(Health Secrets) Saffron, one of the world’s most valuable spices, helps to protect eyes from ultraviolet radiation damage says research from both the University of Sidney and the University of Aquila in Italy. The herb also helps to slow the progression of eye diseases like macular degeneration, which leads to blindness.
Collected by hand from the deep red stamens of the saffron crocus, the saffron spice is worth up to $800 per pound depending on its quality because it is so highly prized. It is used in a variety of applications including as a food spice, a coloring agent, and a treatment for disease. Some 90 illnesses and counting can effectively be treated with saffron.
According to Monique Simmonds, an investigator of the medicinal properties of plants at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, saffron is rich in certain compounds that make it viable in treating a variety of different diseases.
“The unique compounds found naturally in saffron that we believe may have medicinal value include crocin and safranal. They belong to a family called carotenoids which includes beta carotene [a type of Vitamin A]. Carotenoids give plants such as carrots or red peppers their color. Studies show that these compounds play key roles in preserving eyesight, protecting against cancer, and preventing Alzheimer’s” she explained.
In the eye study, macular degeneration patients who ate a diet containing saffron began to experience cell recovery, which resulted in improved vision.
“Saffron appears to affect genes that regulate the fatty-acid content of the cell membrane, and this makes the vision cells tougher and more resilient,” said Professor Silvia Bisti, lead researcher of the study.
The National Institute of Pediatrics in New Mexico also conducted a study in which researchers observed anti-cancer benefits from taking saffron. Crocin and safranal, the two compounds believed to help improve eyesight, also demonstrate an anti-tumor effect that could make them useful as a natural cancer treatment.
“Research has found that saffron boosts immunity by helping white blood cells to mature, as well as increasing levels of enzymes that help the body break down toxins,” said Fikrat Abdullaev, author of the study.
Saffron can be purchased for supplemental use as a bulk powder or in capsules. When buying any spice or herb, always be sure to buy varieties that have not been irradiated. Irradiated herbs typically do not have the same medicinal benefits because the vital nutrients and enzymes have been killed or eliminated.
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