For the past week I’ve been pondering about what interesting topic I could bring to my next blog post. Unexpectedly, a dinner conversation with my dad inspired the one I wrote for this week.
Just to give some slight background information on my dad, Steve, he spends his retired life as a research fanatic. Whether it has to do with history, science, or art, he will spend hours learning as much as he can about a certain topic, and he has proclaimed me as his “student” whom he passes all his findings to (I know, lucky me.) This time he discovered an Asian spice called saffron. My dad included the spice in the rice dish he prepared for dinner that night, and while eating I asked him what that unfamiliar and bitter taste was. I knew I just opened the nightly lecture as he said the oh so familiar line, “Well Laura, I’m glad you asked because I’ve been doing some research…” and so it began.
Usually, I sit back and let him say his piece and pretend to be blown away at the end, but this lecture was rather intriguing for it had to do with the connection between saffron and eye health, which motivated me to find out more.
Saffron is known as a very expensive spice derived from Southwest Asia, and comes from the dried stigma of the flower saffron corcus. Commonly, it is used in cooking as a coloring agent or as a seasoning. In China and India, it is utilized as fabric dye and in perfumery. With that being said, it has also been used for several medical purposes, but I wanted to focus on the eye aspect.
According to Life Extension, scientific studies show saffron to improve visual acuity and to improve sensitivity of the retina to light in people with early macular degeneration, which is the foremost cause of permanent blindness in Americans age 50 and older (Friedman). “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 (Friedman).”
A double blind, placebo-controlled, and randomized study executed in Italy showed that taking 20 milligrams of saffron supplements daily for three months resulted in significant improvements in visually acuity among patients going through early stages of macular degeneration compared to the placebo. A follow study was done and revealed that taking the saffron supplement over a period of 14 months generated improvements in macular function. These advancements may be connected with the crocin and crocetin found in the saffron (Weil).