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Saffron and Age Related Macular Degeneration


On Saturday 2nd February 2013 ABC Radio National broadcast "Saffron - pricey spice and vision restorer" on its popular Firstbite program.  Audio can be found here on the ABC website.  We have summarised the interview below with Professor Stone, but recommend if you are interested in the subject to listen to the complete broadcast.

The episode discusses amongst other things, the positive results measured in a double blind placebo controlled trial conducted in Australia where sufferers from age ralated macular degeneration were treated with a daily dose of saffron.  The astounding results showed that saffron taken daily reverses symptoms of age related macular degeneration, in effect restoring some sight to older Australians whose vision had begun to deteriorate by age related macular degeneration, the most common form of adult blindness.

Jonathan Stone, Professor of Neurobiology at the University of Sydney is a guest on the program, and explains in some detail how saffron works with the body's own systems to protect cells from age related degeneration.  The saffron restores some vision in patients and then stabilises further degeneration of the retina.  The significant advantage of saffron over other possible treatments is that saffron is low dosage, low toxicity at these dosages, low side effect, and non invasive.  

The positive effects of the daily saffron treatment were seen in 23 of 25 patients in an Italian trial, and vision improvements were recognised after around 2 weeks of taking the saffron on a daily basis.

Other experiments with saffron so far only conducted with animal models have shown encouraging results in treatment of other neurodegenerative diseases Alzheimers Disease and Parkinsons Disease.  The saffron shows promise to extend its restorative properties to other body cells not only retinal cells by working within the genome to assist the body in regulating cell degeneration.

Whilst Professor Stone recommends controlled dosage of saffron through taking of a laboratory prepared extract, he also suggests that raw saffron taken directly in ones diet can be equally effective, though variations in quality and food concentration make it more difficult to measure and control dosage.  

Professor Stone's recommended daily dosage is 20mg per day (which is a low dosage equal to about a sprinkle of salt), and tests have not been conducted to determine whether increased dosage results in increased efficacy.  There are around 400-450 threads of saffron per gram, so each saffron thread of raw saffron weighs around 2mg.  Professor Stone recommends just eating the saffron raw, and suggests against cooking the saffron as this might interfere with its chemical properties.

Large quantities of saffron - for example 5g or more - can cause intestinal bleeding in humans, and taken in even larger quantities can be toxic, and saffron should not be taken when pregnant or trying to concieve. 

For those considering raw saffron as a lower cost alternative to saffron extract tablets we recommend buying a high quality saffron from a reputable saffron specialist to ensure consistency in saffron quality and freshness.

Our range of high quality imported Persian saffron is grade 1 under ISO 3632 the international standard for saffron quality, and contains all red stigmas no styles or stamens.  The saffron stigmas are the part of the crocus flower that contain all of the active compounds and are therefore the purest form of saffron.  Lower grades of saffron include yellow styles and stamens which contain zero active compounds yet bulk out the saffron resulting in extra weight.  Our sargol grade Persian saffron is dried brittle, resulting in less moisture per unit of weight compared to other saffrons, and therefore a more potent saffron containing higher concentrations of active compounds per unit of weight.  









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