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 one’s 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, it’s 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.
1) Assimopoulou AN, Sinakos Z, Papageorgiou VP. Radical scavenging activity of Crocus sativus L. extract and its bioactive constituents. Phytother Res 2005;19(11):997–1000.
2) Ochiai T, Shimeno H, Mi shima K, Iwasaki K, Fujiwara M, Tanaka H, Shoyama Y, Toda A, Eyanagi R, Soeda S. Protective effects of carotenoids from saffronon neuronal injury invitro and invivo. Biochim Biophys Acta 2007;1770(4):578–584.
3) Jabbarpo, Bonyadi, et al. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014;14:399.
4) Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 21. Part 182 — Substances Generally Recognized As Safe. Available at: http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=786bafc6f6343634fbf79fcdca7061e1&rgn=div5&view=text&node=21:188.8.131.52.13&idno=21
5) Akhondzadeh S, Tahmacebi-Pour N, Noorbala AA, et al. Crocus sativus L. in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. Phytother Res 2005;19:148-51.
Safarinejad MR, Shafiei N, Safarinejad S. A prospective double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study of the effect of saffron (Crocus sativus Linn.) on semen parameters and seminal plasma antioxidant capacity in infertile men with idiopathic oligoasthenoteratozoospermia. Phytother Res 2011;25:508-16.
6) Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.
7) McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A, eds. American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, LLC 1997.
Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C. PDR for Herbal Medicines. 1st ed. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company, Inc., 1998.
8) Imenshahidi M, Hosseinzadeh H, Javadpour Y. Hypotensive effect of aqueous saffron extract (Crocus sativus L.) and its constituents, safranal and crocin, in normotensive and hypertensive rats. Phytother.Res 12-9-2009.
Fatehi M, Rashidabady T, Fatehi-Hassanabad Z. Effects of Crocus sativus petals’ extract on rat blood pressure and on responses induced by electrical field stimulation in the rat isolated vas deferens and guinea-pig ileum. J Ethnopharmacol. 2003;84(2-3):199-203.
9) Boskabady MH, Shafei MN, Shakiba A, Sefidi HS. Effect of aqueous-ethanol extract from Crocus sativus (saffron) on guinea-pig isolated heart. Phytother Res 2008;22(3):330-334.
Looking for an Ophthalmologist in California?
Dr. David Richardson is taking new patients at his office in San Marino, CA., and is always willing to provide a second opinion for those who would like the peace-of-mind that such a consultation would provide.