Saffron (2010, '15, '17, '19), Learning & Memory


Learn more about Alzheimer's Disease

Several studies report improvements in patients with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease or equal benefit as certain drugs but without side-effects. The presence of beta amyloid is a key indicator of Alzheimer's and its presence is a cause of loss of nerve synapse functionality and cell death of nerve cells.

Saffron has been found to be as effective as donepezil but with fewer side effects.1 It is considered promising due to its anti-oxidant and neuroprotective properties.2

Researchers examined crocin (a colorant and key component of saffron) on memory and the process of cell death. They also investigated the effect on patient's capacity to remember information about their surroundings using nicotine as a control for mice in a standard Morris Water Maze. The Morris Water Maze task provides an accurate assessment of how the mind learns and remembers as well as the degree of damage to the brain.

The test found that mice given crocin demonstrated significantly improved spatial memory compared to mice given beta amyloid. In addition, they found that crocin significantly improves certain ratios and protein levels that are associated with cell death.3

A review of the literature reports that it is probably effective in a wide variety of problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, stomach problems, memory and learning problems. Research has found that saffron reduces inflammation and clogged arteries, protects the gene structure and removes toxins from cells. Additionally it increases glutamate, which is especially abundant in the brain where it is the most powerful neurotransmitter.4

Crocin may be especially valuable in supporting learning and memory because it is a water soluble carotenoid, a unique property.5


1. Akhondzadeh S, Shafiee Sabet M, Harichian MH, Togha M, Cheraghmakani H, et al. (2010). A 22-week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind controlled trial of Crocus sativus in the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease. Psychopharmacology (Berl). Jan;207(4):637-43.
2. Hatziagapiou K, Kakouri E, Lambrou GI, Bethanis K, Tarantilis PA. (2019). Antioxidant Properties of Crocus Sativus L. and Its Constituents and Relevance to Neurodegenerative Diseases; Focus on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2019;17(4):377-402.
3. Asadi F, Jamshidi AH, Khodagholi F, Yans A, Aimi L, et al. (2015). Reversal effects of crocin on amyloid β-induced memory deficit: Modification of autophagy or apoptosis markers. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. Dec;139(Pt A):47-58.
4. Khazdair MR, Boskabady MH, Hosseini M, Rezee R, Tsatsakis AM. (2015). The effects of Crocus sativus (saffron) and its constituents on nervous system: A review. Avicenna J Phytomed. Sep-Oct 2015;5(5):376-91.
5. Finley JW, Gao S. (2017). A Perspective on Crucus sativus L. (Saffron) Constituent Crocin: A Potent Water-Coluble Antioxidant and Potential Therapy for Alzheimer's Disease. J Agric Food Chem. Feb 8;65(5):1005-1020.