Amazing Health Benefits of the Ancient Spice Saffron

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I figured I would start out with an ingredient which has some amazing health benefits and has been used for traditional medicine, a dye and as a spice for centuries, though is somewhat new to me. I am talking about saffron, the spice derived from the crimson stigma of the beautiful purple flower Crocus Sativus. Before a year ago all I knew of saffron was that it was used as a spice, it was a lovely crimson red and was REALLY EXPENSIVE! If any of you have seen it is stores, you will see a little vile with a small amount of the beautiful deep red stigmas going for $30+. 

As mentioned before, saffron has been used for centuries and while its origin is debated, It has been suggested that saffron was domestically harvested in Greece as early as the Bronze age (1) and has been used in traditional medicine for everything from a sedative to an aphrodisiac (2). We are going to look at three specific benefits of Saffron today (sorry but aphrodisiac is not one that we are going to discuss. Maybe next time).  

saffron crocus flower

1) Antioxidant and Neuroprotection:

Saffron contains  carotenoids (which are responsible for the yellow color of saffron), the main one being Crocins, though it also contains other carotenoids at lower concentrations such as alpha-carotene and beta-carotene (found in carrots and sweet potatoes), lycopene (found in tomatoes) and many others (3).  Carotenoids in general are great antioxidants and comparatively the antioxidant properties of saffron by concentration are much higher than both carrots and tomatoes (4).

Chronic stress, which many of us experience on a daily basis can lead to an increase in oxidative damage in the brain. Specifically, the region of the brain responsible for learning and memory which is called the hippocampus (5,6) Thankfully, the antioxidant capacity of saffron extract has been observed to prevent this oxidative damage (7) which in turn can improve learning and memory (8,9). Other studies have also shown that saffron extract can increase the antioxidant potential in the brain reducing the damage generated from toxicity (10) and inflammation (11) in the brain.

While studies done using rats are not always comparable to humans, the administration of one of the main antioxidants found in saffron extract (crocin) was observed to increase the activity of antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase in the brain (12), improving the body’s ability to protect the brain from the damage of free radicals.

Purple dumbbells' next to fruits and vegetables on wood table

2) Weight loss and Satiety:

These days more than ever Americans can use some help when it comes to weight loss, especially after most of us only recent immerged from being quarantined, binge watching Neflix and devouring junk food. There are a few articles out there that talk about how saffron can help with weight loss though they are usually pretty vague on how it actually helps, minus mentioning that it may reduce appetite or improve mood (which we will talk about next). While research has shown that there are multiple biological mechanisms involved in hunger and satiety (sensation of feeling full), new research suggest that the neurotransmitter dopamine is a key player in food intake (13, 14, 15). While most people associated the neurotransmitter serotonin with satiety, recent research on rats suggest that dopamine plays a bigger role with satiety rather than the act of eating (16).

Now the we understand that dopamine plays a role in feeling full, lets get back to where saffron comes in. Saffron extract has been observed to increase brain dopamine levels in a dose dependent manor (17). In clinical studies in healthy women, saffron extract taken twice daily over 8-weeks lead to an increase in satiety and reduced snacking leading to weight loss (18). Another 8-week study in which individuals 40-65 took a daily dose of saffron extract (30mg), placebo, showed similar results. The saffron extract group showed a significant decrease in weight, waist circumference and fat mass values compared to the placebo group (19). These results have to make you wonder if we all should all start cooking with saffron more?

Women sitting back on black office chair at the beach facing the ocean

3) Improved Mood and Anxiety Reduction:

We can all use a mood boost or a little something to help with stress and anxiety these days. Saffron has shown some extremely promising results when it comes to helping with mood and anxiety in both animal and human models. This is possibly accomplished through its ability to increase dopamine levels (17) as well prevent the reuptake of serotonin (20, 21). A six-week studies in which healthy subjects received 30mg of saffron extract a day showed a significant improvement in mood in subjects receiving saffron extract compared to placebo (22). Another similar study using subjects suffering from mild to moderate depression revealed that subjects receiving saffron extract showed significant improvement in their depression (20).  When compared to well known antidepressant medications such as fluoxetine (Prozac) (17, 23) and Imipramine (24), saffron extract has found to have similar effects.

Other studies using Affron® (link to ingredient page on KINETIQ RENEW WEBSITE), a natural saffron extract that is standardized in Lepticrosalides, the main bioactive component that helps improve mood have shown remarkable results improving anxiety and depressive symptoms. A four-week study double-blind placebo control study in healthy adults, indicated that subjects receiving 28mg/day Affron®, had significant improvement in mood and decreased symptoms related to stress and anxiety (25). Another similar study testing the effects of Affron® on younger individuals over 8 weeks, found that subjects taking Affron® showed a significant improvement in depression, anxiety, and social phobia (26). Affron is such a high-quality form of saffron extract that has been well studies and for that reason it has been added to our product KINETIQ RENEW (Link to KINETIQ Renew purchase page).


Recap and Final Thoughts

  • Saffron has been used for centuries for its health benefits in traditional medicine as well as a spice for cooking and for its coloring properties.
  • Saffron contains strong antioxidant properties provided by carotenoids which are excellent free radical scavengers.
  • Saffron has shown promise in weight loss and satiety, possibility through its ability to increase dopamine leading to a reduction in appetite.
  • The use of saffron has been well studied for its ability to improve mood and reduce anxiety naturally and safely.
  • Quality saffron is still expensive (just in case you were wondering)

 Learn More about Affron® at


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  2. Nemati H, Ahmadzadef Vostakolaei H. 2008. Stimulatory effect of crocus sativus (saffron) on Beta2-adrenoceptors of guinea pig tracheal chains. Phytomedicine. 15:1038-1045.
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  11. Moallem SA, Hariri AT, Mahmoudi M, Hosseinzadeh H. 2014. Effect of aqueous extract of Crocus sativus L. (saffron) stigma against subacute effect of diazinon on specific biomarkers in rats. Toxicology and Industrial Health. 30:141-146.
  12. Vakili A, Einali MR, Bandegi AR. 2014. Protective Effect of crocin against cerebral ischemia in a dose-dependent manner in a rat model of ischemic stroke. Journal of Stroke & Cerebrovascular Disease. 23(1):106-113.
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  19. Abedimanesh N, Bathai Z, Abedimanesh S, Motlagh B, Separham A, Ostadrahimi A. 2017. Saffron and Crocin Improved Appetite, Dietary Intakes and Body Composition in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease. Journal of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Research. 9(4):200-208.
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  26. Lopresti A, Drummond P, Inarejos-Garcia M, Prodanov M. 2018. Affron®, a standardized extract from saffron (Crocus sativus L.) for the treatment of youth anxiety and depressive symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Journal of Affective Disorders. 232:349-357.