Saffron is the dried stigma of the Crocus sativus plant native to the Middle East. And is the world’s most expensive culinary spice largely due to the way it must be grown and harvested (by hand).
As a nootropic, Saffron has been used for thousands of years as an anxiolytic, sedative, and antidepressant.[i]
Today, Saffron is used to help manage appetite, for energy and stamina, anxiety, and is a very effective antidepressant.
Recent studies show Saffron as effective as some popular prescription antidepressants. And can even help alleviate the sexual dysfunction caused by these drugs.
I first became aware of Saffron when researching this ingredient included in Performance Lab Vision.
And then noticed in the last year that it was appearing on shelves as a standalone supplement in the ‘brain health’ section of local vitamin and health food shops.
Here we’ll explore how Saffron benefits your brain.
- Anxiety & depression: Saffron extracts (crocin & safranal) inhibit the uptake of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain which helps improve mood.
- Alzheimer’s & dementia: Saffron inhibits the deposit of amyloid-β which is associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Saffron also inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine (acetylcholinesterase) just like the current medication (donepezil) approved to treat Alzheimer’s.
- Neuroprotectant: Crocin and safranal which are unique carotenoids in Saffron make it a potent antioxidant. Scavenging free radicals which reduces inflammation, preventing apoptosis, and protecting brain cells and mitochondria.[ii]
Table of Contents
Saffron (Crocus sativus) as a nootropic is the dried crimson stigma of the C. sativus flower cultivated primarily in Iran.
The earliest reference to Saffron goes back to around 2,300 BC from Sargon, founder of the Akkadian empire. Sargon was born in a village on the shores of the Euphrates called Azupiranu (city of Saffron).[iii]
Since then, documentation of Saffron use over the last 4,000 years for at least 90 illnesses has been uncovered.
Saffron takes a long time to germinate from seed and 3 years for the plant to flower. Once it blooms in mid-Autumn, the flowers must be picked carefully by hand within 1 – 2 weeks.
Each Crocus sativus plant produces 3 – 4 flowers per season. Each flower produces a 3-pronged style, each prong terminating in a vivid crimson stigma. Saffron is the dried stigma of Crocus sativus.
This labor-intensive production method makes Saffron the most expensive culinary spice in the world.
Saffron contains the metabolites crocin, picrocrocin, safranal, and the antioxidants lycopene and zeaxanthin as well as Vitamin B12 all which provide its medicinal value.[iv]
As a nootropic, Saffron may be used for depression, PMS symptoms, post-partum depression, memory, appetite suppression, and preventing neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
How does Saffron work in the brain?
Saffron boosts brain health and function in several ways. But two in particular stand out.
- Saffron boosts mood. Recent studies suggest that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), Nerve Growth Factor, and cAMP Response Binding Protein (CREB) all play a role in anxiety and depression.
Further research shows that Saffron has a significant effect on BDNF, NFG and cAMP levels in the brain.[v] Which likely explains why Saffron is so effective in treating teenage anxiety and depression.
One study in 2018 had 80 participants aged 12 – 16 years with anxiety and depression try Saffron extract (Affron®) 14 mg or a placebo for 8 weeks.
The study concluded that Saffron extract was effective in relieving the symptoms of separation anxiety, social phobia and depression compared to placebo.[vi]
Researchers in the psychology department at Murdoch University in Perth conducted a systematic analysis of every clinical trial they could find for high-quality, randomized, double-blind studies using Saffron, a placebo and antidepressant meds as controls in humans (not animals).
The team concluded that clinical trials support the use of Saffron for the treatment of mild to moderate depression.[vii]
- Saffron for preventing Alzheimer’s. One of the most common symptoms in Alzheimer’s patients is depression.
And doctors commonly prescribe antidepressants for treatment. Including drugs like sertraline (Zoloft®).[viii] Despite the fact that these meds don’t work for Alzheimer’s disease and come with a host of side effects.[ix]
An alternative treatment is obviously needed. So researchers set up a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with 46 Alzheimer’s patients. The patients were given 15 mg of Saffron twice daily or placebo for 16 weeks.
The results of this trial showed Saffron produced a significantly better reduction in behavioral and psychological symptoms than placebo. And concluded, “Saffron is both safe and effective in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s”.[x]
The acetylcholinesterase inhibitor donepezil (Aricept®) is also prescribed to Alzheimer’s patients. For increasing acetylcholine which has been found to be low in these patients.
A 22-week, randomized, double-blind trial with 54 Alzheimer’s patients was conducted to compare donepezil with Saffron. Patients received either 15 mg of Saffron twice per day or 5 mg of donepezil twice per day for the extent of the trial.
This phase II study found Saffron extract was as effective as donepezil in the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. But Saffron did not produce the side effect of vomiting.[xi]
How things go bad
Depression is a growing health problem. With over 10% of Americans taking prescription antidepressants. Of whom 90% experience at least one adverse effect. Ranging from sexual dysfunction to convulsion to bleeding disorders.
Antidepressant use can result in:
↓ Abnormal bleeding
↓ Agitation, aggression, anxiety, and delirium
↓ Confusion, convulsions and even death
↓ Decreasing memory, delusional thinking
↓ Hallucinations, headaches, and heart attacks
↓ Insomnia, lethargy, nightmares, and panic attacks
↓ Sedation, impaired driving, slow speech
↓ Sexual dysfunction, priapism
↓ Panic attacks, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, violent behavior
↓ Serotonin Syndrome, withdrawal symptoms
A growing database of studies and user reviews show that Saffron helps treat depression without the risky side effects of prescription antidepressants.
Saffron has also been shown to be effective with other conditions for which antidepressants are prescribed. Including anxiety, Alzheimer’s, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
We even have reports of Saffron reversing the sexual dysfunction caused by using prescription antidepressants.
To experience Saffron’s nootropic value you’ll need to use more than a sprinkling of the spice from your local supermarket.
Studies show Saffron could be an alternative to some popular antidepressant meds.[xii] And for anxiety.[xiii]
Another study with 18 – 45-year-old women suffering from post-partum depression showed Saffron effective in reducing depression.[xiv]
And a group of women aged 18 – 45 dealing with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) found that Saffron was effective in relieving depression during two menstrual cycles (cycles 3 and 4).[xv]
Saffron is a smooth muscle relaxant and helps lower blood pressure. Likely because of its inhibitory effect on histamine H1 receptors, stimulatory effect on ß2-adrenoceptors, and antagonist effect on muscarinic receptors.[xvi]
Saffron inhibits acetylcholinesterase which increases acetylcholine in your brain. Improving brain signaling and helping learning and memory.[xvii]
Saffron inhibits the deposition of amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) fibrils which has been implicated in Alzheimer’s.[xviii]
Several human studies show Saffron as effective as some popular antidepressants in treating mild to moderate anxiety and depression.[xix]
Some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease originate from under-utilization of dopamine in the substantia nigra area of the brain. Studies show Saffron helps protect the substantia nigra dopamine neurons associated with Parkinson’s.[xx]
Newly published studies show Saffron helps protect your eyes from ultraviolet blue light radiation (UV-B). And flicker sensitivity from glaring monitors and headlights.[xxi]
Saffron improves the oxygen and nutrient supply required for healthy eyes. By boosting blood flow in the retina and choroid of your eyes.[xxii]
How does Saffron feel?
Many neurohackers report supplementing with Saffron has helped them stop eating junk food, avoid nighttime snacking, and they’re no longer obsessed with thinking about food all the time.
Saffron has been proven to help with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Vision may be sharper. And you can see a line or two further down the Snellen chart at your next eye appointment.
Glare from headlights during nighttime driving and flicker from monitors is no longer a problem.
You may experience an improvement in mood when supplementing with Saffron. No longer over-reacting, and work-related stress now feels like you are again in control.
Many neurohackers report an increase in energy and better libido with Saffron.
Feeling tired and emotional is a thing of the past. You’re back to your bright, positive, happy self!
Saffron Clinical Research
Clinical research into the efficacy of Saffron is encouraging. But trial lengths have typically been limited to 4 – 6 weeks. And sample sizes are relatively small (30 – 40 people).
And keep in mind of the potential for bias because most clinical trials with humans have been conducted in Iran. Which produces nearly 90% of saffron for the world market. But these are still high-quality studies.
Saffron as good as Prozac
A double-blind, randomized trial with 40 adult outpatients suffering from major depression was conducted at the University of Tehran. The study compared Saffron petals with fluoxetine (Prozac®) for the treatment of depression.
Patients were given 15 mg of Saffron petals in the morning and evening, or 10 mg fluoxetine morning and evening for 8 weeks.
The study concluded that Saffron petals were as effective as fluoxetine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. The remission rate was 25% in both groups with no significant differences in side effects.[xxiii]
Saffron for Alzheimer’s Disease
There is increasing evidence to suggest that Saffron could be used in the management of Alzheimer’s Disease.
In one Iranian study, 54 adults aged 55 year or older with Alzheimer’s participated in a 22-week, double-blind trial. Patients were randomly assigned 30 mg per day of Saffron (15 mg twice per day) or 10 mg per day of donepezil (Aricept®) (5 mg twice per day).
The study found that Saffron was as effective as the drug donepezil in the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s after 22 weeks.[xxiv]
Other research shows that Saffron may inhibit the aggregation of amyloid-β in the human brain and may therefore be useful in Alzheimer’s.[xxv]
46 patients with Alzheimer’s volunteered for a 16-week, double-blind trial. Patients were randomly assigned 15 mg of Saffron twice per day or a placebo for the 16-week study.
After 16 weeks, Saffron produced a significantly better outcome on cognitive function than placebo.
The study concluded, “This double-blind, placebo-controlled study suggests that at least in the short-term, Saffron is both safe and effective in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.”[xxvi]
Saffron for ADHD
A randomized double-blind study was conducted with 54 children 6-17 years old who were diagnosed with ADHD.
The children received 20 – 30 mg methylphenidate or 20 – 30 mg Saffron per day for 6 weeks. Symptoms were assessed using the Teacher and Parent Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Rating Scale-IV (ADHD-RS-IV) at baseline and weeks 3 and 6.
The researchers found no significant difference in reduction of ADHD symptoms between the two groups. And concluded, “Short-term therapy with saffron capsule showed the same efficacy compared with methylphenidate.”[xxvii]
Saffron Recommended Dosage
Recommended dose of Saffron is 25 – 30 mg twice per day for mild to moderate depression.
Clinical studies have evaluated doses ranging from 20 – 400 mg per day of Saffron.
Dosages up to 1.5 g per day of Saffron are thought to be safe.[xxviii] With toxic effects reported for 5 g doses.
As with many nootropics, more is NOT better when using Saffron. Some research shows that dosages above 1.5 g of Saffron can be extremely toxic.
Saffron Side Effects
Genuine Saffron is non-toxic and well-tolerated by most people when used at the recommended dosage.
Some reported side effects of Saffron include headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and mania (esp. if you are bipolar). Saffron can aggravate asthma symptoms.
5 g of Saffron are associated with toxic effects. And very high doses of Saffron (10 – 20 g) can be deadly.
No drug interactions have been reported. But interactions with anti-aggregating drugs are theoretically possible.
Do NOT use Saffron if you have a bleeding disorder.
Type of Saffron to buy
Saffron as a nootropic is typically sold in capsules.
Most individual Saffron supplements on the market are standardized (for 0.3% safranal) usually with 88.5 mg ‘Saffron extract’.
For nootropic use, look for supplements guaranteed to contain a patented version of Saffron extract. Otherwise, you’ll not likely experience the cognitive benefits of this nootropic for reasons I’ll go into in a minute.
NOTE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Affron®: Manufactured by PharmActive Biotech Products in Madrid, Spain and not easily found in Saffron products sold in the USA. But here’s one by BCN Health: Saffron Ultra (Amazon)
(Satiereal®: Made by PLT Health Solutions in Morristown, NJ and included in select Saffron products like this one by Life Extension: Optimized Saffron (Amazon)
Safranal®: Manufactured by Sigma-Aldrich and included in some Saffron supplements like this one by 1 Body: Saffron 8825 (Amazon)
Saffron is also included in much smaller amounts in some vison/eye formulas. While extremely effective for vision health, it’s not enough for much cognitive benefit.
For example, Performance Lab Vision contains 1 mg of Saffron extract. Which I’ve found very effective for reducing glare from computer screens and headlights during nighttime driving. And reducing eye fatigue from monitor flicker. But the dosage in this supplement is too low for any real cognitive benefit.
Keep in mind that Saffron is the most valuable medicinal food plant on the planet. Which makes it a primary target by unscrupulous marketers for adulteration.
Common adulterants include mixing Saffron with things like beet, pomegranate fibers, and red-dyed silk fibers to decrease the cost of Saffron.
Sometimes the flowers of other plants, including safflower, marigold, arnica and tinted grasses are fraudulently mixed with genuine Saffron stigmas.
The common mislabeling of turmeric (curcuma longa) as “Indian saffron”, “American saffron”, or “Mexican saffron” can easily be mistaken as genuine Saffron.
When Saffron is used for therapeutic purposes such as a nootropic supplement, adulteration will make it completely useless or even harmful.[xxix]
Before you buy your Saffron supplement make sure you check that it’s a reputable supplement manufacturer who tests all their raw ingredients and encapsulated product.
This is a classic case of discounted or cheap Saffron is not a bargain. But something else entirely. Buyer beware!
Nootropics Expert Recommendation
Saffron 25 – 30 mg twice a day
I recommend using Saffron as a nootropic supplement.
Your body does not make Saffron on its own. So to get its benefits you must take it as a supplement.
Saffron is especially helpful for suffering from anxiety and depression. Studies show Saffron to be as effective as some popular antidepressants but without the side effects.
If you are currently using antidepressants, Saffron may help alleviate the sexual dysfunction caused by these drugs.
Saffron seems to be an effective way to control appetite. No snacking between meals and you’re no longer obsessed about food.
Saffron has the added benefit of more energy and stamina to help you through your day.
You can safely take up to 200 mg of Saffron daily if needed. But dosed 100 mg at a time. Be familiar with the associated side effects of higher doses of Saffron.
For nootropic use, choose a patented form of Saffron supplement such as the ones I’ve described above under “Type of Saffron to Buy”.
Saffron is also a very effective vision supplement. Driving at night is easier on your eyes. And the flicker caused by screens and monitors won’t leave you with eye fatigue later in the day.
For a great vision supplement, I highly recommend Performance Lab Vision.
For nootropic benefit look for genuine, verified pure Saffron or Saffron extract (standardized to 0.3 or 0.1% safranal).
[i] Hosseinzadeh H., Noraei N.B. “Anxiolytic and hypnotic effect of Crocus sativus aqueous extract and its constituents, crocin and safranal, in mice.” Phytotherapy Research. 2009 Jun;23(6):768-74 (source)
[ii] Mashmoul M., Azlan A., Khaza’ai H., Yusof B.N.M., Noor S.M. “Saffron: A Natural Potent Antioxidant as a Promising Anti-Obesity Drug” Antioxidants (Basel). 2013 Dec; 2(4): 293–308. (source)
[iii] Gadd C.J. “In: The dynasty of Agade and the Guitan invasion.” Edwards I.E.S, Gadd C.J, Hammand N.G.L, editors. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1971. pp. 417–63. (source)
[iv] Srivastava R., Ahmed H., Dixit R.K., Dharamveer, Saraf S.A. “Crocus sativus L.: A comprehensive review” Pharmacognosy Review 2010 Jul-Dec; 4(8): 200–208. (source)
[v] Ghasemi T., Abnous K., Vahdati F., Mehri S., Razavi B.M., Hosseinzadeh H. “Antidepressant Effect of Crocus sativus Aqueous Extract and its Effect on CREB, BDNF, and VGF Transcript and Protein Levels in Rat Hippocampus.” Drug Research (Stuttgart). 2015 Jul;65(7):337-43. (source)
[vi] Lopresti A.L., Drummond P.D., Inarejos-García A.M., Prodanov M. “affron®, a standardised extract from saffron (Crocus sativus L.) for the treatment of youth anxiety and depressive symptoms: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.” Journal of Affective Disorders. 2018 May;232:349-357 (source)
[vii] Lopresti A.L., Drummond P.D. “Saffron (Crocus sativus) for depression: a systematic review of clinical studies and examination of underlying antidepressant mechanisms of action.” Human Psychopharmacology. 2014 Nov;29(6):517-27. (source)
[viii] Modrego P.J. “Depression in Alzheimer's disease. Pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment.” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2010;21(4):1077-87. (source)
[ix] Banerjee S., Hellier J., Romeo R., et al. “Study of the use of antidepressants for depression in dementia: the HTA-SADD trial - a multicentre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of sertraline and mirtazapine.” Health Technology Assessment. 2013 Feb;17(7):1-166. (source)
[x] Akhondzadeh S., Sabet M.S., Harirchian M.H., Togha M., Cheraghmakani H., Razeghi S., Hejazi S.Sh., Yousefi M.H., Alimardani R., Jamshidi A., Zare F., Moradi A. “Saffron in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease: a 16-week, randomized and placebo-controlled trial.” Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics. 2010 Oct;35(5):581-8. (source)
[xi] Akhondzadeh S., Shafiee Sabet M., Harirchian M.H., Togha M., Cheraghmakani H., Razeghi S., Hejazi S.S., Yousefi M.H., Alimardani R., Jamshidi A., Rezazadeh S.A., Yousefi A., Zare F., Moradi A., Vossoughi A. “A 22-week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind controlled trial of Crocus sativus in the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease.” Psychopharmacology (Berlin). 2010 Jan;207(4):637-43. (source)
[xii] Noorbala A.A., Akhondzadeh S., Tahmacebi-Pour N., Jamshidi A.H. “Hydro-alcoholic extract of Crocus sativus L. versus fluoxetine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized pilot trial.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2005 Feb 28;97(2):281-4 (source)
[xiii] Mazidi M., Shemshian M., Mousavi S.H., Norouzy A., Kermani T., Moghiman T., Sadeghi A., Mokhber N., Ghayour-Mobarhan M, Ferns G.A. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine. 2016 Jun 1;13(2):195-9 (source)
[xiv] Kashani L., Eslatmanesh S., Saedi N., Niroomand N., Ebrahimi M., Hosseinian M., Foroughifar T., Salimi S., Akhondzadeh S. “Comparison of Saffron versus Fluoxetine in Treatment of Mild to Moderate Postpartum Depression: A Double-Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial.” Pharmacopsychiatry. 2017 Mar;50(2):64-68. (source)
[xv] Hosseini M., Kashani L., Aleyaseen A., Ghoreishi A., Rahmanpour H., Zarrinara A.R., Akhondzadeha S. “Crocus sativus L. (saffron) in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: a double‐blind, randomised and placebo‐controlled trial” International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 06 February 2008 (source)
[xvi] Mokhtari-Zaer A., Khazdair M.R., Boskadbady M.H. “Smooth muscle relaxant activity of Crocus sativus (saffron) and its constituents: possible mechanisms” Avidenna Journal of Phytomedicine 2015 Sep-Oct; 5(5): 365–375. (source)
[xvii] Geromichalos G.D., Lamari F.N., Papandreou M.A., Trafalis D.T., Margarity M., Papageorgiou A., Sinakos Z. “Saffron as a source of novel acetylcholinesterase inhibitors: molecular docking and in vitro enzymatic studies.” Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2012 Jun 20; 60(24):6131-8. (source)
[xviii] Papandreou M.A., Kanakis C.D., Polissiou M.G., Efthimiopoulos S., Cordopatis P., Margarity M., Lamari F.N. “Inhibitory activity on amyloid-beta aggregation and antioxidant properties of Crocus sativus stigmas extract and its crocin constituents.” Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 2006 Nov 15; 54(23):8762-8. (source)
[xix] Khazadair M.R., Boskabady M.H., Hosseini M., Rezaee R., Tsatsakis A.M. “The effects of Crocus sativus (saffron) and its constituents on nervous system: A review” Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. 2015 Sep-Oct; 5(5): 376–391 (source)
[xx] Purushothuman S., Nandasena C., Peoples C.L., El Massri N., Johnstone D.M., Mitrofanis J., Stone J. “Saffron pre-treatment offers neuroprotection to Nigral and retinal dopaminergic cells of MPTP-Treated mice.” Journal of Parkinson’s Disease. 2013; 3(1):77-83. (source)
[xxi] Natoli R., Zhu Y., Valter K., Bisti S., Eells J., Stone J. “Gene and noncoding RNA regulation underlying photoreceptor protection: microarray study of dietary antioxidant saffron and photobiomodulation in rat retina.” Molecular Vision. 2010 Sep 3;16:1801-22. (source)
[xxii] Xuan B., Zhou Y.H., Li N., Min Z.D., Chiou G.C. “Effects of crocin analogs on ocular blood flow and retinal function.” Journal of Ocular Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 1999 Apr;15(2):143-52. (source)
[xxiii] Akhondzadeh Basti A., Moshiri E., Noorbala A.A., Jamshidi A.H., Abbasi S.H., Akhondzadeh S. “Comparison of petal of Crocus sativus L. and fluoxetine in the treatment of depressed outpatients: a pilot double-blind randomized trial.” Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. 2007 Mar 30;31(2):439-42. (source)
[xxiv] Akhondzadeh S., Shafiee Sabet M., Harirchian M.H., Togha M., Cheraghmakani H., Razeghi S., Hejazi S.S., Yousefi M.H., Alimardani R., Jamshidi A., Rezazadeh S.A., Yousefi A., Zare F., Moradi A., Vossoughi A. “A 22-week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind controlled trial of Crocus sativus in the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease.” Psychopharmacology (Berlin). 2010 Jan;207(4):637-43. (source)
[xxv] Al-Snafi A.E. “The pharmacology of Crocus sativus- A review” IOSR Journal of Pharmacy Volume 6, Issue 6 Version. 3 (June 2016), PP. 08-38 (source)
[xxvi] Akhondzadeh S., Sabet M.S., Harirchian M.H., Togha M., Cheraghmakani H., Razeghi S., Hejazi S.Sh., Yousefi M.H., Alimardani R., Jamshidi A., Zare F., Moradi A. “Saffron in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease: a 16-week, randomized and placebo-controlled trial.” Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics. 2010 Oct;35(5):581-8. (source)
[xxvii] Baziar, S., Aqamolaei, A., Khadem, E., Mortazavi, S. H., Naderi, S., Sahebolzamani, E., Mortezaei, A., Jalilevand, S., Mohammadi, M. R., Shahmirzadi, M., & Akhondzadeh, S. (2019). Crocus sativus L. Versus Methylphenidate in Treatment of Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Randomized, Double-Blind Pilot Study. Journal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology, 29(3), 205–212 (source)
[xxviii] Tóth B., et. al. “The Efficacy of Saffron in the Treatment of Mild to Moderate Depression: A Meta-analysis” Planta Medica 2019; 85(01): 24-31 (source)
[xxix] Gohari A.R., Saeidnia S., Mahmoodabadi M.K., “An overview on saffron, phytochemicals, and medicinal properties” Pharmacognosy Review 2013 Jan-Jun; 7(13): 61–66. (source)
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Is it possible to build saffron tolerance? I’ve been taking 30mg of extract daily for about a year and recently noticed the positive effect on mood is not as it used to be. Should I try a higher dose of saffron, or should I possibly look into boosting serotonin (l-tryptophan?).
David Tomen says
I suggest boosting both dopamine and serotonin because Saffron acts like an SNRI. Which means that it needs adequate norepinephrine and serotonin to do its job.
You can increase norepinephrine by increasing dopamine first with 500 mg L-Tyrosine twice per day. And 500 mg L-Tryptophan before bed to increase serotonin.
I highly doubt you grew tolerant to Saffron after using it for a year. But the aging brain naturally goes deficient in all your major neurotransmitters (starting in your early 20’s). The only way to restore these neurotransmitters is by using precursors like Tyrosine and Tryptophan.
Thank you. Would you say that maca+ashwagandha could have a similar effect? I already take maca and read that it increases dopamine. But I’m a bit wary of ashwagandha because in the past it caused lethargy and anhedonia, which is one of the reasons I started saffron in the first place.
David Tomen says
They do not have a “similar effect” compare to Saffron. Please look at the mechanism of action for both Maca and Ashwagandha because the are very different as well. And Ashwagandha affects thyroid hormones which could be why it cause lethargy and anhedonia in your case.
Thanks. I meant similar effect to the combo of l-tyrosine+l-tryptophan, in addition to saffron.
David Tomen says
Saffron acts like an SNRI so it would potentiate the effects of L-Tyrosine and L-Tryptophan.
Maca contains significant amounts of phenylalanine and tyrosine which will boost dopamine levels. Ashwagandha supports the use of GABA in your system.
I plan on taking 88.5mg saffron extract, I’m also taking 250mg per day of a cdp-choline supplement. Would these two together cause any adverse effects?
David Tomen says
Jayson, they shouldn’t. I’ve been using that combo for a month without any problems.
I have read that herpes simplex type 1, the top 1 cause of Alzheimer’s in the majority of the population, is due to the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain.I wonder if this can somehow be resisted?
David Tomen says
Dan, first I’d like to see clinical proof the herpes causes Alzheimer’s.
Hi David. I got a pack of 0.5 gram of Saffron which I bought from the local store. Or crocus sativus as it says. It is the biggest and most reliable brand here in Sweden so i know it’s legit and it says it’s derived from the crocus part of the plant. Is that 30mg of this spice the same as a so called extract? It’s used commonly in Swedish baking to make the so called “saffransbullar” if you Google that. Also can I combine it with my 54mg of daily methylphenidate? Thanks alot.
David Tomen says
David Saffron (Crocus sativus) as a nootropic comes from the dried crimson stigma of the C. sativus flower. If that is what they are referring to then it will provide some nootropic benefit. But the extract provides a higher concentration of Crocin and safranal which are the active carotenoids found in that stigma.
Thanks David. Any recommendation on a dose for this normal and non extract version? For mood boost. Thanks a lot again.
David Tomen says
David, dosages up to 1.5 g per day of Saffron are thought to be safe. But no more than that because it gets toxic above that maximum dose.
Sometimes I high trouble remember things twice a day. Is 60mg ok to take in one dosage?
David Tomen says
John, studies show that blood levels reach a peak ~ 4 h after oral administration, and then decline with a half-life of 6-7 h. So one dosage may work for you.
If the saffron products are -“standardized (for 0.3% safranal) usually with 88.5 mg ‘Saffron extract’.” – are these products much too strong, if the recommended dose is 30mg?
David Tomen says
Katie, dosages up to 1.5 g per day of Saffron are thought to be safe. With toxic effects reported for 5 g doses. While 30 mg is really all you need it is safe to use 88.5 mg per day.
Hey David. I would like to book a personal consultation, but I do have a couple of questions about them. Should I ask here?
David Tomen says
Chad, if your questions are not addressed on this page: https://nootropicsexpert.com/personal-consultations/. Then go ahead and ask those questions here.
Hello, I am taking saffron, but I notice that I think I lack serotonin (I see that saffron does not affect it) what nootropic can I take together with saffron to increase serotonin that is not 5HTP?
David Tomen says
Carmen, the safest for long-term use to raise serotonin is L-Tryptophan. And make sure you are using niacin, even a low dose like 50 mg sometime during the day because they work together for serotonin production.
Rosa Laura says
Is 5htp ok?
David Tomen says
I do not recommend 5-HTP to increase serotonin. L-Tryptophan is easier to dose and is safe to use long-term.
I have 2 questions:
1. Some say Saffron increases dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Some say it only increases serotonin but you say it only increases dopamine and norepinephrine? What is right here?
2. Do you think I can take Saffron (crocus) + Zembrin (kanna) together? Any interactions?
David Tomen says
Martin, Saffron extracts (crocin & safranal) inhibit the uptake of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain and also inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine. It does not physically increase the levels of these neurotransmitters. Instead it repurposes what is already present in your brain.
I have not done any research on Kanna so cannot comment on that combo.
Can I eat saffron and ssri at the same time? I want to stop eating escitalopramen and was wondering if saffron might help Me with the withdrawal symptoms, or is it dangerous to take them at the same time?
David Tomen says
Pia, no drug interactions have been reported with Saffron.
Do you suggest 15 mg and 15 mg after an amount of time or 30 mg at once?
David Tomen says
You can use 30 mg in one dose of Saffron.
i was thinking: is it possible that splitting 30 mg in 2 doses of 15 decrease the effect? i bought vegavero saffron (european product) and it provides 2 doses of 15 mg suggesting 2 doses daily.. What do you think about that?
David Tomen says
Saffron is water soluble so dividing it in to two doses make sense.
Could you explain me what do you mean? i don’t understand how’s technically possible the efficacy is the same if you get 30 doses once then 30 splitted in 2 doses of 15
David Tomen says
Because water soluble ingredients are absorbed into your cells very quickly after you take the supplement. And do not last very long. The unused portion is excreted in urine. So if you take the largest recommended daily dose of Saffron all in one dose you’ll feel its benefits for a few hours and then it is gone.
I recently learned that saffron can have a strong diuretic affect.
Unfortunately I learned this first hand and confirmed it googling.
I was really hoping saffron could be of benefit to me. I guess I could try
again and see if it really was the saffron, but the coincidence is a little obvious to me.
[edited for length].
David Tomen says
Amber, I haven’t the time to read an essay. Please ask your question again. But keep it to no more than or 4 sentences.
I take Saffron 30 mg. Do you think I can take Passion flower OR Inositol with it?
David Tomen says
Jman, try it and see if it works for you. There is no danger in testing it.
So no interactions? Like too much GABA/Serotonin etc..
David Tomen says
Jman, I’m not saying the definitely will not be any interactions. Just that it will not be dangerous to try. You may find that the combo is too much of something. If that’s the result then you’ll know it didn’t work. But you shouldn’t end up in the ER. Not unless you are super-sensitive to these supplements.
Haven’t used Saffron before and just had a few questions about it:
– I have some pure saffron threads, will they work as well as a Saffron extract supplement?
– If so, does it matter which preparation method you use (in terms of absorption/effectiveness etc)? Meaning to either have the threads raw on food, grind it into a powder, steep in water.
– Is the “dosage” of saffron from Saffron threads based on its weight? e.g. 20mg of threads weight = 20mg saffron dose?
– Anything that Saffron stacks particularly well with? Or that it doesn’t go well with?
Also, is it safe to take with Vyvanse? Would be looking to take it later in the day to combat depressive symptoms from Vyvanse crashes rather than earlier in the day closer to dose.
Finally, I saw some studies stating that Saffron capsules can be as effective as Methylphenidate/Ritalin for treating ADHD. I also saw another user in these comments saying “Saffron acts very similarly (to Methylphenidate)”.
To your knowledge, does Saffron act similarly to Methylphenidate/Ritalin? I had a horrible experience on even low doses of Ritalin and would be very hesitant about taking Saffron if so.
Thank you for all your help to date 🙂
David Tomen says
James, Saffron extracts (crocin & safranal) inhibit the uptake of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Which is similar in effect to methylphenidate.
If you reacted badly to Ritalin chances are you will to Saffron as well.
Thanks for that, it’s quite interesting how it has a similar effect/mechanism as Ritalin.
I decided to try steeping a few stigmas (little red threads) of some “pure” Saffron in a tea and drank about 11hrs after taking my Vyvanse dose and found that it did raise my heart rate and make me anxious pretty quickly. I found it surprising how strong and how quick just a few little threads of it could be; actually had to stop drinking it.
Given that Saffron has a similar effect/mechanism as Ritalin, I’m curious which nootropics are most similar to Vyvanse/Dexamphetamine? Meaning ones that have a similar effect/mechanism of reuptaking inhibition and release of dopamine in the central nervous system.
David Tomen says
James Saffron is the only one that does that as I recall. So it’s potentiating the use of Ritalin.