Supplements in the News

Saffron Relieves PMS Symptoms
Published Saturday, May 10, 2008

By Maureen Williams, ND

Healthnotes Newswire (May 8, 2008)—Women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) might find relief by supplementing with the herb saffron (Crocus sativus). A new study found that women experienced fewer PMS symptoms when they used a saffron extract.

The study from Iran, published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, included 50 women between 20 and 45 years old with regular menstrual cycles. All of the women had experienced PMS symptoms for six months or more. After monitoring their symptoms for two menstrual cycles, the women were randomly assigned to receive 15 mg of saffron extract or placebo twice a day for two cycles.

The women using saffron improved in both PMS and depression symptoms after one cycle and improved further after two cycles. At the end of the study, 76% of the women taking saffron had a 50% or greater reduction in PMS symptoms, while only 8% of the women in the placebo group had similar improvement.

Most women experience some degree of heightened emotional sensitivity at the last half of their menstrual cycles, but for some women these mood changes can be extremely uncomfortable and in some cases debilitating. In addition to depressed or anxious moods, many PMS sufferers describe symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, food cravings, bloating, body aches, and breast tenderness in the last seven to ten days of their cycle.

The cause of PMS is not well understood, but it is likely to be attributable to several causes, including the high levels of estrogen and progesterone that mark the second half of the cycle, as well as changes in serotonin activity.

Native to India, saffron is an exotic herb, well-known for its culinary uses, such as the golden yellow color and distinctive taste it adds to rice dishes. Saffron also has historical medicinal uses, primarily as a digestive aid, stimulating appetite and relieving stomach pain and intestinal colic. Recent studies have suggested that saffron might also have antidepressant and anticancer properties.

“The results of our study suggest that an extract of saffron can effectively relieve the symptoms of PMS,” commented one of the study’s co-authors, Professor Shahin Akhondzadeh, PhD, from the Psychiatric Research Center at Tehran University of Medical Sciences. “We also looked at saffron’s effect on depression because it is a common aspect of PMS. Previous studies have found that saffron is beneficial to women with mild to moderate depression, and our results suggest that this is also true in women with PMS-related depression.”

More ways to manage PMS

Women looking for PMS relief can take the following steps:

• Exercise—Regular physical activity has been found to prevent PMS.

• Avoid caffeine and excessive sugar and salt.

• Supplement with vitamin B6, calcium, and magnesium.

• Consider taking evening primrose oil or borage oil.

Along with these measures, consider adding a supplement of saffron extract to help ease the symptoms of PMS. It is possible that adding the herb to the diet may also help, though research is needed to establish an amount.

(BJOG 2008;115:515–9)

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.



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