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Saffron - what benefits and properties does it have

Saffron is an ancient and expensive herb, a spice with a strong fragrance and distinctive colour. It contains antioxidant compounds that help reduce the risk of certain chronic conditions that occur due to oxidative stress.

Research and long-standing use show that saffron can improve mood, increase libido and combat oxidative stress. Saffron is generally safe for most people and it's very simple to add it to your diet.

This spice is very expensive because of the difficulty of harvesting it (from €2,000 to €10,000 per kilogram). The cost is high because it takes almost 15,000 saffron flowers to get just 100 grams of dried saffron threads, and farmers have to harvest the delicate threads from each flower by hand, and harvesting is done only one week a year. 

Important source of antioxidants

The main benefit of saffron is its high level of specific antioxidants: crocin, pyrocrocin, crocetin. These antioxidants fight against oxidative stress and free radicals in the body.
Since oxidative stress and free radicals play a role in the development of many health conditions, including cancer and heart disease, antioxidants like these can help protect a person's health.

Prevents nervous system disorders

The antioxidants in saffron may play a role in protecting the body from conditions that affect the nervous system. Research conducted in 2015 1 showed that some compounds in saffron, such as crocin, appear to reduce inflammation and oxidative damage to the brain, which may lead to beneficial effects. Saffron could also help with Alzheimer's disease, due to its memory-enhancing properties as well as its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. In the research, people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's who took saffron for 22 weeks had cognitive improvements that were comparable to people taking the drug donepezil and also experienced fewer side effects.

Improves mood

There is also evidence to show that saffron can help improve mood and may be helpful in the treatment of depression. Studies in the Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science show that saffron extract increases dopamine levels in the brain without changing levels of other brain hormones such as serotonin. Thus, taking 30 milligrams (mg) of saffron every day could cause similar effects as drugs that treat mild to moderate depression, such as imipramine and fluoxetine. Although some experts recommend using saffron as a complementary therapy to improve mood, it is too early to recommend it for treating symptoms of depression.

Increases libido

Saffron may also increase sexual libido and sexual function in both men and women. A 2012 study 2 shows that women who took 30 mg of saffron every day for 4 weeks also had increased sexual desire compared to those who took a placebo instead.

Reduces PMS symptoms

According to 2015 research 3 , women aged 20 to 45 who took 30 mg of saffron every day had fewer symptoms than those who took a placebo. In addition, women who simply sniffed saffron for 20 minutes had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which may also help reduce PMS symptoms.

Helps you lose weight

There is also some evidence to suggest that saffron may help with weight loss and reduce appetite. Researchers in the Journal of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Research study showed that patients with coronary artery disease who took saffron extract reduced their body mass index, total fat mass and waist circumference. Those taking the supplement also had a reduced appetite compared to those in the placebo group.



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