People with insomnia face a difficult dilemma. Could saffron extract help overcome it?
The Insomniac’s Dilemma:
On the one hand, insomniacs hear that if they don’t sleep, they may develop diabetes, hypertension or impaired cognition, among other problems. But sleeping pills also come with potentially harmful side effects. Diphenhydramine, the sedating antihistamine in most PM pain relievers, has strong anticholinergic activity. That means it interferes with the critical brain chemical, acetylcholine. Some people find that it makes them feel confused or forgetful.
Natural sleep aids might be an alternative. However, the scientific research to support such approaches is frequently incomplete.
Saffron Extract for Better Sleep:
Now, a small randomized controlled trial in Belgium suggests that saffron may be an effective sleep aid (Nutrients, April 27, 2021). Saffron is a natural product derived from Crocus sativa. The 66 volunteers took either placebo or 15.5 mg of standardized saffron extract every night for six weeks. The volunteers wore devices to measure their movements and responded to detailed questionnaires.
Both objective and subjective measures showed that people taking saffron fell asleep more quickly and slept longer and more deeply. They also reported less pain.
The authors conclude that their
“results suggest that a saffron extract could be a natural and safe nutritional strategy to improve sleep duration and quality.”
Other Uses for Saffron:
Scientists have also discovered that the extract of this exotic spice can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration. Here’s a link to that story.
In addition, research shows that saffron helps to alleviate the severity of psychological depression (Planta Medica, Jan. 2019). Moreover, a study showed that saffron extract works as well as sertraline (Zoloft) to treat depression among older people (Psychiatry Research, Dec. 2019). It is not clear whether the same components of crocus stamens have all these varied activities, or whether there are different compounds responsible for each.