;50(4):152-160. doi: 10.1055/s-0042-116159. View abstract.
- Giaccio M. Crocetin from saffron: an active component of an ancient spice. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2004;44:155-72. View abstract.
- Grainer JL, Jones JR. The Use of Crocetin in Experimental Atherosclerosis. Experientia 1975;31:548-9.
- Haqqaq EG, Abou-Moustafa MA, Boucher W, Theoharides TC. The effect of a herbal water-extract on histamine release from mast cells and on allergic asthma. J Herb Pharmacother 2003;3:41-54. View abstract.
- Hausenblas HA, Saha D, Dubyak PJ, Anton SD. Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and major depressive disorder: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. J Integr Med. 2013 Nov;11(6):377-83. View abstract.
- Heidary M, Vahhabi S, Reza Nejadi J, et al. Effect of saffron on semen parameters of infertile men. Urol J 2008;5:255-9. View abstract.
- Jabbarpoor Bonyadi MH, Yazdani S, Saadat S. The ocular hypotensive effect of saffron extract in primary open angle glaucoma: a pilot study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Oct 15;14:399. View abstract.
- Kashani L, Eslatmanesh S, Saedi N, Niroomand N, Ebrahimi M, Hosseinian M, Foroughifar T, Salimi S, Akhondzadeh S. Comparison of Saffron versus Fluoxetine in Treatment of Mild to Moderate Postpartum Depression: A Double-Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial. Pharmacopsychiatry. 2016 Sep 5. View abstract.
- Kashani L, Raisi F, Saroukhani S, Sohrabi H, Modabbernia A, Nasehi AA, Jamshidi A, Ashrafi M, Mansouri P, Ghaeli P, Akhondzadeh S. Saffron for treatment of fluoxetine-induced sexual dysfunction in women: randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2013 Jan;28(1):54-60. View abstract.
- Kell G, Rao A, Beccaria G, et al. Affron® a novel saffron extract (Crocus sativus L.) improves mood in healthy adults over 4 weeks in a double-blind, parallel, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Complement Ther Med. 2017 Aug;33:58-64. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2017.06.001. View abstract.
- Kianbakht S, Ghazavi A. Immunomodulatory effects of saffron: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2011 Dec;25(12):1801-5. View abstract.
- Kubo I, Kinst-Hori I. Flavonols from saffron flower: tyrosinase inhibitory activity and inhibition mechanism. J Agric Food Chem 1999;47:4121-5. View abstract.
- Lopresti AL, Drummond PD. Efficacy of curcumin, and a saffron/curcumin combination for the treatment of major depression: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Affect Disord. 2017 Jan 1;207:188-196. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.09.047. View abstract.
- Mazidi M, Shemshian M, Mousavi SH, Norouzy A, Kermani T, Moghiman T, Sadeghi A, Mokhber N, Ghayour-Mobarhan M, Ferns GA. A double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial of Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) in the treatment of anxiety and depression. J Complement Integr Med. 2016 Jun 1;13(2):195-9. View abstract.
- Meamarbashi A, Rajabi A. Potential Ergogenic Effects of Saffron. J Diet Suppl. 2016;13(5):522-9. View abstract.
- Meamarbashi A, Rajabi A. Preventive effects of 10-day supplementation with saffron and indomethacin on the delayed-onset muscle soreness. Clin J Sport Med. 2015 Mar;25(2):105-12. View abstract.
- Miller TL, Willett SL, Moss ME, et al. Binding of crocetin to plasma albumin. J Pharm Sci 1982;71:173-7. View abstract.
- Mizuma H, Tanaka M, Nozaki S, et al. Daily oral administration of crocetin attenuates physical fatigue in human subjects. Nutr Res 2009;29:145-50. View abstract.
- Modabbernia A, Sohrabi H, Nasehi AA, Raisi F, Saroukhani S, Jamshidi A, Tabrizi M, Ashrafi M, Akhondzadeh S. Effect of saffron on fluoxetine-induced sexual impairment in men: randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Oct;223(4):381-8. View abstract.
- Mohammadzadeh-Moghadam H, Nazari SM, Shamsa A, Kamalinejad M, Esmaeeli H, Asadpour AA, Khajavi A. Effects of a Topical Saffron (Crocus sativus L) Gel on Erectile Dysfunction in Diabetics: A Randomized, Parallel-Group, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2015 Oct;20(4):283-6. View abstract.
- Nahid K, Fariborz M, Ataolah G, Solokian S. The effect of an Iranian herbal drug on primary dysmenorrhea: a clinical controlled trial. J Midwifery Womens Health 2009;54:401-4. View abstract.
- Nair SC, Pannikar B, Panikkar KR. Antitumor activity of Saffron (Crocus sativus). Cancer Lett 1991;57:109-14. View abstract.
- Noorbala AA, Akhondzadeh S, Tahmacebi-Pour N, Jamshidi AH. Hydro-alcoholic extract of Crocus sativus L. versus fluoxetine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized pilot trial. J Ethnopharmacol 2005;97:281-4. View abstract.
- Safarinejad MR, Shafiei N, Safarinejad S. A prospective double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study of the effect of saffron (Crocus sativus Linn.) on semen parameters and seminal plasma antioxidant capacity in infertile men with idiopathic oligoasthenoteratozoospermia. Phytother Res 2011;25:508-16. View abstract.
- Safarinejad MR, Shafiei N, Safarinejad S. An open label, randomized, fixed-dose, crossover study comparing efficacy and safety of sildenafil citrate and saffron (Crocus sativus Linn.) for treating erectile dysfunction in men naïve to treatment. Int J Impot Res. 2010 Jul-Aug;22(4):240-50. View abstract.
- Shamsa A, Hosseinzadeh H, Molaei M, et al. Evaluation of Crocus sativus L. (saffron) on male erectile dysfunction: a pilot study. Phytomedicine 2009;16:690-3. View abstract.
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