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Ryan and Kat England are not medical professionals or registered dieticians or nutritionists. The information we provide is based on our personal experience, studies of food & nutritional supplements and our experience as a wellness coach. Any recommendations we may make about physical activity, weight training, emotional support, nutrition, supplements or lifestyle, or information you receive in our emails, programs, services and products do not take the place of professional medical advice. 

Saffron

Noortropics in the spice cabinet

'noortropics' in the

Saffron

spice cabinet

The administration of saffron (30 mg) over the course of six weeks is just as effective as prescription medication for treating symptoms of depression in individuals with major depressive disorder.

don’t underestimate what’s in the spice drawer!

The popular mantra “Food is medicine” could not be more true when it comes to spices! The utilization of spices in cooking goes far beyond just adding flavor. In fact, the pungent flavor of a spice usually represents one of it’s medicinal qualities. For example, the pungent flavor of black pepper is due to the presence of the alkaloid, piperine. Piperine is known to provide several health benefits such as dramatically improving the absorption of other nutrients and aiding with detoxification. In addition to black pepper, virtually every spice provides unique alkoloids, carotenes, essential oils, as well as other important constituents that offer a broad range of various health benefits. Several spices may even offer protection against serious conditions including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, as well as neurological disorders including dementia and Alzheimer’s. In fact, many of the same spices that offer protection against aging related brain disorders also provide short term relief for things like depression, learning, focus and sleep. One of these ‘nootropic’ spices is the highly revered crimson stigma, saffron! 

the worlds most prestigious spice!

Saffron is the red stigma (female portion) of the small purple crocus (crocus sativus) flower, which is a member of the lily family. Saffron is among the most expensive spices in the world. Not only does it have to picked by hand, it also takes roughly 5,000 flowers to produce a single ounce of this incredible spice. The health benefits of saffron are primarily due to the activity of unique carotenes and other compounds including crocetin, crocin, picrocrocin and safranal. The beneficial activity provided by these constituents include anti-inflammatory, anti-atherosclerotic and anti-hypertensive properties. Arguably the most impressive benefits of saffron have to do with it’s ‘nootropic’ activity in the brain. Nootropic refers to any substance that enhances executive functions such as memory, learning, focus and motivation. Popular nootropics include products like creatine, alpha-GPC, citicoline, huperzine A, lion’s mane mushroom, CBD oil and so on. However, a visit to the spice cupboard may be all we need to get that nootropic boost for our brain! So what are some the amazing nootropic benefits of saffron? 

alzheimer’s prevention

Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the aggregation of beta amyloid fibrils within the brain. While the exact causes for this remain unknown, specific plant carotenes such as the crocetin in saffron have demonstrated the ability to inhibit beta-amyloid fibrillogenesis which may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (ref). Additionally, crocetin has been shown to partially inhibit the enzyme acetyl-cholinesterase. By inhibiting acetyl-cholinesterase, crocetin helps to prevent the loss of acetylcholine which is the main therapeutic approach in treating Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, clinical studies have shown that 30 mg of saffron extract per day is equally as effective as the drug donepezil for treating mild to moderate Alzheimer’s in patients 55 years of age and older (ref). There were also no serious side effects, such as vomiting, with the administration of saffron.

depression

Saffron may very well be one of the most important natural remedies for treating depression. In fact, 30 mg of saffron administered daily over the course of six weeks has shown to be as effective as SSRI and antidepressant drugs for treating mild to moderate depression (ref). What’s even more impressive is the same administration of saffron (30 mg) over the course of six weeks is just as effective as 40 mg of fluoxetine for treating symptoms of depression in individuals with major depressive disorder (ref). Additionally, saffron can even help to reverse the sexual impairment associated with the use of the SSRI drug fluoxetine (ref). 

saffron may help to suppress seizures

Saffron at higher doses of 400 – 800 mg has demonstrated significant anti-epileptic activity in pentylenetetrazole (PTZ) induced seizures (ref). Safranal (the chemical responsible for saffron’s aroma) is believed to be what’s responsible for saffrons anti-epileptic activity. The administration of safranal (0.15 and 0.35 ml) has been shown to reduce seizure duration, delay the onset of tonic convulsions and even prevent fatalities caused by seizures (ref). 

good for focus, motivation, and productivity!

Saffron’s ability to inhibit acetyl-cholinesterase is more than just beneficial for preventing Alzheimer’s. By suppressing the breakdown of acetylcholine, saffron can also help to provide better mental performance at any given time. Crocetin, one of the active carotenes in saffron, inhibits acetyl-cholinesterase by about 30% which allows for more of this precious neurotransmitter to be available for use. Acetylcholine is responsible for the quick and precise communication between nerve cells. It promotes focus, arousal, motivation, learning, and memory which are all the right ingredients for being productive! Additionally, saffron also increases the release of dopamine and glutamate in the brain which results in helping us to stay motivated while avoiding the burnout of stress (ref). 

anything else?

Saffron may also help with neuroinflammation, Parkinson’s disease, opioid withdrawals and various types of neural injuries (refref, ref, ref, ref, ref). Taking all of this into account, it’s easy to see why saffron is such an amazing spice that stands out as being truly medicinal! Utilizing it for cooking is rather easy as well. It’s aromatic flavor pairs very nicely with other spices such as turmeric, cumin, fenugreek and sumac. It’s perfect for eastern style dishes and can even be used to make tea by simply steeping a pinch full of carefully crushed stigmas in hot water for 5- 10 minutes. Using it on a regular basis is a great way to boost our mental performance & over all wellbeing. For a stronger dose in supplement form, the CBD + Relax by Garden of Life provides a hefty 30 mg of organic saffron extract, plus 15 mg cannabidiol and 50 mg of L-theanine. It’s honestly one of the best products for helping with stress and anxiety that I have personally tried. The CBD it’s provides is from a whole hemp extract providing additional cannabinoids, plant terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids; all of which boost the overall effectiveness of cannabidiol. It’s also THC free as well! 

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