Saffron vs. Aricept

Saffron vs. Aricept
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The spice saffron was compared to donepezil (Aricept), a leading drug treatment for slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease cognitive impairment.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The spice saffron beat out placebo in this randomized double-blind study. But Alzheimer’s patients aren’t on sugar pills; they’re on drugs like donepezil, sold as Aricept. If some drug company wanted to release a new drug, they’d have to compare it not to placebo, but to the current leading treatment—and why should it be any different with flowers? “A 22-week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind controlled trial of [saffron] in the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.” Saffron versus Aricept, the leading drug.

Here are the results. In a graph of cognitive dysfunction, the circles are saffron. The triangles are the leading drug that costs about $2,000 a year, and is associated with all sorts of side effects. Can you tell the difference? Saffron worked just as well as Aricept—which is to say not very well at all.

But remember what untreated Alzheimer’s patients look like? They get worse. The reason drugs are prescribed is to just slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s. So, we still have a long way to go, but saffron appeared to work just as well as the leading drug, and without the side effects.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The spice saffron beat out placebo in this randomized double-blind study. But Alzheimer’s patients aren’t on sugar pills; they’re on drugs like donepezil, sold as Aricept. If some drug company wanted to release a new drug, they’d have to compare it not to placebo, but to the current leading treatment—and why should it be any different with flowers? “A 22-week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind controlled trial of [saffron] in the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.” Saffron versus Aricept, the leading drug.

Here are the results. In a graph of cognitive dysfunction, the circles are saffron. The triangles are the leading drug that costs about $2,000 a year, and is associated with all sorts of side effects. Can you tell the difference? Saffron worked just as well as Aricept—which is to say not very well at all.

But remember what untreated Alzheimer’s patients look like? They get worse. The reason drugs are prescribed is to just slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s. So, we still have a long way to go, but saffron appeared to work just as well as the leading drug, and without the side effects.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

For more on Alzheimer’s disease, check out these videos:
Reducing Glycotoxin Intake to Prevent Alzheimer’s
Preventing Alzheimer’s with Turmeric
Treating Alzheimer’s with Turmeric

Also see my prequel video: Saffron for the Treatment of Alzheimer’s.

2017 Update: Since this video was released, I’ve done several more on saffron. See: 

For additional context, also check out my associated blog posts: Natural Alzheimer’s TreatmentAlzheimer’s Disease: Up to half of cases potentially preventableSaffron vs. Prozac for Depression; and Is Coconut Oil Bad For You?

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

14 responses to “Saffron vs. Aricept

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    1. I noticed on WebMD, they say a specific saffron product will help with Alzheimer’s. Does it need to be this product from Iran? I noticed the study is by Iranian researchers. Here’s what WebMD said: “Alzheimer’s disease. Some research shows that taking a specific saffron product (IMPIRAN, Iran) might improve symptoms about as well as the prescription drugdonepezil (Aricept) over 22 weeks of treatment.”

      Thanks!

  1. It is exciting to discover that something as simple and reasonably-priced as saffron would work equally as well as Aricept. It would be a bonus if it helped to lower cholesterol as well – a win-win situation for prevention of both conditions.
    Keep up the good work.

  2. Love the idea of using saffron.
    As an FYI, Aricept went off patent Nov 2010, and a generic (donepezil) is now available in some places (although NOT from my mother’s insurance provider, who still charges as if they are selling the on-patent drug!) as cheap as $10/month. But who would want the generic drug, if saffron provides the benefit without side effects?

  3. Question for you, Dr. Greger:
    Just viewed a lecture on the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii’s website by Steve Blake onAlzheimers. About 47 minutes into the lecture he reviews research on Ginko Bilobo, Gotu Kola, and saffron. he concludes that there is more support for the use of Ginko Bilobo and Gotu Kola than saffron. At his website, naturalhealthwizards.com is a book on the subject, which may contain more info. Am wondering if you have an opinion?
    Than you,

  4. The most beneficial probiotic organism overall is Bacillus subtilis natto, which produces dozens of beneficial chemicals including scyllo-inositol and subtilisin (nattokinase), which combine to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s better than saffron. The best food source of Bacillus subtilis natto is the Japanese fermented soybean food called, natto.

    1. If you suspect the onset Alzheimer’s, eat both natto and saffron regularly. The other beneficial chemicals manufactured by Bacillus subtilis natto include vitamin K2/MK-7, vitamin K2/MK-8, vitamin PQQ, vitamin C, pyrazine, gamma-polyglutamic acid, catalase, surfactin, conjugated isoflavone-phosphate, butyrate, unusual polysaccharides, glycolipids, hyaluronic acid, coenzyme Q10, and bacitracin Tracy.

      Bacillus subtilis natto has been shown in studies to feed and protect the lactic acid bacteria (lactobacilli and bifidobacteria), which manufacture many beneficial chemicals including butyrate, propionate, acetate, conjugated linoleic acid, conjugated linolenic acid, unusual polysaccharides, and lactic acid.

      If our diets contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), then our lactobacilli and bifidobacteria can manufacture conjugated docosahexaenoic acid and conjugated eicosapentaenoic acid, both of which have been shown in studies to exert substantially greater health benefits than regular DHA, regular EPA, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and conjugated linolenic acid.

      Meanwhile, the bad bacteria manufacture endotoxins, enterotoxins, and free radicals which kill off the good bacteria and cause inflammation, cause diarrhea, and inflict DNA damage to human cells.

      Unlike lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, Bacillus subtilis does not have the ability to cling to our intestinal walls. Compared to the Japanese who eat natto regularly, Americans consume only about one-one thousandth as much Bacillus subtilis from their diets (mostly from raw green vegetables) but American intestines contain about one-tenth as much Bacillus subtilis as the intestines of Japanese who eat natto regularly. This indicates that Bacillus subtilis is strongly welcomed by the other good bacteria.

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