Saffron May Hold the Secret to a Good Night's Sleep

A recent study found that this common kitchen spice may be effective as a natural sleep aid.

Oct 30, 2020

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Saffron, the spice made from the red thread-like stigmas of the crocus sativus flower, has served as the secret ingredient in Moroccan, Persian, and Indian cuisine for generations. 

Saffron’s popularity has spread but not just for cooking. This incredibly versatile – and expensive – spice, according to National Geographic, has been used historically to also dye wool and to create cosmetics. It has also been used as a traditional herbal medicine.

But one recent study has found yet another use for the multi-purpose spice. According to research conducted by Dr. Adrian Lopresti of Murdoch University in Australia, saffron may be effective as a natural sleep aid.

The study was conducted with 63 volunteers who self-reported symptoms of poor sleep. All of the volunteers were between the ages of 18 and 70, had not taken any medication for at least four weeks, and were generally healthy, aside from their issues with sleep.

It’s important to note that the volunteers did not consume raw saffron; rather, they were given a saffron extract to ensure that they all received the same amount of the spice, with identical compositions.

A press release from Pharmactive Biotech Products, the company that manufactured the saffron extract, explained that saffron’s high value makes it susceptible to adulteration and dilution. “This is what spurred us to put our pure, standardized saffron formulation to the gold standard of clinical investigation," Julia Diaz, head of marketing at Pharmactive said in the press release.

The volunteers were given a 14milligram saffron extract or a placebo twice a day, over the course of one month. Most of the volunteers who received the saffron extract reported major improvements in their sleep quality, with the most significant changes taking place within the first seven days of taking the supplement. 

“In addition to the improved sleep, the study showed that saffron was well-tolerated with no reported adverse effects,” Lopresti said in an news release published on Murdoch University’s website.

“Our early research is indeed positive and there is evidence that taking a standardized saffron extract is associated with improvements in sleep quality,” he said. “However, to verify these findings, further studies using larger sample sizes, treatment periods and volunteers with varying characteristics is required.”

Earlier research by Lopresti found that saffron can be helpful for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. The study concluded that saffron could be used for treatment of mild to moderate depression. Depression can also interfere with sleep.

While saffron may be commonly known as a flavor enhancer for food, it seems that the spice may have some valuable medicinal properties. Although additional research is needed, the future for saffron’s use as a natural sleep aid looks very promising.

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LAUREN MARCUS, CONTRIBUTOR
Fascinated by storytelling since childhood, Lauren is passionate about the written word. She’s a freelance writer who has covered everything from the latest developments in tech to geopolitics. When she’s not writing, Lauren is interested in genealogical research and family folklore.