Medical Uses:
Useful from Past to Present

Saffron can be used for, not only dyes and cooking, but also, as seen throughout history and proved in today's research, for many medical purposes.  So far research has shown that saffron can help digestion, act as an aphrodisiac, fight against tumors and cancerous cells, help with neurological problems (i.e. Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, insomnia, depression, and memory), lower blood pressure, help with asthma, and can aid in circulation of blood to the retina of the eye.  This blood circulation helps in eye problems that are caused by old age such as macula lutea.  

On behalf of the medical benefits seen on the eyes in some organisms, research has been carried out to further our knowledge on its effects on eye disorders.  Studies were done on A picture of an eye, who's retina can be benefited by saffron albino rats to find out if consuming dietary saffron could help the retinas of these mammals to stay intact and continue to function properly after they were exposed to light that would otherwise damage their retina.  The rats used within this experiment were either given saffron or β-carotene.  After being exposed to the harmful and extreme light for 24 hours, they recorded the flash electroretinograms (fERGs) of the control rats, and the ones that were treated with the saffron were recorded 1 day before and 1 week after the light exposure.  Overall the findings to this experiment were that the photoreceptor layer portion of the eye remained intact.  Therefore it seems that saffron may help to, not only protect these photoreceptors of the retina, but also ensure that the morphology and function of it are not harmed by damaging light that animals can be exposed to, especially albino organisms that tend to be much more sensitive to bright light.  

Ina vaccine, which can be improved with the addition of saffron addition, research has found that there are benefits from using saponin from the saffron plants in protein based vaccines.  These types of vaccines need an immunistimulatory stimulant or adjuvant because they are only weakly immunogenic.  Therefore adding different compounds from plants, minerals, or some pathogens can help to cause pro-inflammatory responses to the vaccines, which may sound bad, but this helps to cause a true and effective immune response to the vaccine.  If there is a good response to this, the body can be better suited to build up immunity to diseases that the vaccines are made to prevent since the body will have already fought them off when it was in low dose within the vaccine. 

Furthermore, saponin from saffron is being heavily studied because it has so far been found to be a great adjuvant in preventing tumor problemsUnfortunately, a huge problem in today’s world is the fatal disease of cancer.  Even the United States has been severely hit with this disease.  Currently there are studies that are being done that are helping to prove that the traditional Arab-Islamic medicines are beneficial in improving the quality of life of cancer patients.  The traditional remedies are herbal, spiritual, and nutritional approaches that according to a number of physicians and scholars, is proving to alleviate suffering from the patients and improve their quality of life.  One of the traditional spices used in Arab-Islamic medicines is saffron (Crocus sativus).  Therefore, it is possible that saffron is an herb that can help with patients witha pink ribbon, which symbolizes the fight against breast cancer the fatal disease of cancer to become better and hopefully take away some of the suffering.  Studies are still being done, but saffron could be a possible cure to cancer, along with other organisms such as the Bladderwrack and Stinging Needles.

Even though there are so many medical benefits from consuming the stigmas of the saffron crocus flower, too much of a good thing can be harmful.  Excessive amounts of saffron can lead to abortions, death of expectant mothers, and a narcotic/ecstasy effect.  Due to the medical effects saffron has been shown to cause, there is extensive research still being done on these plants in order to prove the beneficial aspects of saffron and hopefully find more cure to medical issues in our world. 

Spice market in the Middle East (Photo taken by Dr. Tom Volk)

To learn about the way Crocus sativus obtains its nutrients, go to Nutrition.

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