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What Is Saffron Used for Today?
The best evidence for medicinal effects of saffron involve treatment of depression . According to five preliminary double-blind studies, use of saffron at 30 mg daily is more effective than placebo and equally effective as standard treatment for major depression. 1 However, all these studies were small and preliminary, and were performed by a single research group in Iran. Larger studies and independent confirmation will be necessary to determine whether this expensive herb is truly effective for depression.
Other proposed uses of saffron have even weaker supporting evidence. Test-tube and animal studies hint that saffron and its constituents may help prevent or treat cancer, 2 3 4 5 6 reduce cholesterol levels , 7 protect against side effects of the drug cisplatin , 8 and enhance mental function . 9
- Akhondzadeh S, Tahmacebi-Pour N, Noorbala AA, et al. Crocus sativus L. in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. Phytother Res. 2005;19:148–51.
- Abdullaev Jafarova F, Caballero-Ortega H, Riveron-Negrete L, et al. In vitro evaluation of the chemopreventive potential of saffron [in Spanish]. Rev Invest Clin. 2003;54:430–6.
- Escribano J, Alonso GL, Coca-Prados M, et al. Crocin, safranal and picrocrocin from saffron ( Crocus sativus L.) inhibit the growth of human cancer cells in vitro. Cancer Lett. 1996;100:23–30.
- Abdullaev FI, Espinosa-Aguirre JJ. Biomedical properties of saffron and its potential use in cancer therapy and chemoprevention trials. Cancer Detect Prev. 28(6):426-32.
- Molnár J, Szabó D, Pusztai R, Mucsi I, Berek L, Ocsovszki I, Kawata E, Shoyama Y. Membrane associated antitumor effects of crocine-, ginsenoside- and cannabinoid derivates. Anticancer Res. 20(2A):861-7.
- Abdullaev FI, Riveron-Negrete L, Caballero-Ortega H, et al. Use of in vitro assays to assess the potential antigenotoxic and cytotoxic effects of saffron ( Crocus sativus L.). Toxicol In Vitro. 2003;17:731–6.
- Xu GL, Yu SQ, Gong ZN, et al. Study of the effect of crocin on rat experimental hyperlipemia and the underlying mechanisms [in Chinese]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2005;30:369–72.
- el Daly ES. Protective effect of cysteine and vitamin E, Crocus sativus and Nigella sativa extracts on cisplatin-induced toxicity in rats. J Pharm Belg. 1998;53:87–93.
- Abe K, Saito H. Effects of saffron extract and its constituent crocin on learning behaviour and long-term potentiation. Phytother Res. 14(3):149-52.