On weight management:
This 2010 study hypothesized that saffron stigma extract (Satiereal brand from InoReal Ltd, France) suppresses the urge for snacking through its appetite suppressing property and, thereby, reduce weight. Mildly obese women numbering 60 participated in the study with 31 women getting176.5 mg of the saffron extract while the rest were treated with an equal amount of placebo. Regular diet content was unchanged and snacking frequency was logged by the participants themselves in a nutrition diary. The treated group showed significant weight loss from reduced snacking compared with the control group.
Conclusion: Saffron extract reduced snacking frequency leading to weight loss even without altering regular diet intake.
In treating depression:
This 2005 randomized, double blind, and placebo-controlled study assessed the efficacy of dried stigmas of the Crocus sativus flower in treating mild to moderate depression over a 6-week intervention period. Forty out-patients diagnosed with depression using structured clinical interviews were tested that yield a baseline rating of 18 under the Hamilton depression scale. They were randomly split into two groups, with Group1 receiving 30 mg of saffron extract per day while Group 2 received placebos. By end of the study, the treated group exhibited improved outcomes under the Hamilton depression rating scale with no reported side effects.
Conclusion: The Crocus sativus showed promise in treating mild to moderate depression. A large-scale trial is warranted.
In treating Alzheimer's and learning ability under stress:
This 2010 study hypothesized that the active chemical constituent crocus in saffron extracts is effective in treating memory and learning impairment associated with Alzheimer's disease. Ninety adult male Wistar rats were split into 6 groups (1) placebo group, and (2) and (3) treated with 15 and 30 mg/kg crocin, respectively, (4) injected with streptozocin (STZ) via intracerebroventricular (icv) injection to induce learning impairment, and (5) and (6) treated with STZ and crocin at the same dosages as groups 2 and 3. Post-treatment measurements taken showed that crocin-treated rats with STZ exhibited higher correct responses and lower Y-maze errors than the control rats. Significant inhibition of cognitive impairment was recorded in rats with STZ treated with 30mg of crocin.
Conclusion: Crocin can treat cognitive deficits caused by STZ-icv in rats, confirming its potential in treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.
Potential cancer treatment:
This 1995 review confirmed the anticarcinogenic and chemopreventive potency of dimethyl-crocetin in saffron extract in reducing cancer risk in a wide range of tumor cells. It also confirmed the dose-dependency of the extract's cytotoxic effect on in vitro leukemia, sarcoma, and carcinoma cells. Saffron extended the life span of cancer-induced lab rats by 45% to 120% compared to the placebo group. It also decreased the incidence of squamous cell carcinoma and soft tissue sarcoma, and delayed the onset of papilloma growth in treated mice. Dimethyl crocetin in saffron extract inhibited nucleic acid synthesis by disrupting DNA-protein interactions which figures prominently in cellular DNA synthesis of tumor cells.
Conclusion: Saffron shows promise as a chemopreventive agent with its antitumorigenesis effect attributable to its carotenoid-like properties
Treating Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS):
This 2008 randomized, placebo controlled and double-blind clinical trial conducted in Iran investigated the potential of dried stigma in the saffron flower to relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Women volunteers aged 20-45 experiencing PMS for the last 6 months were evenly grouped into (A) which received 15 mg of saffron capsule twice daily, and (B) which received placebo. Both groups were tested over two menstrual cycles. Primary results were measured using the Daily Symptom Report, while secondary results used the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. The results indicated that Saffron relieved PMS symptoms with differences in its efficacy in cycles 3 and 4, but without any side effect.
Conclusion: Saffron extract shows promise as an alternative PMS treatment without any adverse side effects.