Macular degeneration is a loss of central vision, usually in older people. Saffron supplements can help slow disease progression and improve vision.
Saffron is a spice made from Crocus sativus flower. People have traditionally used the dried stigma of the flower in cooking to add flavoring and coloring. They also used it as a dye.
It is also available in supplement form in higher amounts than is possible to obtain from dietary sources.
Saffron contains antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, according to a research report 2019. These qualities may make it a beneficial supplement for slowing the progression of macular degeneration.
This article examines the effects of saffron on macular degeneration, possible side effects, and how long it takes to start seeing results.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of saffron could make it a potential treatment for eye diseases.
A study 2017 examined the effects of saffron in 54 people with dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The researchers divided the participants into two groups: a control group and a treatment group. The treatment group took 50 milligrams (mg) of saffron daily for 3 months.
Before and after the study, the researchers measured:
- participants’ visual acuity, which is the ability to clearly see shapes or objects at certain distances
- participants’ contrast sensitivity, which is the ability to see subtle differences in shades or patterns
- participants’ retinal thickness
- participants’ quality of life due to low vision
The researchers found significant improvement in visual acuity and contrast sensitivity in the treatment group and no improvement in the control group.
This led researchers to conclude that short-term consumption of saffron can slow the progression of dry AMD and help improve vision.
Learn more about the health benefits of saffron here.
Saffron is a
To bring out the flavor of saffron, individuals can steep it in hot water and drink it as they would tea or add the water and saffron strands to a recipe.
People may choose to take saffron for AMD as an oral supplement. People can also take supplements containing the antioxidant components of saffron, such as crocin.
Individuals can discuss with a healthcare professional which supplement and dosage is best for them.
A 2019 review reviewed existing research on saffron supplementation for macular degeneration.
Research has shown that a daily dose of 20-50mg of saffron significantly improves visual acuity over a 3 month period.
Researchers have also suggested that saffron supplements from 20-50mg per day and crocin supplements of 5–15 mg daily are safe, although there is currently insufficient evidence to establish long-term safety.
Oxidative stress can contribute to many diseases, including AMD. Saffron’s antioxidant activity may be effective in improving AMD symptoms and slowing disease progression.
In fact, the main components of saffron are the antioxidants safranal, crocin, and crocetin.
According to a animal study 2019in comparison with other natural substances with antioxidant properties, saffron seems to have a promising effect in slowing down the progression of AMD.
The study suggests that saffron’s effects on AMD aren’t just due to the spice’s antioxidant properties.
Saffron can help regulate genes and increase tissue resilience. It may also help reduce neuroinflammation – inflammation of the central nervous system – which may be linked to degenerative diseases like AMD.
According to a 2019 review on using saffron for macular degeneration, side effects of saffron may include:
- coloring of the skin or eyes, due to the intense coloring of saffron
- sedative effects
- appetite changes
Research suggests that doses of 20–50 mg of saffron or 5–15 mg of crocin per day are generally safe. Over the course of a month, people who took 20 mg of crocin by mouth daily had no major side effects.
Higher doses of 200–400 mg of saffron also seemed safe in people taking the supplement for 7 days. One participant presented with atypical bleeding from the uterus.
Saffron supplementation appears to be safe in people with AMD. Individuals may need to consult a healthcare practitioner before taking saffron if they:
- have impaired kidney function
- have a bleeding disorder
- take blood thinners
Saffron supplements may also not be suitable for pregnant women, as higher doses may have abortifacient effects.
Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid with antioxidant properties similar to those of saffron, according to a Report on studies 2015.
Zeaxanthin composes 75% from the center of the retina, the central macular. Higher levels of macular pigment may reduce the risk of AMD.
Dietary supplementation or consumption of foods high in zeaxanthin can help increase macular pigment and improve eye health. Foods high in zeaxanthin include:
- orange peppers
- Egg yolk
- sweet corn
- oranges and orange juice
People can choose to take zeaxanthin supplements or increase their intake of foods containing this carotenoid.
Check out 10 foods for healthy eyes here.
How long does saffron take to work?
According to a research report 2019, studies have shown that supplementing with saffron for 3 months leads to a significant improvement in visual acuity in people with AMD. This suggests that even short-term saffron supplementation can help improve vision.
How long is it safe to take saffron?
The 2019 review mentioned above suggests that oral saffron supplements are safe for most people, although more research is needed to uncover the long-term effects and safety of saffron.
A study 2019 suggests that low doses of saffron may increase the likelihood of a positive outlook for people with long-term AMD.
However, other research suggests that the benefits of taking saffron may not continue after the initial period of supplementation.
The aforementioned 2019 review of studies included two longer-term studies on AMD and saffron supplementation.
People with early AMD took 20 mg of saffron daily for 12 to 15 months. Visual improvements occurred within the first 3 months of taking the saffron supplement, but after that the results seemed to level off.
the research report 2019 mentioned above suggests that daily supplementation with saffron or crocin, one of the antioxidant components of saffron, can significantly improve visual acuity and contrast sensitivity in people with AMD.
People may see improvements within 3 months of taking supplements, but improvements may level off after this time.
Other research of 2019 suggests that long-term supplementation may increase positive results, however.
Saffron contains antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, which may help improve eye health and slow the progression of macular degeneration.
Research has shown that short-term supplementation with saffron may help improve certain aspects of vision and is generally safe for most people.
People can experience side effects from saffron, and they should avoid saffron supplementation during pregnancy.
People with certain health conditions, such as bleeding disorders, or people taking medications can consult a doctor before taking supplements.