Saffron is famously said to be more expensive than gold, weight for weight. This amazing exotic spice was so valuable that it was hunted by pirates, traded by kings and once led to a fourteen week war during the Crusades. Saffron is also an extraordinary traditional remedy and documentation on its medicinal use dates back over 4,000 years. It is prescribed for problems as varied as depression, arthritis, lack of libido, insect bites, colic and asthma but one of it's most interesting uses is related to its affinity with the eyes. Saffron is made by collecting and drying the stigmas of the crocus flower (Crocus sativus). The tiny red stigmas are a source of some of the most concentrated and varied group of phytochemicals seen in any plant. Chemical analysis has shown that the stigmas contain over 150 volatile compounds which include the carotenoid zeaxanthin, a substance which is also found naturally in the retina of the eyes.
Glaucoma is the term for a set of problems that lead to an increase in pressure of the fluid in the eye (intraocular pressure). There is no clear explanation of why it develops, but it is more common with age and in people who are short sighted or of Afro-Carribbean descent. It can also be a secondary symptom related to other health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes and the incidence of Glaucoma seems to be increasing hand in hand with the increase in diabetes in the developed world. Glaucoma that is left untreated can eventually lead to loss of vision.
Studies have shown that saffron can help with problems that are related to neurodegenerative disorders, including macular degeneration. A study published in the Journal of Parkinsons Disease concluded that saffron gave some protection against Parkinson effects on the Nigral and retinal cells. Another study showed published in the medical journal Molecular Vision showed that the antioxidant action of saffron could prevent the development of cataracts.
A new pilot study published this month in BMC Complementary Alternative Medicine investigated whether an aqueous solution of saffron extract had any effect on the intraocular pressure of patients with a specific type of glaucoma called primary open angle glaucoma. The patients that were enrolled in the study were split into two groups. Group one continued with their normal treatment of timolol and dorzolamide eye drops and also received an oral dose of 30 mg of saffron extract. The second group received the normal treatment plus a placebo. Both groups continued the treatments for a month and measurements of intraocular eye pressure were taken at the start of the study, after one month treatment and then a month after stopping treatment. Results showed that the saffron reduced the intraocular pressure in the patients after three weeks, compared to the placebo group. Further larger studies are planned.
If you suffer from glaucoma and it is related to high blood pressure, take a look at the High Blood Pressure Treatment Strategy to find information on other therapies and treatments that can help you control your blood pressure.
Glaucoma that is related to Type II diabetes can be helped by controlling the diabetes and you'll find further information on therapies and treatments that can help in the Type II diabetes Treatment Strategy.
If you do decide you want to try any of the treatments that you read about on the Patient QI website, please do go and see a trained doctor, practitioner or therapist before you start. You need to be certain that there are no dangerous interactions between your treatments and any conventional medicine that your are taking.
1. Purushothuman et al. Saffron pre-treatment offers neuroprotection to Nigral and retinal dopaminergic cells of MPTP- Treated mice. J Parkinsons Dis 2013.
2. Makri et al. Saffron administration prevents selenite-induced cataractogenesis. Mol Vis. May 2013.
3. Bonyadi et al. The ocular hypotensive effect of safron extract in primary open-angle glaucoma: a pilot study. BMC Complement Altern Med Oct 2014.