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Food

Crocus – The Gold of the Mind

NEW YORK – Does our brain define what we are? There is no human life without brain function and small problems in its function can greatly impact quality of life. This is why it’s better to wish for health than wealth.

Worldwide, Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) as a neurodegenerative disease accounts for 60-70% of overall dementia cases. Currently, according to a 2021 review study, treatments of AD are only supportive. So, to be accurate, as the human lifespan extends beyond what we once imagined, it must be said that nowadays you may avoid cancer, but you cannot escape from dementia. Unfortunately, this is the truth. There is a long road ahead before we find a real disease-modifying and effective treatment. But not everything is black. There are many things that currently help us fight off this scourge and among them are herbs.

Crocus sativus (saffron) extracts seem to have a positive effect on memory and improve brain health overall. Crocin, crocetin, safrana, and picrocrocin are their major bioactive chemical compounds with health-promoting properties.

Since 2020 there have been around 1500 research studies about this plant and AD. In simple terms, even though saffron helps with AD, there is no significant difference compared with conventional medicine – more studies are needed, however, because saffron seems very promising regarding AD.

Research interest in saffron and AD is recent, so it seems that we haven’t found the ‘how to best use it’ formula yet, the ‘secret potion’ with saffron that brings dramatic results. But until then, no harm will come of using saffron for prevention and other health benefits. Crocin has been shown to enhance learning-memory and to inhibit depression and neuronal cell death due to its strong anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Also, it helps with sleep disorders which increase dementia risk, so saffron seems to fight dementia both directly and indirectly.

Using crocus sativus extract in ethanol as a food supplement seems to be an effective and easy to use choice, but keep in mind that good saffron is very expensive! In Greece we have some of the best quality crocus, but one gram of dried organic sigmas (the part of the plant with the most promising properties) costs 5 euros in Greece! This is understandable because cultivation and post-harvest methods necessary for high quality products are very tricky! Saffron extract capsules cost around 28 euros for 30 capsules.

*The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.

Evropi-Sofia Dalampira holds a PhD in Agricultural Economics and an MSc in Botany-Biology.

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