Saffron is hard to miss. It has a vibrant red-orange color and comes from the flower Crocus sativus.1 Rumor has it that saffron is good for eye health. But is it true?
It sure is. You can thank carotenoids – the pigments that give saffron its color. In the body, some carotenoids are converted into vitamin A – a nutrient needed for healthy vision.
By themselves, carotenoids can still lend a hand. They’re antioxidants, after all.2
Since saffron is a rich source, it can do wonders for your vision. Here’s how.
1. Protects Photoreceptor Cells
The retina has cells called photoreceptors. They “translate” light into electric signals, and then into visual perception. Ultimately, your vision depends on them.
Photoreceptors work really hard! Because of this, they’re vulnerable to oxidative stress. But according to a study in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, the carotenoids in saffron can protect them. They’ll even reduce the rate of photoreceptor death.
While the study was done on rats, the results are definitely worth noticing.3
2. Prevents Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common cause of vision loss. By 2020, about 196 million people will have it.4 Plus, like many other diseases, inflammation and oxidative stress play a major role.
However, thanks to the carotenoids, saffron may help. This spice has both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. It might be just what you need to stop – or slow down – AMD.5
3. Improves Retinal Flicker Sensitivity
AMD also depends on retinal flicker sensitivity. If it’s poor, it means the retina can’t process light well. But if retinal flicker sensitivity is high? Light processing improves, resulting in better vision.
With saffron, the latter will happen. A study with human participants found that short-term supplementation improves retinal sensitivity in early AMD. It’s certainly no cure, but it may pump the brakes.6
4. Reduces Eye Pressure
High eye pressure is a major risk factor for glaucoma or damage of the optic nerve. Symptoms include poor peripheral or side vision, but this usually goes unnoticed. And if it’s left untreated? Blindness is likely, so it’s crucial to reduce the eye pressure.7
Saffron can do just that with the anti-oxidative power of carotenoids. Otherwise, oxidative stress will mess with the structure of the eye’s tissue. This makes it hard for fluids to flow through, leading to high eye pressure. More research is needed to see if an oral or topical dose is best.8
5. Prevents Cataract
Another major cause of poor vision is cataract or clouding of the lens. It’s also the number one cause of blindness in the world.
Oxidative stress plays a huge role. When proteins are oxidized, they break down and cause clouding. Other parts of the eye, such as lipids, are also damaged.
Enter saffron and its carotenoids. As antioxidants, they fight oxidative stress. In turn, they protect the eye’s structure, showing potential for preventing or delaying cataracts.9
Saffron isn’t a cure for blindness. Yet, with these benefits, it can help delay vision loss. At the very least, it’ll certainly spice up your life.
|↑1||Moshiri, M., M. Vahabzadeh, and H. Hosseinzadeh. “Clinical applications of saffron (Crocus sativus) and its constituents: a review.” Drug research 65, no. 06 (2015): 287-295.|
|↑2||Carotenoids. Oregon State University.|
|↑3||Maccarone, Rita, Stefano Di Marco, and Silvia Bisti. “Saffron supplement maintains morphology and function after exposure to damaging light in mammalian retina.” Investigative ophthalmology & visual science 49, no. 3 (2008): 1254-1261.|
|↑4||Wong, Wan Ling, Xinyi Su, Xiang Li, Chui Ming G. Cheung, Ronald Klein, Ching-Yu Cheng, and Tien Yin Wong. “Global prevalence of age-related macular degeneration and disease burden projection for 2020 and 2040: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” The Lancet Global Health 2, no. 2 (2014): e106-e116.|
|↑5||Bisti, Silvia, Rita Maccarone, and Benedetto Falsini. “Saffron and retina: Neuroprotection and pharmacokinetics.” Visual neuroscience 31, no. 4-5 (2014): 355-361.|
|↑6||Falsini, Benedetto, Marco Piccardi, Angelo Minnella, Cristina Savastano, Ettore Capoluongo, Antonello Fadda, Emilio Balestrazzi, Rita Maccarone, and Silvia Bisti. “Influence of saffron supplementation on retinal flicker sensitivity in early age-related macular degeneration.” Investigative ophthalmology & visual science 51, no. 12 (2010): 6118-6124.|
|↑7||Glaucoma Facts and Stats. Glaucoma Research Foundation.|
|↑8||Bonyadi, Mohammad Hossein Jabbarpoor, Shahin Yazdani, and Saeed Saadat. “The ocular hypotensive effect of saffron extract in primary open angle glaucoma: a pilot study.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine 14, no. 1 (2014): 399.|
|↑9||Makri, Olga E., Anastasia-Varvara Ferlemi, Fotini N. Lamari, and Constantine D. Georgakopoulos. “Saffron administration prevents selenite-induced cataractogenesis.” (2013).|