A safe and effective natural therapy for arthritis sufferers?
Arthritis is a painful inflammation of the joints that affects 24% of American adults and is a leading cause of work disability, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are different types, but the two most common are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis, although symptoms can be managed to reduce the pain it causes. Doctors usually prescribe disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, for example. These drugs work by suppressing the immune system to control inflammation, which increases the risk of infection with other serious diseases.
In recent years, however, Iranian scientists have pioneered an alternative arthritis treatment that researchers say has the advantage of being both natural and safe. By harnessing the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of saffron – the spice extracted from the saffron crocus flower – Iranian medical researchers are claiming a breakthrough in arthritis treatment for people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Evidence from Iranian Trials
Clinical Trials of Iranian Made Saffron Herbal Drug Krocina in 2020 and 2022, involving a total of 120 patients with osteoarthritis, found that Krocina significantly reduced levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood, while also increasing the percentage of regulatory T cells (Tregs) and expression of GATA-3 genes, all of which are reliable indicators of an enhanced anti-inflammatory immune response to disease.
Another study, performed at Iran University of Medical Sciences in 2020, concluded that saffron supplementation can “positively and significantly improve clinical outcomes in RA patients.” The results of this double-blind, placebo-controlled trial showed that 100 mg of saffron extract, taken daily by RA sufferers over a 12-week period, not only decreased the number of tender and swollen joints, but also the intensity of the pain felt by the patient. subjects too.
At the end of 2020, a comprehensive review of the data produced by these and other trials was published by Tehran University of Medical Sciences. The authors summarized “conclusively” that saffron “is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory factor, which can be considered for the treatment of the patient suffering from diseases associated with inflammation”, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
A team of Iranian scientists from the universities of Mashhad and Kermanshah in Iran and the UK had made a similar assessment of saffron as an anti-arthritic agent the previous year and presented their findings in BioFactorsa scientific journal published by the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Results from non-Iranian studies
Outside of Iran, however, scientific opinion on the effectiveness of saffron therapy for arthritis has been mixed, ranging from ambivalent to generally favorable.
French researchers who conducted a meta-analysis of the available evidence in 2020 concluded that saffron may indeed have beneficial effects on arthritis, but that “the risk of bias of these studies is difficult to assess”, and the clinical data are too limited. A systematic review by Greek scientists in 2021 also expressed concerns about bias in Iranian clinical trials and also determined that there was simply not enough evidence that saffron is effective in relieving disease symptoms. rheumatic.
The Chinese scientific community, on the other hand, was more enthusiastic.
A 2017 article, written by Chinese researchers and published in the peer-reviewed American medical journal Inflammationpresented evidence from rodent tests that crocin – one of the main active ingredients in saffron – “relieves osteoarthritis [OA] symptoms by alleviating oxidative stress and inflammation, suggesting that crocin is a potential drug for the treatment of osteoarthritis. This confirmed the results of previous laboratory experiments at Zhejiang University.
More recently, in 2018, the results of a preclinical study at Cangzhou City Central Hospital in the Chinese province of Hebei led a team of doctors to an equally positive assessment of the therapeutic potential of crocin for people. suffering from RA. The study authors observed that “crocin is able to relieve arthritis and suppress inflammatory responses”, and is therefore a “promising anti-arthritic agent” which “could be an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis”. .
Verdict and Final Thoughts
All things considered, saffron extract holds great promise as a therapy for people suffering from the painful and often debilitating effects of arthritis, and its safety profile is significantly superior to that of commonly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs for management. long-term symptoms.
Since available data indicates that crocin is the chemical constituent primarily responsible for saffron’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, consumers should look for good quality saffron supplements that are standardized for high crocin content.