More Research


[10/12/2011] As published on the website

We would like to offer our thanks to Dr Mahmood Piraee for permitting us to include his published research material on our website.

Saffron for Age-related Macular Degeneration- Eye care & Eye Health website articles:

Saffron contains carotenoids crocin and crocetin that have shown strong protective effects on retinal cells, helping restore function and structure of retinal cells damaged by oxidative strees and age-related macular degeneration.1,2

A recent clinical study has shown that taking oral supplementation of saffron for three months in patients with early stage age-related macular degeneration induced a significant improvement of retinal function, creating a hope that saffron may be the natural answer to vision loss from macular degeneration. The effects, however, disappeared when patients stopped taking the saffron pills. 

According to Professor Silvia Bisti who carried out the research in patients with age-related macular degeneration, 'Patients' vision improved after taking the saffron pill'. 3,4

Saffron has created hope for an effective nutritional intervention for early stage macular degeneration to stop or delay risk of vision loss.

The beneficial effects of saffron in early age-related macular degeneration is unique, not seen with AREDS formulation which is most effective in slowing the progression of disease in individuals with high risk of developing advanced AMD, i.e., progression from intermediate AMD to advanced AMD.

Vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration has debiliating effect on quality of life and any successful intervention at the early stage can lead to significant improvement in quality of life in individuals affected by macular degeneration.

Saffron is a spice that contains the antioxidant carotenoids crocin and crocetin among other ingredients, with strong antioxidative, and cell-/neuro-protective properties. 5

Crocin from saffron has antioxidant activity stronger than alpha-tocopherol, and can prevent the formation of peroxidized lipids, and can partly restore superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity. 6

The first report on eye health benefits of saffron in macular degeneration and its main active compound, crocin, came from Xuan and co-workers in 1999 that suggested crocin and its analogs can be used to treat ischemic retinopathy and/or age-related macular degeneration. They showed that crocin analogs significantly increased blood flow in the retina and choroid, and thus can prevent cell death. 7

Saffron also protects eyes from damaging effects of bright light, a risk factor causing damage and degeneration to macula of the eye, which could result in macular degeneration. The carotenoid crocin has protective effect against blue light- and white light-induced rod and cone death in bovine and primate retinal cell cultures. 8

Saffron’s protective effect agains light damage on photoreceptors appears to be via maintaining both morphology and function of photoreceptors. 9

Light exposure leads to photoreceptor degeneration, and several epidemiologic studies have suggested that long-term history of exposure to light may have some impact on the incidence and progression of age-related macular degeneration, and saffron might be a natural solution to protect eyes. 10,11

Crocetin, which is another carotenoid in saffron, significantly inhibited photoreceptor degeneration and retinal dysfunction in in-vitro and in-vivo models. This retinal protective effect was shown to be mediated by inhibiting an increase in caspase-3 and -9. 12

A recent microarray study showed that saffron appears to have direct regulatory effect on oxidative protection of retina by regulating expression of retinal genes with neuroprotective function (eg., Crot, Optn, Edn2, Smarcad1, Gpx3), particularly those genes regulated by light-induced photoreceptor damage. 1


  1. Natoli R, Zhu Y, Valter K, Bisti S, Eells J, Stone J (2010). Gene and noncoding RNA regulation underlying photoreceptor protection: microarray study of dietary antioxidant saffron and photobiomodulation in rat retina. Mol Vis 16: 1801-1822.
  2. Falsini B, Piccardi M, Minnella A, Savastano C, Capoluongo E, Fadda A, Balestrazzi E, Maccarone R, Bisti S. (2010). Saffron Supplementation Improves Retinal Flicker Sensitivity in Early Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 51: 6118-6124.
  5. Schmidt M, Betti G, Hensel A. (2007). Saffron in phytotherapy: pharmacology and clinical uses. Wien Med Wochenschr 157: 315-319.
  6. Ochiai T, Ohno S, Soeda S, Tanaka H, Shoyama Y, Shimeno H. (2004). Crocin prevents the death of rat pheochromyctoma (PC-12) cells by its antioxidant effects stronger than those of alpha-tocopherol. Neurosci Lett 362:61-64
  7. Xuan B, Zhou YH, Li N, Min ZD, Chiou GC. (1999). Effects of crocin analogs on ocular blood flow and retinal function. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther 15:143-152.
  8. Laabich A, Vissvesvaran GP, Lieu KL, Murata K, McGinn TE, Manmoto CC, Sinclair JR, Karliga I, Leung DW, Fazwi A, Kubota R. (2006). Protective effect of crocin against blue light- and white light-mediated photoreceptor cell death in bovine and primate retinal primary cell culture. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 47: 3156 – 3163.
  9. Maccarone R, Di Marco S, Bisti S. (2008). Saffron supplement maintains morphology and function after exposure to damaging light in mammalian retina. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 49: 1254 –1261.
  10. Taylor HR, West S, Muñoz B, Rosenthal FS, Bressler SB, Bressler NM. (1992). The long-term effects of visible light on the eye. Arch Ophthalmol 110:99-104.
  11. Thomas BB, Seiler MJ, Aramant RB, Samant D, Qiu G, Vyas N, Arai S, Chen Z, Sadda SR. (2007). Visual functional effects of constant blue light in a retinal degenerate rat model. Photochem Photobiol 83: 759-765.
  12. Yamauchi M, Tsuruma K, Imai S, Nakanishi T, Umigai N, Shimazawa M, Hara H. (2010). Crocetin prevents retinal degeneration induced by oxidative and endoplasmic reticulum stresses via inhibition of caspase activity. Eur J Pharmacol 650:110-119.

Other articles from this category:
[26/03/2011] General Facts About Saffron[16/04/2011] Eye Health Recommendations[10/12/2011] Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)[10/12/2011] Healthy lifestyle is associated with lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration[10/12/2011] Lutein and Zeaxanthin for age-related macular degeneration (AMD)[16/02/2012] Mechanism of action of resveratrol, NIH study.