Mug of saffron tea on a table

I’m Just Mad About Saffron… Or Am I?

Last updated: July 2022

Is saffron helpful for those of us with macular degeneration? According to a 2019 review of clinical studies on saffron, the use of the spice for ocular diseases had "promising potential".1

So, I decided to ask my retinal specialist about it. That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Check with our doctors before we take anything new. Donovan sang “I’m just mad about Saffron, Saffron’s mad about me.” I can’t get that song out of my head.

Appointment with my specialist

I determined that at my next appointment with my retinal specialist I would bring this topic up. I wanted to ask her about the possible benefits of taking saffron supplementation. If she thought it was worthwhile, how much I should take and what brand I should buy?

My list of general questions was already prepared before the appointment. I always ask certain things. “How is my sight going? How does the OCT (optical coherence tomography) scan look? Is there any progression?”

Now I also had to plan how to slot this question in at the right time. If I asked it too early, we might spend the few available minutes discussing this question. Then we wouldn’t get to the other vital matters. It’s always a balancing act with the questions. Unfortunately, the doctor doesn’t have infinite time.

An unexpected response

So, after my tests and after asking her my absolutely necessary questions, I ventured into saffron territory.

“Doctor, “I said, ”have you heard anything about taking saffron for macular degeneration? Do you know if it’s helpful?”

I had my notebook out and my pen poised to take down her suggestions. I was hoping to hear whether or not I should take saffron. If the answer was “yes” I was hoping to hear what the dosage should be and what brand of supplements I should buy, and where from.

Her answer took me aback. She said, “Ah, saffron... if you’d like to look into it, and do some research, please feel free to send me what you find.” I thought to myself, perhaps unkindly, “Isn’t that what I’m paying you to do?”

The doctor must have seen the puzzled and disappointed look on my face. She added, “Actually, there have been a few studies done on saffron, but I think the study sizes were all small.” I gathered that she thought the study sizes weren’t large enough to draw general conclusions.

She didn’t even hint to me what the results of the studies were, even with the small study sizes. As far as I could tell, she wasn’t ruling it in, and she wasn’t ruling it out.

So, are there benefits of saffron for AMD?

I really don’t know how to feel about her comment. Do I to feel disappointed that she didn’t have an instant answer for me? Or, do I feel complimented because she trusted me to do the research and send my findings to her?

I figured if there had been valid scientific studies done, with conclusive evidence that saffron supplementation was beneficial, she would know about it. But I decided to do the research myself.

Now I have some work to do, and perhaps I’ll send the results to her. I have to see if I agree with Donovan when he sang “I’m just mad about Saffron, Saffron’s mad about me.”

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