Background information: 

A recent clinical study has shown that taking oral supplementation of saffron for three months in patients with early stage age-related macular degeneration induced a significant improvement of retinal function, creating a hope that saffron may be the natural answer to vision loss from macular degeneration.  The effects, however, disappeared when patients stopped taking the saffron pills. No adverse side effects were noticed in patients. 1 According to Professor Silvia Bisti who carried out the research in patients with age-related macular degeneration, ‘Patients’ vision improved after taking the saffron pill’ 2,3.

In a 15-month follow-up study, the clinicians observed that patients continued to get the benefits of the supplement for as long as they took the saffron capsules. In the extended study patients experienced:

“improvement in contrast and colour perception, reading ability, and vision at lowluminances, all ultimately leading to a: substantial improvement in the patients’ quality of life.”

This new study showed that taking saffron supplementation for long term presents a safe natural solution to help prevent eyesight loss in old age, and as reported:  “no adverse systemic side effects were recorded.” 4

New study: A new study 5 worked to determine whether the functional effects of oral supplementation with saffron are influenced by variations of specific genes in patients particularly by the complement factor H (CFH) and age-related maculopathy susceptibility 2 (ARMS2) risk genotypes.

Inflammation seems to play a major role in pathogenesis of AMD.

Role of CFH genetic variation: Many recent results support the hypothesis that an uncontrolled activation of the complement system is responsible for development of a retinal chronic inflammatory response, even in the early stage of AMD development. Several susceptibility genes have been linked to the development and progression of AMD. Certain variation in CFH gene is has been shown to have strong effect in conferring susceptibility to AMD.

CFH acts as a major inhibitor of the alternative complement pathway. In fact CFH can act as  a protective factor against retinal oxidative stress (5).

A specific genetic variant of CFH, the re1061170, is linked with higher risk of AMD. These particular variant of CFH has a reduced function in adequately controlling the complement pathway leading to increased risk of developing AMD.

ARMS2 is suggested to be involved with defence against oxidative stress vi mitochondrial function polymorphism

The recent clinical study showed that daily saffron supplementation ameliorated the macular function in early AMD patients. Previous studies demonstrated the anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory functions of saffron on photoreceptors protecting them from damage caused by oxidative stress.

This recent follow up study looked at whether changes in the functional properties of proteins CFH and ARMS2 could influence or limit the functional response or therapeutic neuroprotective properties of saffron. The study in early stage AMP showed that

the effect of saffron supplementation, evaluated by means of electroretinogram, was not influenced by the two major AMD risk polymorphisms in CHF and ARMS2 genes.

Visual acuity did not significantly differ between patients carrying the genetic variants or not having the variants alone or in combination. Fundoscopic feature were similarly also matched between the different genetic subgroups. The improvement in macular function was similar across groups.

Therefore, the individual’s response to saffron supplementation  is not dependent on CFH or ARMS2 genotypes. Saffron treatment provided a long term efficacy in all genotypes. Improvements in macular function remained stable for 15 months in all patients, regardless of their genotype. 

Clinical management of early AMD patients with saffron supplementation is easier now as the effects are independent of CFH and ARMS2 genetic variations.



1- Falsini B, Piccardi M, Minnella A, Savastano C, Capoluongo E, Fadda A, Balestrazzi E, Maccarone R, Bisti S. (2010). Saffron Supplementation Improves Retinal Flicker Sensitivity in Early Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 51: 6118-6124.



4- Piccardi M, Marangoni D, Minnella AM, et al. (2012). A longitudinal follow-up study of saffron supplementation in early age-related macular degeneration: sustained benefits to central retinal function. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Volume 2012, doi:10.1155/2012/429124.

5- Marangoni et al. Functional effect of Saffron supplementation and risk genotypes in early age-related macular degeneration: a preliminary report  Journal of Translational Medicine 2013, 11:228