Saffron and its effect on our mental health

Richard Staudner
Richard Staudner

The Optimizer

We know saffron as a spice. It is the gossamer-thin red threads from the flowers of the
Saffron plant. In Persian culture saffron has a long tradition as a remedy and
is therefore also intensively studied scientifically there. The healing properties of saffron
is only slowly arriving here in Austria, even though we ourselves have actually had a long
Have tradition of saffron cultivation (1).

Saffron is said to have a very broad and positive spectrum of effects and is now quite
easily available as a dietary supplement.
In today's article we are dedicated to the promising effect of saffron on our
brain performance, our sleep, and the exciting topic of mental health.

The enigma of our brain

Diseases of the brain are unfortunately a very distressing subject, which medicine,
Science and society enormously busy.

For example, Alzheimer's, a disease that still puzzles researchers.
The idea that our brains just don't work anymore is a little scary, but
unfortunately too often reality. Saffron has the potential to be symptomatic in Alzheimer's disease. A
Meta-analysis from 2020 analyzed 4 studies with a total of 203 participants and found that
Saffron beneficial for brain function in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease
has an effect (1). This result is also confirmed by other review studies. (2-4)

How saffron affects our sleep

For many, saffron as a dietary supplement to optimize sleep is still perfectly
unknown. However, there is also a new review paper on this, published this year.
The meta-analysis compared results from 8 studies with a total of 611 participants.
Here evidence was found that saffron improves sleep (5). The whole was based on
of standardized questionnaires that determine sleep quality.

Of course, we would like to see studies that actually measure sleep biologically. We
know from sleep research that the subjective perception of sleep is not always the
actual quality. But if it helps according to statements of the proband:innen,
it makes sense somewhere, doesn't it?

Can a spice help our mental health?

Particularly profound research has been conducted on the effect of saffron on depression. The
Main field of application in traditional medicine. Since 2013 published 7
Meta-analyses that evaluated studies on depression and saffron.
Almost all state that saffron can reduce depression. (6-11)

It is also exciting to see exactly what the studies found: When saffron was compared with a placebo
is compared, then it has a significant effect. When compared with drugs
is compared, no significant difference is observed. This means that saffron
has about the same effect on depression as antidepressants. The following were examined
medications imipramine and fluoxetine (Fluctine).

In 2 studies, saffron was even shown to act synergistically with fluoxetine, i.e., in the case of
joint intake the effect is better than when taking only fluoxetine!
Also, sexual impairment is among the undesirable side effects associated with
Antidepressants. As we know from other studies, saffron can also increase libido
support, so it's a win-win. (12)

Again, the improvement was surveyed using a standardized questionnaire (like
it should be possible to do otherwise with mental health...). A meta-analysis found thereby,
that for one type of questionnaire the change was not significant, but for the other type it was
already. Different questionnaires cover different aspects and it is quite possible,
That saffron is not equally effective on all aspects of mental health.(6).
The spectrum of mental health or mental illness is unfortunately also

Research has also been done with regard to other mental illnesses. To
Anxiety disorders, there are also sufficient studies to perform a meta-analysis.
In the 6 studies with 375 participants, the authors found that saffron was used with great efficacy.
Effect size can reduce symptoms of anxiety disorders. (9)
Two initial studies also suggest that saffron may help with obsessive-compulsive disorder or
Schizophrenia could help. (4,13)

Are there any undesirable side effects

In fact, saffron does not seem to be completely free of side effects. It is always
described again that there are mild, but not severe side effects.
comes. These include: Headache, nausea, anxiety, decreased appetite (7). A
Meta-analysis also specifically investigated the side effects of saffron (11). The
Working group noted adverse effects such as headache, sweating, anxiety, dizziness,
Constipation, dry mouth, tremor. Then they analyzed the occurrences statistically.

The result: The side effects did not occur more frequently with saffron supplementation than
with a placebo. In addition, it was shown that participants who received imipramine,
sedation and dry mouth were experienced significantly more often. In general, tremor occurs in
drugs also occurred more frequently than with saffron. Other side effects were with saffron
and the other groups equally frequently.

Mechanism of action:

From cellular experiments we can establish some ideas why saffron works the way we do in
see the studies. Theories are found that there is an increase in our
body's own antioxidants. And further to lower the level of homocysteine.
An important marker in our cardiovascular system, which should be low. Further
it was discovered that elements of the gut microbiome, which are associated with our psyche
related, are changed.

Probably one of the most exciting theories is blocking the resumption of
neurotransmitters. In the process, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the synapses are
not resumed. Also, some effective antidepressants work on this
way. The body thus learns to produce more serotonin and other neurotransmitters itself.
produce. Generally, an increase in serotonin in the brain is noted with saffron supplementation.
Also, an important molecule for memory and recall (BDNF), both in healthy
as well as in sick people(14), is influenced.


Most studies use dosages of 30 mg/day to treat mental
diseases and also achieve good results with them. Higher doses and their
Side effects have not yet been studied in depth in the area of the psyche. The best
Dose and duration of intake is therefore not yet known. (11)
In the case of sleep disorders, the authors of a meta-analysis believe that a dose of
100mg/d was promising for future studies, especially in people with
Sleep disorders and diabetes. (5)
Again, a large portion of the studies were conducted in one region (in Iran), and they were
by the same research group. The results should therefore also be used in other
populations to be repeated!


Overall, a very exciting result, which suggests the attempt to use saffron as a
Food supplements to give a chance! Especially to help our brain in the
cognitive work, promote mental health and improve sleep.

Richard Staudner
The Optimizer

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