From the stigmas of the flowers of Crocus sativus the saffron spice is obtained, scented and so precious that it has been nicknamed yellow gold. Saffron has also important healthy properties and it is considered a powerful antioxidant able to counteract obesity and diabetes. But saffron seems also to play a protective role on the eyesight, according to scientific studies that in the last years have focused their attention on the ability of saffron to protect the retina and to improve vision function in case of illnesses such as macular degeneration. The latest research (Broadhead et al) in order of time dates back to January 2019 and was published by a team of University of Sydney in the Graefe's Archive for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology, a distinguished journal founded in 1854.
The scientists recruited 100 adults over 50 with a diagnosis of age related macular degeneration. The participants were divided into two groups, one group was asked to take every day for 3 months a supplement containing 20 mg of saffron, the other group on the contrary took a placebo, with a crossover in the following three months. The participants were tested for what concerns the best-corrected visual acuity, namely a test to evaluate the best distance vision with eyeglasses or contact lenses, and measures of the response velocity of the retinal cells when stimulated. The researchers observed that saffron was able to improve the eye functionality and to reduce the response time of the retinal cells. This is clearly a great result because it paves the way to new treatments for one of the most common diseases of the retina, however, other studies are needed in order to evaluate the benefits and the side effects related to the long term intake of saffron given the chronical nature of the macular degeneration.