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Will Saffron Delay Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

A reader got great results taking saffron for age-related macular degeneration, along with AREDS vitamins. A few studies support its efficacy.
Will Saffron Delay Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Struggling to read text with a magnifying loupe for visually impaired people (VIP’s)

As people grow older, the retina of the eye may deteriorate. In particular, the central part of the retina, known as the macula, is very vulnerable. Age-related macular degeneration causes visual impairment in older adults more often than other eye conditions. Are there any ways to slow it down?

Saffron for Age-Related Macular Degeneration:

Q. Some months ago, you had a letter from a person who was taking saffron for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Since I have AMD, I am willing to try anything that might alleviate symptoms.

I began taking the spice with no real idea of how much I should use. At my next eye exam, there was definitely improvement, something my eye doctor said he had never seen. This improvement has continued through three subsequent exams. In fact, the AMD has almost completely disappeared in one eye.

I have also been taking specific eye vitamins (AREDS) along with the saffron, but I had been taking them prior to taking saffron with no improvement. Why didn’t you mention saffron to the reader who was looking for something to keep her age-related macular degeneration from getting worse?

Not everyone may benefit as I have from this spice, but every AMD sufferer should consider it. It’s relatively inexpensive. Actually, I would have paid thousands for the improvement I’ve received. Thank you so very much for the information you provided that has helped me see improvement in slowing my AMD.

Is There Science Behind Saffron?

A. What a great story! Since the initial column you read two years ago, scientists have done further research on saffron for protecting the retina and helping macular degeneration. Italian researchers found that AMD patients taking 20 mg/day saffron had no deterioration of vision over more than two years, while those taking the recommended nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin did (Antioxidants, July 17, 2019).

A separate randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial in Australia tested saffron at 20 mg/day against placebo in 100 people with age-related macular degeneration (Graefe’s Archive for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology, Jan. 2019). 

The investigators concluded

“Saffron supplementation modestly improved visual function in participants with AMD, including those using AREDS supplements. Given the chronic nature of AMD, longer-term supplementation may produce greater benefits.”

Those on saffron had no more side effects than those on placebo.

We agree that AMD patients should discuss saffron supplements with their ophthalmologists. Taking saffron together with AREDS vitamins seems to provide additional benefit.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Di Marco S et al, "Saffron: A multitask neuroprotective agent for retinal degenerative diseases." Antioxidants, July 17, 2019. DOI: 10.3390/antiox8070224
  • Broadhead GK et al, "Saffron therapy for the treatment of mild/moderate age-related macular degeneration: A randomised clinical trial." Graefe’s Archive for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology, Jan. 2019. DOI: 10.1007/s00417-018-4163-x
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