10 Astonishing Health Benefits of Saffron

The biggest benefits of wonder-ingredient saffron for body and mind.

6 Minute ReadEducation


What is saffron and where does saffron come from?

Saffron is a spice extracted from the stigmas of the Crocus sativus plant, The Crocus sativus is a member of the iris family and native to Iran, Greece, Morocco, and India. Saffron threads are fine and orange-red in colour, although they impart a golden hue to foods and drinks when used in this way. Saffron has been cultivated for thousands of years for use in medicines, perfumes, textile dyes, and cooking, and is widely regarded as one of the best ingredients for mood, appearing in a number of ancient recipes. Saffron also has a particularly unique and earthy flavour when added to dishes.

Because of the relative scarcity of the spice, and the labour-intensive harvesting and production methods involved in its use, saffron is exceedingly expensive. The most expensive spice in the world, in fact. Just one pound - equivalent to 450g - of saffron can retail at a price anywhere up to $5,000.

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What are the health benefits of saffron?

Saffron has been held in high esteem for its health benefits for over 4,000 years, and in particular for its mood boosting properties. Early recipes for remedies that included saffron purport to treat everything from fever, cramps and anxiety, to joint pain, muscular aches and bruising.

Saffron is most famous for being a natural mood booster and is one of the best foods for mood, but the ancient Greeks revered saffron for all manner of potent health-giving and medicinal properties. Greek armies would be fed saffron to improve their strength and increase their stamina before going to battle, and the great thinkers of the time consumed saffron for its brain-boosting benefits. Others ate saffron in order to enhance their libidos, boost their moods, and to feel more balanced.

Saffron has never gone out of vogue, and modern medical researchers are still uncovering new uses for and benefits of this wonder spice. Current research suggests that saffron, when prepared in particular ways and in combination with other specific herbs and spices, may be beneficial in treating and preventing Alzheimer's disease, depression, and premenstrual syndrome and dysphoric disorder.

How can I supplement with saffron?

Saffron has been used for thousands of years for its many health benefits, and while there are generic saffron extracts available for supplementation, none have pre-clinical studies to support their efficacy, bioavailability and effects.

At LYMA, we use 28mg of affron® in our Supplement: a unique, standardised saffron extract that is supported with peer-reviewed, clinical evidence. Studies show that affron® has positive benefits on mood and sleep quality, just as Saffron has been reported to do in ayurvedic and Persian medical tradition. Tests have also suggested it can decrease the side effects of anti-depressants.

So what could a daily dose of affron® do for you? Read on for 10 astonishing benefits of including saffron in your supplement regime.

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1. Antioxidant properties of saffron.

Research into the medicinal properties of saffron have indicated time and again that saffron has a powerful antioxidant potential - meaning that it may help to protect your cells against free radical damage and oxidative stress. The majority of its antioxidant proclivity can be found in crocin - a potent carotenoid.

Carotenoids are responsible, too, for the colour and taste of saffron in its edible form.

In addition to affron®, LYMA contains a second potent carotenoid - Lycored Lycopene™ - which behaves in a similar way but has explicit benefits for the health and appearance of the skin.

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2. Saffron is mood boosting.

Saffron is well-regarded for its mood-boosting and antidepressant properties. And affron®, as formulated in LYMA, is the first saffron supplement on the market to be supported and backed by clinical evidence to this effect.

Six independent, peer-reviewed, randomised, double-blind studies have confirmed the benefits that affron® can have on mood and sleep quality in healthy adults. Saffron extract has even been proven in some instances to be equally as effective as traditional over-the-counter antidepressant medications at treating poor mental health.

Furthermore, supplementing with affron® alongside prescription antidepressants can reduce the side effects sometimes associated with the latter.

LYMA contains another mood-boosting ingredient: full spectrum, root extracted, KSM-66® Ashwagandha. KSM-66® Ashwagandha is the most bioavailable form of ashwagandha on the market, and it has been formulated in LYMA at a clinically-backed daily dose of 600mg. Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 3000 years to help relieve stress, anxiety and depression.

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3. Saffron's antioxidant properties fight cancer.

This is most likely linked to saffron’s high antioxidant count, but in test-tube studies (note: these studies have not been conducted directly on humans), supplementing with saffron has been shown to suppress and even kill colon cancer cells. Scientists suspect that the effect could be replicated in humans and that we could see a similar impact on other types of cancer, specifically skin, bone marrow, prostate, lung, breast and cervix cancers.

4. The aphrodisiac potential of saffron.

An analysis of six independent studies suggests that supplementing with 30mg of saffron each day over a period of four weeks can improve erectile dysfunction, enhance libido and increase sexual satisfaction.

While the manifestation of course differed, the aphrodisiac and libido-enhancing characteristics of saffron applied equally to both men and women. The results were particularly stark when men or women were taking antidepressant medications (a common side effect of such drugs being diminished sex drive), and in men with mood-related erectile dysfunction.

5. Weight-loss supporting.

Saffron has been linked to weight loss and, although the jury is still out on exactly why this might be, scientists think it is most likely down to a combination of its ability to increase the feeling of satiety, boosting mood and fuelling the hormones that signal that you’ve had enough and it’s time to stop eating.

6. Blood-sugar balancing.

Another possible explanation for saffron’s role in promoting weight loss is that it contains compounds that ensure your blood sugar remains balanced. When your blood sugar is balanced, you are less inclined to snack between meals, to turn to carbohydrate-rich foods or to overeat. Incidentally, balanced blood sugar can also have the knock-on effect of improving and stabilising mood.

Furthermore, test-tube studies have shown that saffron can help to increase insulin sensitivity, thereby reducing the likelihood of developing type two diabetes.

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7. Hormone regulation.

Saffron could be an indispensable addition to the wellbeing toolkit of women who struggle with hormone imbalance.

Even the smell of saffron (and even diluted to the point that women did not know they were smelling anything at all) has been shown to have a significant impact on hormone levels. In one study, the result of just twenty minutes of smelling indiscernible quantities of saffron was shown to decrease the women’s cortisol levels and increase their oestrogen levels.

Furthermore, some studies have been able to demonstrate saffron’s role in treating the symptoms of PMS in women of reproductive age. Supplementing with 30mg of saffron daily reduced the frequency and severity of PMS symptoms including irritability, headaches, cravings, and abdominal pain.

8. Memory boosting.

Saffron’s antioxidant properties may help to protect your brain from inflammaging and can reduce the likelihood of developing memory problems and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in later life.

In LYMA, affron® is combined with Cognizin® - a potent brain-health nutrient - and is the world’s leading nootropic and has been clinically proven to enhance mental performance, concentration and memory.

9. Heart health benefits.

Saffron’s antioxidant properties have been implicated in a reduction in cholesterol levels, as well as in the prevention of blockages and plaque development in blood vessels and arteries.

Heart health is really important to LYMA, and in addition to affron® our formula also contains our cholesterol-busting beta glucan Wellmune® Blend as well as a clinically-proven ratio of vitamins D3 and K2, the combination of which can prevent the calcification and subsequent blockage of vessels and tissues in the body.

10. Eye health support.

Another healthy-ageing benefit of saffron is its ability to improve eyesight in older adults and those with age-related macular degeneration. Saffron supplementation protects against oxidative stress and free radical damage, which are both heavily implicated in age-related macular degeneration.

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