Saffron adds beautiful color to your food. Could it also add a big boost to your health? Registered dietician Beth Czerwony, RD, delves into the science behind saffron and explains how to use the spice safely.
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What is saffron?
Saffron, a spice native to Asia, has a long history as a healing or health plant. Also known as Crocus sativus L.people have used saffron as a flavoring, coloring and health remedy for thousands of years.
Czerwony explains recent research on this reddish flower, sharing how saffron could have several health benefits.
Health benefits of saffron
Many studies, many of them small, suggest that saffron may improve your health or help with specific health problems. That research shows that saffron could hold promise as:
1. Antioxidant boost
Saffron, like many other herbs and plants, is rich in antioxidants. These substances help fight cell damage and can prevent cancer or other diseases. Research has also shown that the antioxidants in saffron may be healthy for the brain and nervous system.
Crocetin, crocin and safranal, three antioxidants found in saffron, can help improve memory and learning ability. These substances can also help prevent neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.
“The antioxidants in saffron could help protect the brain from damage,” says Czerwony. “Antioxidants are beneficial substances and you should get them from a variety of sources. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is an effective way to increase antioxidant intake and prevent disease. Add some saffron to a healthy diet to boost your antioxidants. “
2. Relief from PMS
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can cause a variety of symptoms, from pelvic pain to acne breakouts. For many people, PMS impacts their mental health, causing anxiety, depression, and mood swings. Some small research studies have found that saffron may improve PMS-related depression.
“PMS can negatively affect a person’s quality of life,” says Czerwony. “If you are experiencing severe PMS or it interferes with daily activities, talk to your provider. Saffron could also help relieve some of the emotional symptoms of PMS. “
3. Help with weight loss
Losing weight can be difficult, especially when your appetite seems to be working against you. A study in a group of women found that taking saffron helped them feel less hungry and snack less frequently.
“Some evidence shows that saffron can suppress appetite and help you lose weight,” says Czerwony. “But it doesn’t work alone. Combine saffron with a healthy, balanced diet for success.
4. Treatment of seizures
Saffron is used as an anticonvulsant (anticonvulsant) remedy in Iranian folk medicine. Some biological modeling studies show that it can reduce some types of seizures. However, says Czerwony, we need larger clinical trials to learn more about how it works.
“Saffron may hold promise as a treatment for seizures, but we need more data on its safety and efficacy,” notes Czerwony. “If you have a seizure disorder, ask your doctor before taking herbs or supplements such as saffron.”
5. Remedy for erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (ED), the ability to maintain an erection, affects millions of people. And saffron could be an erectile dysfunction treatment, according to some research.
“Vendors often recommend erectile dysfunction medications, which work for many people,” says Czerwony. “But those looking for a herbal remedy might try saffron. Studies have found 30 milligrams per day to be effective, but don’t exceed this amount. High amounts of saffron can be toxic ”.
6. Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
Saffron could be as effective as a prescription drug for treating mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but studies suggest that saffron may help slow its progression and relieve symptoms.
“A few small studies found that saffron extract improved cognitive function in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s,” says Czerwony. “Saffron also has a low risk of side effects. People with Alzheimer’s disease should regularly consult with their supplier and discuss any supplements they are taking. “
7. Treatment of depression
Depression is a mental health disorder that affects millions of people around the world. Treatment can involve different types of therapy or medications. Some studies show that saffron consumption could help with symptoms of depression.
“Saffron could become a future treatment for depression if we have more evidence and data,” says Czerwony. “However, we need larger studies looking at long-term outcomes before saffron can replace proven drugs for depression. Don’t stop taking any of your prescription drugs without talking to your provider.
How to use saffron
Saffron flower petals look like thin red threads. Dip a few strands in hot water to make saffron tea or mix the liquid into savory dishes for flavor. And be prepared for the price – it’s one of the most expensive spices in the world.
You can also buy saffron capsules to swallow if you don’t like the taste. But before taking any supplements, ask your doctor if he’s safe for you. Some supplements can have unwanted side effects, especially if you are pregnant, taking medications, or have health problems.
“Saffron is usually safe when people use small amounts of it in cooking or as a tea,” says Czerwony. “It’s also packed with antioxidants, so we know it has health benefits. Before taking saffron, however, check with your supplier to make sure it is safe for you. “