As the health implications are now more obvious than ever, saffron remains a prized plant for use in traditional Chinese medicine. While there is no definitive evidence that saffron causes adverse cardiovascular effects, researchers have documented that saffron users are twice as likely to experience a heart attack and five times more likely to die from it than non-saffron users.2 It can also cause some symptoms similar to that of cardiovascular disease, including muscle cramps and pain. Saffron’s antiseptic, antibacterial, analgesic and anticancer properties may also reduce the risk of cancer and other autoimmune disorders such as arthritis and lupus.
However, some researchers, such as Drs. John S. Moore, Ph.D., and Dr. James K. Schachter Jr, Ph.D., have questioned the value of traditional Chinese medicine in its treatment of diabetes, including saffron’s role in preventing atherosclerosis.
Saffron in Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, which is a leading cause of blindness, is characterized by severe glucose deprivation that leads to the formation of plaques in the blood vessels and a buildup of fat in these vessels. Diabetic plaques are one of the leading causes of blindness, particularly in the eyes, and saffron has been shown to have anticoagulant properties.3 Other types of diabetes may be caused by excess sugar (hyperglycemia) rather than impaired glucose tolerance.
Saffron is most frequently considered a dietary supplement because most studies show it is safe and well-tolerated. However, several studies suggest that patients who take saffron supplements may experience higher rates of cardiovascular disease than placebo recipients. One of the first studies, in 2000, examined the relationship of saffron supplementation on the incidence of type 2 diabetes. A large, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial examined saffron in the treatment of diabetic patients during the period of their induction of diabetic ketosis.
The study showed that patients with diabetes, but not those with non-diabetic ketoacidosis, used saffron supplements. Furthermore, individuals experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis also tended to seek out a supplement that contained saffron (nonsafranil).4 In 2008, a study of the relationship between saffron in diet and cardiovascular disease was published by E.M. Niedermeyer and J. A.M. Kuller.5 Researchers from the University of Graz and the
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