About this Episode
In this episode of the Medicinal Herbs podcast, host Daina Parent, ND, talks with naturopath and medical herbalist Berris Burgoyne about saffron.
Saffron, derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, is a culinary and medicinal herb that has been used for thousands of years for its therapeutic properties (00:49). Rich in various chemical components like crocin, crocetin, and safranal, saffron is known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects. It has been studied for its potential applications in treating a variety of conditions, including depression, anxiety, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Historical Use of Saffron
Many different cultures around the world, especially those involving Ayurveda, use saffron as part of their medicinal healthcare (02:04). Because saffron is one of the most expensive herbs to cultivate, it is often adulterated. Ensuring high-quality sources of saffron is paramount.
Traditional Use of Saffron
Saffron has been used traditionally for a variety of health contexts, including female reproductive disorders, coughs, colds, sore throats, and asthma (03:10). This herb is considered a tonic, and in Ayurveda, saffron is said to support the tonic action of other herbs, particularly those acting on the reproductive system such as shatavari.
Nervous System Disorders
Berris is also familiar with saffron as a tool to calm the nerves. Modern clinical research shows efficacy for utilizing saffron in the context of mild to moderate depression and other nervous system disorders. Some research shows a similar efficacy for saffron in relation to depression to a range of anti-depressant medications.
For low mood, frustration, and mild anxiety Berris prefers to use saffron in combination with St. John’s wort, skullcap, and schisandra – a blend she calls “my happy pill” (04:27). For mild cases, patients might experience a positive effect within an hour, though more intense contexts could take several weeks for efficacy (06:54). Berris notes that many of her patients like to keep the saffron combination on hand for acute use.
Though saffron is known for use in nervous system disorders, research also associates this herb with other clinical contexts such as Alzheimer’s disease, age-related eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration, ADHD, and sleep dysfunction (08:44).
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