Saffron For Glaucoma Treatment
Saffron is the term used to describe the highly valued spice extracted from the plant Crocus sativus. This spice is rich in the carotenoid derivatives crocin and crocetin. There is evidence that these active compounds can function as powerful antioxidants and neuroprotectants.
Evidence Supporting a Role of Saffron in the Treatment of Glaucoma
In 2014 a study was published comparing oral saffron against placebo in patients with stable glaucoma who were already treated with topical glaucoma medications. Although the study was small (only 34 patients completed the study) the results were impressive. After only 3 weeks of using 30mg of Sargol grade saffron the intraocular pressure (IOP) dropped by 2mmHg. This effect, which was statistically significant, persisted at the 4 week visit. No such effect was noted in the placebo group.
Potential Side Effects and Risks of Saffron
Saffron is generally recognized as safe at 30mg per day. At 60mg per day the following has been reported: anxiety, change in appetite, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, headache, sedation, and hypomania. Severe side effects have been reported with oral intake of 5,000mg. Saffron can even be fatal when taken in amounts as high as 12,000mg.
Supplementation with the carotenoid beta-carotene has been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. As saffron is high in carotenoid compounds it should probably not be used by those who are active or have been active smokers.
Potential Drug Interactions of Saffron
At least in rats (and possibly guinea-pigs), Saffron appears to lower blood pressure. As such, it should be used with caution in those who are already taking blood pressure lowering medications.
Calcium Channel Blockers
Saffron extract has been shown in the laboratory to affect the action of the heart muscle. As such, use of Saffron should be avoided (or only done with great caution and with the knowledge of ones physician) in those who are already taking calcium channel blockers or other medications which affect the action of the heart muscle. Examples of Calcium channel blockers include verapamil (Calan, Covera-HS, Verelan), nifedipine (Procardia), and diltiazem (Cardizem, Dilacor, Tiazac).
Recommended Dosage and Where to Buy
The dosage of saffron used in the 2014 study was 30mg per day. It is important to note, however, that this was Sargol grade saffron. Sargol grade is comprised of only the red stigma tips. It is considered to be the purest and most expensive saffron available. Very few commercially available saffron products use such a high grade and it is simply not known whether or how much of a lower grade would have the same IOP lowering effect noted in the 2014 study.
It should also be noted that pure saffron ranks as one of the 20 most valuable materials by weight (valued at roughly $5,000 USD per pound). As such, its not going to be cheap. Inexpensive saffron products most likely are either made up of lower grades of saffron (such as Pushal, Pushali, or Bunch) or are not pure saffron. Expect to pay $40-60 for a one month supply.
The brand of saffron I currently recommend is Paradise Herbs Saffr-Tone. Each capsule contains 15mg of saffron stigma tips. In order to achieve the equivalent dosage as that used in the 2014 study one capsule should be taken twice daily.
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