Saffron: the Sensual Spice

In my last column for the fullest we explored the neurological benefits of saffron and its powerful effects as a natural antidepressant, as well as its ability to protect the brain. Aside from those advantages and its amazing flavor, most people don’t know that it’s also excellent for sexual health.

For thousands of years, saffron has been known as an aphrodisiac, but today’s research is showing that it’s good for much more than just getting us in the mood. A lot of it has to do with the carotenoids it contains like crocin and crocetin. 

One study looked at women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). After taking a 15mg capsule of saffron twice a day for four months, the women reported “significant improvement” across a wide range of PMS symptoms like fatigue, depression, mood swings, bloating, joint pains, headaches, nausea, cramping, edema (swelling), and more. 

Among the many side effects of antidepressants is the disappearance of libido and diminished sexual response. A group of women taking Prozac for depression who complained of sexual problems were asked to take daily saffron capsules. Results showed the women experienced substantial improvement in arousal, lubrication, and other markers that made up their Female Sexual Function Index score. 

There’s good news for men, as well. One study looked at men suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED). After taking a tablet of 200mg of saffron each morning for just 10 days, the men experienced statistically significant improvement in the rigidity and tumescence or swollenness due to greater blood flow in their erections. They also experienced an increase in the number and duration of erections. This benefit is thought to come from crocetin because of its ability to promote nitric oxide in endothelial cells. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate, which would certainly allow more blood flow to the penis. Saffron tests in male rats have shown it to increase libido with greater mounting frequency and an increased number of erections that are quicker to develop. Researchers attributed this effect to crocin.

Saffron has powerful antioxidant properties that prevent free radicals from damaging our cells. This includes sperm cells. When a group of infertile men took 50mg of saffron three times per week, it greatly reduced their number of damaged sperm cells and increased their motility or speed of movement. While saffron didn’t increase the number of sperm produced by the men, it greatly increased the quality of their sperm. This is significant because all men have some damaged sperm. Higher quality sperm cells with greater motility can certainly increase fertility in healthy men. This test shows saffron’s antioxidants have the ability to protect and heal sperm cells from damage. 

Additional tests in rats have shown that saffron strengthens the outer membrane of sperm cells improving their integrity and so protecting them from damage. Researchers called this effect “significant” and singled out saffron’s potential to improve male fertility. There’s even good news for older men. Crocin and crocetin were both found to prevent prostate cancer from spreading and growing.

I regularly use saffron in my practice to treat a number of sexual health conditions including ED, as well as dyspareunia (painful intercourse) and anorgasmia (inability to orgasm) in women. I’m happy to say that I, too, have seen the positive results firsthand. It seems adding spice to one’s sex life isn’t just a metaphor anymore.  

For more information on Dr. Sadeghi’s services and public presentations please visit him at Be Hive of Healing Integrative Medical Center. You can also sign up for his monthly holistic health newsletter or get a copy of his yearly wellness journal, MegaZEN. Dr. Sadeghi is the author of two books, Within: A spiritual awakening to love and weight loss, and The Clarity Cleanse: 12 steps to finding renewed energy, spiritual fulfillment, and emotional healing.      

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