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Saffron For The Brain (& More)

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Saffron For The Brain (& More)

In yesterday’s edition of 10almonds, one of the items in the “health news from around the world” section was:

Clinical trial finds herbal medicine Sailuotong effective for brain health in older people

But, what is it?

❝SaiLuoTong (SLT) is a modern compound Chinese herbal medicine preparation in capsule form containing standardized extracts of Panax ginseng, Ginkgo biloba, and Crocus sativus L❞

Source: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group 12-week pilot phase II trial of SaiLuoTong (SLT) for cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment

We’ve written previously about ginseng and ginkgo biloba:

So, what’s this about Crocus sativus L.?

That is the plant better known as saffron. And, for all its wide availability (your local supermarket probably has at least a tiny amount in the spice section), there’s a reason we don’t see much of it:

❝Saffron blooms only once a year and should be collected within a very short duration. It is picked during 3–4 weeks in October-November. The method for the cultivation of saffron contributes greatly to its high price. According to some reports, this species is a sterile triploid and so does not produce fertile seeds. Germination can take 1–6 months at 18°C. It takes 3 years for plants to flower from seed.❞

Source: Crocus sativus L.: A comprehensive review

That’s fascinating, but what does it do for us?

Well, in the words of El Midaoui et al. (2022):

❝In the frame of a double-blind-placebo-controlled study, 30 mg per day supplementation with saffron for 16 weeks resulted in improved cognitive function in patients suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Moreover, the follow-up of this study in which the authors evaluated the effects of saffron (30 mg/day) for 22 weeks showed that saffron was as effective as donepezil in the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease❞

Read the full review: Saffron (Crocus sativus L.): A Source of Nutrients for Health and for the Treatment of Neuropsychiatric and Age-Related Diseases

Not just that, but it also has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties beyond the brain (though the brain is where research has been most focused, due to its neuroprotective effects).

See: Antioxidant Properties of Crocus Sativus L. and Its Constituents and Relevance to Neurodegenerative Diseases; Focus on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease

(this, too, is a full research review in its own right; we’re getting a lot of “bang for buck” on papers today)

And more?

Yes, and more. Lots more. To bullet-pointify even just the abstract from another research review:

  • Saffron has been suggested to be effective in the treatment of a wide range of disorders including coronary artery diseases, hypertension, stomach disorders, dysmenorrhea and learning and memory impairments.
  • In addition, different studies have indicated that saffron has anti-inflammatory, anti-atherosclerotic, antigenotoxic and cytotoxic activities. (This is all good; the cytotoxic activities are about killing cancer cells)
  • Antitussive effects of stigmas and petals of C. sativus and its components, safranal and crocin have also been demonstrated.
  • The anticonvulsant and anti-Alzheimer properties of saffron extract were shown in human and animal studies.
  • The efficacy of C. sativus in the treatment of mild to moderate depression was also reported in clinical trial.
  • Administration of C. sativus and its constituents increased glutamate and dopamine levels in the brain in a dose-dependent manner.
  • It also interacts with the opioid system to reduce withdrawal syndrome.
  • C. sativus and its components can be considered as promising agents in the treatment of nervous system disorders.

For more details on any of those items, see:

The effects of Crocus sativus (saffron) and its constituents on nervous system: a review

Is it safe?

The effective dose is 30mg/kg and the LD50 is more than 20g/kg, so yes, it’s very safe. Given the price of it, this also means that if you’re the size of this writer (a little over 70kg, or a little over 150lbs) to poison yourself effectively you’d need to consume about 1.4kg of saffron at a time, which would cost well over $6,000.

Where can I get it?

Your local supermarket probably has a tiny amount in the spice section, or you can get better prices buying it in “bulk” online. Here’s an example product on Amazon, for your convenience 🙂


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