Saffron extract is sometimes marketed as a “miracle appetite suppressant”. Read our saffron extract reviews from editors and readers.
About Saffron Extract
In early 2012, Dr. Oz aired a segment on saffron extract claiming it was a “miracle appetite suppressant.” Since then, hundreds of websites have cropped up peddling this supplement.
Saffron is a spice made from the flower Crocus sativus, or saffron crocus. For centuries it has been used in folk medicine as a sedative, aphrodisiac, and for certain skin conditions. In modern times, it has been used for a variety of other conditions (see list below under “WebMD” section).
Saffron extract is a concentrated powder produced by adding ethanol which is then evaporated under a vacuum at a low temperature.
2010 Clinical Study on Saffron for Weight Loss
Most of the claims of the effectiveness of saffron point to a single study of Satiereal, a brand name of saffron extract by Inoreal Ltd (they also funded the study). This 8-week study in 2010 involved 61 mildly-overweight women between the ages of 25-45. Thirty one women took saffron extract, while 30 took a placebo. One participant did not complete the study.
The study concluded there was a 55% reduction in snacking, and a slight reduction in weight for the group taking Satiereal versus the placebo.
As far as we know, there have been no further published studies to corroborate the findings of the 2010 study. It should also be noted that the study itself points out several limitations in its findings:
- Body weight was only “marginally reduced..only in mildly overweight subjects.”
- Severely overweight subjects weren’t tested.
- Stress/Anxiety levels of subjects were not assessed, which could have affected snacking habits.
- Another obvious limitation is that men were not included in the study.
Despite its classification as a “miracle” by Dr. Oz, WebMD does not even list appetite suppression on its list of potential uses for saffron. However, they do cite other possible uses which are quoted below:
Saffron is used for asthma, cough, whooping cough (pertussis), and to loosen phlegm (as an expectorant). It is also used for sleep problems (insomnia), cancer, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), intestinal gas (flatulence), depression, Alzheimer’s disease, fright, shock, spitting up blood (hemoptysis), pain, heartburn, and dry skin.
Of these potential uses, WebMD reports that there is some scientific evidence which shows saffron usage to be possibly effective for treating depression, Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) / menstrual discomfort, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Dosage and Warnings
According to WebMD, common doses range from 15-30 mg a day for up to 6 weeks.
The Satiereal study discussed above used a dose of 176.5 mg per day. Higher doses are thought to cause poisoning, so caution should be exercised. WebMD states that death can occur with doses of 12-20 grams, and symptoms of Saffron poisoning include jaundice, vomiting, dizziness, numbness, bloody diarrhea, and bleeding from the facial orifices (particularly the nose, mouth, and eyes).
In addition, WebMD recommends that Saffron should be avoided by people with the following conditions:
- Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding – Saffron usage beyond what is used as a spice in food is “likely unsafe” for pregnant and breast-feeding women. It is possible that Saffron can cause uterine contractions which may result in a miscarriage.
- Bipolar Disorder – Saffron may alter mood and provoke mania in people who have Bipolar Disorder.
- Allergies – People with allergies to the following species of plants should avoid using Saffron: Lolium, Olea (includes olive), and Salsola.
- Low Blood Pressure – Saffron may lower blood pressure even further.
Side Effects of Saffron Extract
The Satiereal clinical trial reported the following regarding side effects, “The frequency of adverse events in the Satiereal group (5/31 patients, 16%) was low, and they were mild in intensity and transient in nature. Adverse events affected the digestive tract (nausea, diarrhea, and reflux).“
Saffron appears to be safe for most people when it is taken in periods of up to 6 weeks, though mild side effects can include dry mouth, anxiety, nausea, drowsiness, and headache.
Whenever Dr. Oz promotes a new “miracle” product, affiliate marketers are quick to flood the internet with fake blogs and phony news sites promoting the benefits of their version of the product. We’ve been seeing more advertisements for saffron extract popping up, with headlines such as, “This Strange Flower Extract Melts Fat Away!” We also spotted one website that claimed: “Studies show Satiereal demonstrated a 100% reduction in the desire to snack.” This headlines are blatant falsehoods. The actual study claimed a 55% reduction, not a 100% reduction.
Brands of Saffron Extract
There are many brands selling saffron extract. You will often see Satiereal Saffron, which means it contains the Inoreal brand of the extract. Costs vary greatly.
Aside from a single study funded by a manufacturer of the product, little is known about saffron extract and weight loss. If we are to base conclusions on other reviews and studies of saffron spice in general, it would appear that the “miracle” claim by Dr. Oz is premature at best.
If you want to try saffron extract, check proper dosage and go through a reputable retailer. We always suggest buying at a local store to avoid shipping charges and delays, as well as possible hidden auto-ship programs.
And always consider these two simple rules:
If a website selling a supplement hails a Dr. Oz endorsement, avoid it.
If a website only offers a free trial of their product, without offering you the opportunity to simply buy it, avoid it.
Your Saffron Extract Reviews
Have you used saffron extract? Give us your reviews in the comments below.
Updated January 12, 2015
Originally published April 2013