Toxins and medicines can damage the kidneys. But, as always, nature helps by offering a powerful ally for the health of these very important organs, saffron! So let's try to understand better by analyzing a recent review published in the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences (Zarei et al, Iran J Basic Med Sci., 2022).
Kidneys and toxins
The kidneys are truly exceptional small organs, with the essential task of filtering the blood and eliminating waste substances, such as toxins, through the urine. Precisely for this reason the kidneys are particularly exposed to toxins, chemical pollutants and the medicines we take, thus making them susceptible to possible damage caused by these substances. Kidney damage can be traced to an increase in free radicals and inflammation. Among the possible remedies with an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action useful for preventing nephrotoxicity, attention has focused on saffron.
The properties of saffron
Saffron is a spice with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, also useful to support memory, to protect the heart and to counteract anxiety and cellular degeneration. These properties are due to the active ingredients of saffron, such as crocetin, crocin and safranal. In the following we will try to understand what saffron can do for the health of the kidneys.
Saffron protects the kidneys, the study
The study is a review that analyzed and compared the results of previous studies. The studies carried out have all been performed in vitro or in vivo on animals, so at present there is a lack of research conducted on humans. In any case, what has been observed so far is very promising and indicates that saffron can be a valid aid in protecting the kidneys. In particular, the intake of saffron has been shown to counteract the toxicity of the kidneys induced by some drugs, such as medicines taken in case of tumors but also antibiotics, such as gentamicin, and drugs for rheumatoid arthritis. The results were also obtained with limited doses of saffron, equal to 1mg/Kg of body weight, and therefore for a person of 60 kg about 0.06 grams, therefore a tip of a teaspoon. The study also focused on the action of saffron in case of exposure to toxic substances, such as ethanol, present in alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer or liqueurs. When taken in large quantities, ethanol can cause kidney damage. Well, aqueous extracts of saffron taken daily for 4 weeks at a dose of 40 mg per kg of body weight have been shown to reverse the kidney damage caused by ethanol. Cadmium is an environmental pollutant, contained in the water we drink and in the air we breathe. Cadmium is particularly toxic to the kidneys. Instead, the intake of saffron both for preventive and therapeutic purposes has been shown to counteract kidney damage. Also noteworthy is the action of saffron aimed at counteracting the kidney damage induced by patulin. Patulin is a mycotoxin that can be found on degraded and rotten apples and in products, such as juices, obtained from these apples, but also, in general, on degraded and moldy fruits and vegetables. Patulin is potentially carcinogenic and toxic to the kidneys. Well, crocin, one of the active ingredients of saffron, inhibits the toxicity of patulin. Finally, crocin has been shown to counteract the nephrotoxicity of other compounds, such as carbon tetrachloride, used as a solvent in industry.
The research must be deepened, focusing above all on the action of saffron on humans, what, at the moment, is absent. However, the study is of considerable importance as every research analyzed has shown the nephroprotective properties of saffron. These data demonstrate that saffron can be included in a healthy and balanced diet, always without excesses, to give taste and color to preparations but also to bring valuable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which protect the heart, brain and, as we know from today, also kidneys.
Ideas for using saffron in the kitchen
How to add saffron to culinary preparations? The simplest idea, also useful for relaxing and improving the quality of sleep, is the following. Before going to sleep, quickly heat a cup of plant based milk and finally add a pinch of saffron. Also excellent are the spaghetti with saffron and asparagus, the paella or even the delicious mimosa risotto, the recipes for which can be found in the Healthy Food section.