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Wake Up and Smell the Saffron

Even the scent of the spice saffron may reduce stress hormone levels and ease the psychological symptoms of PMS.

October 18, 2012 |
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Images thanks to: Serpico via Wikimedia Commons m-bot.

Transcript

The spice saffron is composed of the female reproductive organs of the flower of the saffron crocus. Each flower just produces a few threads, such that you need 50,000 flowers to make a single pound of spice, enough flowers to fill a football field. So no wonder it’s the most expensive spice in the world.

Thankfully, in the double-blind, randomised and placebo-controlled trial of the efficacy of saffron on PMS they found benefits using a tiny amount. What if you could get away with using even less, though?

This has to be, one of the wildest studies I saw published last year. The psychological and neuroendocrinological effects of the odor of saffron. I don’t even know how they even thought up the idea to do the study. “The purpose of this study was to clarify the effects of saffron odor on symptoms unique to women, such as premenstrual syndrome, menstrual pain, and irregular menstruation.”

Another double blind placebo controlled study. How do you blind a smell study? They diluted the saffron so much that you couldn’t even smell it any more. That’s how little they used. So half the women sat there smelling nothing, and the other half sat there smelling, nothing—except they were secretly being given an undetectable whiff of this flower.

And here you go: Significant drop in stress hormone levels and a significant improvement in psychological in symptoms. Unbelievable. “Smelling saffron… is simple and easy, and it seems there is little side effect.”

 

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

How's that study for the Power of Plants? Works if you eat the stuff too—see yesterday's NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Saffron for the Treatment of PMS. For more flower power see my blog and videos on hibiscus tea (Better Than Green Tea) and chamomile tea (Red Tea, Honeybush, & Chamomile and Chamomile Tea May Not Be Safe During Pregnancy). And hey, broccoli florets are just clusters of flower buds. See The Best DetoxBroccoli Versus Breast Cancer Stem Cells, and 26 other broccoli videos. Don’t like broccoli? There are a thousand other subjects covered! If saffron has such powerful psychological and neuroendocrinological effects, how might it stack against drugs in the treatment of depression? Find out in tomorrow's Saffron vs. Prozac.

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Treating PMS with SaffronHibiscus Tea: The Best Beverage?, and Treating Breast Pain with Diet

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

    How’s that study for the Power of Plants? Works if you eat the stuff too—see yesterday’s video-of-the-day Saffron for the Treatment of PMS. For more flower power see my blog and videos on hibiscus tea (Better Than Green Tea) and chamomile tea (Red Tea, Honeybush, & Chamomile and Chamomile Tea May Not Be Safe During Pregnancy). And hey, broccoli florets are just clusters of flower buds. See The Best Detox, Broccoli Versus Breast Cancer Stem Cells, and 26 other broccoli videos. Don’t like broccoli? There are a thousand other subjects covered! If saffron has such powerful psychological and neuroendicrinological effects, how might it stack against drugs in the treatment of depression? Find out in tomorrow’s Saffron vs. Prozac.

    If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Dr Dave

    Maybe men should use this in their aftershave and women in their perfume?  Just a thought.  Please keep up the good work.  I was in the audience at SF Vegfest and thoroughly enjoyed your talk.  I wanted to buy a couple of copies of your $10 DVD for marketing my family, but I lost you in the crowd.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=640861216 Gary Yuen

    Makes sense. All makes sense that in the industrial world today, non-detectable scents of all sorts from everywhere, and even the lack of trees and nature we once had when living in the natural plains, affects us all.

  • Jo

    Nice to know that I can just smell saffron to get its beneficial effects, saving a few  bucks on the most expensive spice in the world.

  • WholeFoodChomper

    At my favorite local Asian market in the spice section, I found a product called Azafron Flor (Saffron Flower). It was cheap! About $1 for .37 oz or 10g. I’ve been able to figure out that Azafran Flor is spanish for Saffron Flower, which apparently made from the leaves of the Crocus & not the stigmas. Can anyone confirm this? Moreover, Dr. Greger, do you think this cheaper version of saffron might have the same effect as the more pure saffron thread variety?

  • theslaw

    Dr. Greger,

    Can you let me know how often the Saffron was sniffed during the study? I just bought some and want to try it.

    thanks

    Steve from San Diego.

  • http://www.facebook.com/koryseder Kory Seder

    Has there been an investigation of the effects of other crocus varieties? And since much of the price seem to stem from hand picking the stigmas, what about eating the whole darn flower? I admit to eating a few flowers on a dare, only to realize that some taste good and would probably be great in salads. But I don’t know flowers very well and would prefer not to poison myself. What are your thoughts?

  • Venus

    Any reputable supplements we can trust? Or source in general?

  • barbarabrussels

    Now they need a third study, where they test individuals imagining smelling saffron, I am practicing this right now since my mood is all over the place thanks to that time of the month and I don’t have any on hand.