However, the cost may be worthwhile when you consider its potential benefits – especially those pertaining to eye health preservation.

Saffron has reportedly been used for ages, not only in cooking, but also in healing. It is said to encourage cellular repair in something called neuro-protection, something that is credited in the spice’s apparent ability to reverse the blinding effects of age-related macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration is the primary cause of blindness in older individuals. While most common in those over the age of 50, the issue can also affect those who are younger. Macular degeneration occurs when the most light-sensitive part of the retina is damaged, severely limiting sight of those thing in the central line of vision.

Reversing Macular Degeneration With Saffron

Several studies in recent years have indicated saffron may hold a natural treatment for this debilitating disorder.

One study conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney and in Italy found that those with macular degeneration experienced significant improvement in their symptoms when supplementing with saffron. The trial was double-blind and controlled, involving 25 individuals over a 6 month period. About half of the group received a saffron pill for the first 3 months and then a placebo for the last 3 months; the other half of the group were given the pills in reverse order.

“Measurements using objective eye sight tests showed patient’s vision improved after taking the saffron pill. When they were tested with traditional eye charts, a number of patients could read one or two lines smaller than before, while others reported they could read newspapers and books again. All patients experienced improvements in their vision while taking the saffron pill. But when they stopped taking the pill the effect quickly disappeared,”  Professor Silvia Bisti, a visiting scholar based at The VisionCentre at the University of Sydney said.

Jonathan Stone, professor of neurology for Sydney University projects that after a year of supplementing with 20 milligrams of saffron daily, those patients should be able to cease supplementation and maintain vision improvements.

The study notes: “These results indicate that in early AMD Saffron supplementation induces macular function improvements from baseline that are extended over a long-term followup.”

While Professor Stone has intentions of creating his own line of saffron supplements, one would hope his potential business venture wasn’t coloring his findings. The Italian research, similar in scope and techniques, indicates the benefits could be present profits-notwithstanding.

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affron Benefits Early Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Saffron Benefits Early Age-Related Macular Degeneration 

Saffron is a culinary spice derived from parts of the crocus (Crocus sativus) flower. Newly published scientific studies demonstrate its ability to improve visual acuity and to improve sensitivity of the retina to light in people with early macular degeneration. 4-6

Saffron protects and prevents the steady breakdown of light-sensitive cells in the center of the retina, the macula. This addresses the root cause of age-related macular degeneration and improves light sensitivity, a major manifestation of the disease.

In the first study, patients with early age-related macular degeneration were randomly assigned to receive either 20 mg per day of saffron or a placebo.

During the supplement phase, patients had stronger electrical responses to light overall.4 Researchers were able to determine these improvements by using sophisticated testing that measures the electrical output of retinal cells in response to light stimulation. If these tests show relatively poor responses to light, it is an indicator of ailing retinal cells.13

The patients also had a better response to dim light during the supplement phase (meaning that their eyes were more sensitive to dim light images). No such changes were apparent during the placebo phase. This means that saffronsupplementation improved the light-sensing abilities of retinal cells in early age-related macular degeneration.4 This is an unprecedented finding.

In a second observation of this study, subjects who took saffron had a significant increase in visual acuity, a term that refers to the sharpness of vision at a distance. After three months of supplementation, patients had an average increase in visual acuity at a distance of one full line (14.3% better than baseline) on the familiar Snellen vision chart which measures visual acuity at a distance of 20 feet.4 That means, for example, that someone whose visual acuity at a distance was 20/40 prior to supplementation would see with 20/30 vision afterwards. Once again, no improvement in distance vision was seen in placebo recipients.

These findings were replicated after three months, when the supplement/placebo treatments were reassigned and then continued for another three months.4 This suggests consistency and reproducibility of benefit for the dietary supplement with improving visual acuity at a distance.

Longer-Term Benefits of Saffron

While these initial observations demonstrated meaningful and rapid visual improvements, scientists wanted to see ifsaffron could produce more long-term effects. That’s why, in a follow-up study, the same researchers examined saffron supplementation (20 mg per day) in subjects with early macular degeneration over an average treatment period of 14 months.6

In a similar finding to the first study, retinal sensitivity to light increased significantly by the end of three months—and impressively, it remained elevated for the entire course of the study. Even more impressive, the average visual acuity improved by not one, but two lines on the Snellen chart.6 This shows us that longer supplementation periods produce further vision improvement.

A third human study confirms the previous findings and demonstrates nearly identical improvements in retinal light sensitivity over an average 11-month period. This study went a step further because it determined that saffronproduces improvements in early age-related macular degeneration regardless of one’s heredity.5 This is important because it means that the results of these studies can be generalized to all adults with early age-related macular degeneration, not just those with specific genetic risk factors.

Saffron and alpha-carotene are now available in combination with other vision-protecting nutrients, including luteinzeaxanthin (and their related compounds), and astaxanthin. These plant pigments powerfully absorb blue and ultraviolet light, which are the most damaging to retinal cells. The addition of cyanidin-3-glucoside helps protect against night blindness and reduced vision in dim light.

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