1. Fights Cancer : Studies have shown that cancerous rats treated with saffron aqueous extract showed improvement in their condition. And crocin, the compound in saffron, had inhibited the growth of colorectal cancer cells (while it left the healthy cells unaffected). It also had shown similar effects in the case of hepatic and prostate cancers. The spice had also played a major role in treating skin cancer.Saffron is rich in carotenoids, which can contribute to its anticancer properties. Crocin in saffron can prevent breast cancer and leukemia. However, further research is warranted.
As per a report by the American Council of Science and Health, crocetin (a carotenoid related to crocin) in saffron can block the proliferation of two types of human cancer. It achieves this by inhibiting an enzyme that is particularly active in cancer cells. Though this may not brand saffron as a superb anticancer food, the spice does hold great promise.
According to another study, crocetinic acid (a purified compound from crocetin) has the potential to inhibit pancreatic cancer. In fact, the compound obstructs cancer stem cells – destroying them, which prevents the cancer from returning .
2. Improves Vision : A Spanish study states that the natural compounds in saffron can help prevent vision loss and retinal degeneration. Safranal, one of the compounds in the spice, was found to preserve photoreceptor morphology (the mechanism in the eyes that helps study the forms of things you see), visual response, and capillary network Saffron supplementation to ongoing treatment was found to improve macular thickness in patients. This significantly improves retinal function. Saffron was also found to prevent photoreceptor damage induced by chronic oxidative injury. and as per a report by The University of Sydney, saffron was found to improve vision in the elderly. In the test, the patient’s vision had improved after taking saffron pills. Saffron affects the genes that regulate the fatty acid content of the cell membrane – and this makes vision cells more resilient. The study indicates saffron’s potential in treating retinitisc pigmentosa, a genetic disease that causes permanent blindness in young people
3. Boosts Brain Health : Numerous studies show saffron to be effective in treating learning and memory impairments. In one such study, administering 30 mg of saffron a day showed improvement in the condition of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Also, crocin and ethanolic extracts of saffron displayed antidepressant effects in rodents. Saffron supplementation had also largely improved the mood of the subjects in another study. Saffron aqueous extract was well tolerated even by schizophrenic patients, with no serious side effects.
Treatment with saffron extract had also lessened certain neurotoxic effects. Similar extracts had even increased the production of important neurotransmitters like dopamine and glutamate . The spice had shown to improve memory as well.
Studies also propose a protective role of saffron in cerebral ischemia (inadequate blood supply to the brain) . Preliminary studies also hint at saffron’s ability to treat depression . These cognitive benefits of saffron can be attributed to its antioxidant reinforcement.
However, it is important to note that saffron can be lethal if taken in extremely large doses. Consult your doctor before you use it.
4. Helps Cure Asthma : Reports throw light on saffron’s use for asthma since the ancient times. Traditional medicine has mentioned the use of saffron for this purpose. However, research is limited. Hence, consult your doctor for more details.
5. Promotes Digestion : Saffron was found to play a key role in promoting digestion and treating digestive disorders through its antioxidant effects and radical scavenging, and anti-inflammatory properties. It also shows potential in treating peptic ulcers and ulcerative colitis.
6. Enhances Immunity And Energy Levels : The carotenoids in saffron can positively affect immunity. A study has found that sub-chronic use of 100 mg of saffron daily can have a temporary immunomodulatory activity without any harmful effects . Saffron petal extract was also found to increase the antibody response in laboratory rats .Saffron is also believed to improve energy levels – but we don’t have clear evidence on this.
7. Is Good During Pregnancy : According to an study, saffron can increase the readiness of the cervix during term pregnancy. It also has the highest effect on effacement (shortening of the uterine cervix and the thinning of its walls). Also, the number of cesarean sections was lower in women who took saffron.
Conversely, some reports say that saffron can also be used to terminate pregnancy. Please consult your doctor in this regard. Take their advice.
8. Improves Heart Health : Due to its antioxidant properties, saffron helps maintain healthy arteries and blood vessels. And the spice’s anti-inflammatory properties also benefit the heart. Saffron is the richest source of riboflavin, an important vitamin for the heart. The crocetin in the spice indirectly regulates blood cholesterol levels and reduces the severity of atherosclerosis .
Saffron can also lower blood pressure, which otherwise would lead to heart attacks .
9. Enhances Liver Health : One study shows how cancer could be beneficial to patients with liver metastases . Saffron was also found to offer protection against structural liver damages. It also aids in the treatment of liver toxicity.
10. Works As An Aphrodisiac : Saffron was found to improve human sexual function – and that too, without the ill effects . Studies on human males with erectile dysfunction proved saffron to be marginally effective – but since there were no side effects, the spice holds great potential.
Saffron is beneficial to the male reproductive system as well. In yet another study, the crocin in saffron had improved mounting and erection frequencies in normal male rats. Similar effects are possible in humans too . Saffron is also effective on sperm morphology and motility in infertile men. Though it doesn’t increase the sperm count, it does help in the treatment of male infertility .
Crocin in saffron was also found to potentially reverse the damage caused to the male reproductive system due to extended nicotine use .
11. Relieves Insect Bites : Topical application of saffron extract is claimed to relieve insect bites. However, there is little research on this.
12. Treats Inflammation : One study by The University of Manchester has revealed that Egyptians used saffron to treat inflammation. And given the anti-inflammatory properties of saffron, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
In another study, saffron could display protective effects in acute kidney injury caused by induced ischaemia . Even the saffron petal extracts possess anti-inflammatory properties .
Various sources state that saffron is also beneficial for improving blood flow, promoting cell formation and repair, and treating fever and toothache. But there is limited research available. Hence, talk to your doctor if you intend to use saffron for any of these ailments.
13. Prevents Hair Loss : The antioxidants in saffron can also help prevent hair loss. The spice repairs hair follicles and promotes hair growth.