If you’ve ever shopped for spices, you’ve probably noticed that saffron costs significantly more than any other seasoning: it’s considered “the world’s most expensive spice” because it is so difficult to grow, harvest, and cultivate. Not only does saffron add a complex flavor to your paella, but its bright orange color is also a key indicator that it’s full of carotenoids, important antioxidants that can lower inflammation, improve eye health, and (for some people) boost your mood. Saffron supplements provide these health benefits at a much lower cost and higher efficiency than using dozens of saffron strands in your meals.
These days, there are numerous saffron supplements on the market. Read our guide to find out how they measure up regarding price, effectiveness, ingredients, and other important criteria.
If you don’t have time to read the whole guide, take a look at our top five recommendations below.
Nuzena's Saffron Supplement contains clean, safe, and simple ingredients. It's truly effective in improving mental health.
Nuzena boosts memory and mood, while decreaseing anxiety and stress. Each capsule is vegan, and contains zero sugar and GMOs. Enjoy free shipping on orders over $50.
Herbal supplements have been around as long as we’ve known about the plants they stem from, but it doesn’t mean that every supplement is created equally, nor that every claim a company makes about it is going to be true. We’ve spent hundreds of hours researching and testing herbal and botanical supplements that claim to alter your mental state. For this review alone, we read more than 80 scientific studies looking at the safety and efficacy of saffron as a supplement.
Like all health-related content on this website, this review was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy. We’ll keep an eye on the latest science and evolving product options for saffron supplements to ensure this guide stays up-to-date.
Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions to live healthier lifestyles.
Despite a company’s best intentions, not every supplement is created equally. We consider four major criteria when comparing supplements that can affect your brain like saffron does: effectiveness, safety, cost, and convenience.
Effectiveness is generally most important to us — the other criteria don’t matter if it doesn’t work — but most of our favorite saffron supplements have the same ingredient profile that is on par with what researchers use. Saffron supplements also have few side effects, a high toxicity threshold, and a narrow price range of about $23 to $37. So our determining factors had to turn to smaller details: how transparent are companies in their safety practices, including FDA-registered facilities and independent testing? Are there any special deals you can get, or is the supplement regularly out of stock? Our deeper investigations into the nuanced differences between these supplements help us arrive at our top recommendations.
Generally, we consider BrainMD the most effective blend based on its careful, synergistic ingredient choice, while Nuzena is the most effective saffron-only supplement because of its dosing flexibility and vegan capsule, which also makes it the most convenient choice. Nuzena is also the safest choice, as it’s most transparent about sharing its third-party testing results alongside all of the safety strategies used by the other companies on our list. Nutricost’s bottle of 240 servings for less than $30 — with the potential for an additional 15% savings — makes it the most cost-effective option on our list, though Mother Nutrient’s 210 servings for less than $25 makes a compelling runner-up.
In scientific research studies, saffron supplements seem to work best in relatively small doses. There are a few other ingredients it pairs well with, depending on your goals — including ashwagandha, zinc, and curcumin, to name a few. But saffron is still very effective on its own, thanks to its high antioxidant content, and should be the center of attention in any saffron supplement. Because saffron is so expensive and difficult to harvest, it’s important to find a company that uses sustainable ingredient sourcing, uses clinical research to back up its choices, and skips fillers and artificial additives.
Nuzena’s Saffron Super Spice + is our top pick overall, thanks in part to its high efficacy. It uses approximately the same dose as three other saffron supplements on our list, but what helps Nuzena is the fact that you need to take two capsules to reach the 88.5mg daily dose. That may sound like a contradiction, but it gives you extra flexibility to pick the best dose for you. All of the other high-strength saffron supplements only come in one capsule, so if you try one of those supplements and discover it’s too strong for you, you won’t have any other options than to purchase a new supplement from a different company. With Nuzena, you can simply scale back by taking one capsule (which still puts you about 10mg over what successful studies use). As a bonus, if you find yourself in this camp, you’ve just doubled your supply. Add in the facts that it’s the only vegan, pure saffron supplement, and all of its ingredients are sustainably sourced — which is important considering the hard manual labor that goes into picking saffron — and Nuzena rises to the top as the most approachable saffron supplement for most people.
On the other hand, BrainMD’s blended formula is well-dosed and balanced. It uses 20mg of zinc glycinate — compared to the daily recommended dose of 15mg for adults — which is the easiest form for your body to break down and absorb, as well as 30mg of Affron branded saffron extract. The only place it falls short is in curcumin, where you’re given 400mg compared to the 500-2,000mg used in clinical studies (though most studies use doses on the smaller end of this spectrum). However, all three of these ingredients have overwhelming evidence that supports their use alongside saffron.
Zinc is an important cofactor for antioxidants, and studies show that low zinc levels are correlated with inflammation, oxidative stress, and the development of metabolic disorders.¹ When combined with the potent antioxidants saffron and curcumin, you’ll find zinc improves your cellular health just as well.² Zinc and curcumin also both show promising signs of alleviating depression symptoms like saffron, albeit only in small studies.³ ⁴
Because the FDA does not yet regulate dietary supplements, it’s important to be vigilant about how companies ensure product safety. A common safety measure includes manufacturing the supplements in a Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP- or GMP) certified facility, ensuring the production line is run and regulated according to the FDA’s standards. (This is the closest you’ll see to FDA recognition in the supplement industry.) Companies that test their products — especially if they use an unbiased third party — show they’re dedicated to ensuring you’re getting what you expect; companies that provide their results to the public as Certificates of Analysis win extra points from us.
Of course, appropriately rendered doses are critical, but half of our favorite saffron supplements use the exact same dose (88.5mg), and a fourth option is only 0.25mg less. All of our picks are equal to or above the same dose of saffron used successfully in clinical studies. Nuzena, the safest option on our list, includes 88.5mg of pure saffron extract. Its unique higher-dose two-capsule approach means you can cut the dose into something smaller and ramp up (or stay there) if you’re sensitive to medication, limiting your chances of developing mild side effects.
While the company does miss one of the most basic safety features — there are no images or written transcriptions of the Supplement Facts on the product page, and the equivalent on Amazon doesn’t accurately reflect the data on Nuzena’s website — it goes much further above and beyond on transparent testing measures than our other picks. No other saffron supplement on our list provides a certificate of analysis to the public, showing the safety information of all batches of Saffron Super Spice + that have been made. It also offers a quality certification tracker, which lets you peek into the testing of each product in real time. It’s manufactured in a GMP-certified facility, which is standard.
With one exception, saffron supplements come in a tight price range between $23 and $37. And while the cheapest option isn’t always the best, saffron supplements are so similar that you can often find less expensive options of saffron supplements that are otherwise virtually identical. Nutricost continues to be our top pick for the most cost-effective saffron supplement, as you can get eight months’ worth for only $27, or about $3.38 per month (compared to others’ $25-$30 per month).
Mother Nutrient’s saffron extract is a new contender for Nutricost’s title after recently increasing the number of capsules per bottle without increasing their price. You’ll get each serving from both companies for $0.11 if you purchase it once. You’ll pay less (by $4) overall for Mother Nutrient’s product, but you’ll also get 30 fewer servings (or one less month). Both companies use the exact same dose per capsule and per serving, so you don’t have to worry about getting more or less saffron for your money.
However, Mother Nutrient’s saffron extract is out of stock at the time of writing, so we can’t solely recommend them as the saffron supplement with the best cost. Nutricost also offers a slightly better deal through their subscription program, which will decrease your cost by 15% (to about $0.09 per serving), whereas Mother Nutrient will only give you 5% off (to $0.10) through their subscription program.
Most saffron supplements are pretty convenient at the outset. They tend to only come in capsule form, where you’ll take anywhere from one to three pills a day. You don’t generally need to worry about taking them with food (though you certainly can, especially if you have a sensitive stomach), and while some clinical studies give participants half a dose in the morning and half in the evening, there’s no harm in taking it all at once. When we judge saffron supplements for convenience, we look a little closer into your ordering options,
Nuzena not only gives you a 15% discount with every 28-day subscription, but you can also bundle Saffron Super Spice + (with more bottles or with other Nuzena products) for deeper discounts. You’ll have to take two capsules; for people who have trouble swallowing pills, that full dose would be less convenient than the single-pill dosing of Nutricost, Mother Nutrient, and Life Extension. But on the other hand, Nuzena’s two-pill approach gives you the flexibility to take a smaller dose if that works better for you. Previously, we considered Mother Nutrient our most convenient saffron supplement. However, it’s currently out of stock (at the time of writing), and it’s hard to recommend a product for its convenience when our readers can’t immediately purchase it. And while you can take it with one 88.5mg capsule daily, it doesn’t have the same bundle options as Nuzena, which make it more convenient to purchase and have on hand.
We’ve put together a chart to help you quickly identify and compare the most important qualities of our top saffron supplements.
Saffron is a valuable spice used in cooking and as a supplement. If you’ve ever tried to buy saffron at the grocery store, you know that it costs dramatically more than other spices. (Depending on the quality, a pound costs anywhere between $500 and $5,000.) However, saffron is a common spice that comes from flowers — its high price is due to the intricacies of its harvest and production.
More specifically, saffron comes from the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) flower. The long, red, pollen-collecting stigmas in the center of the flower (called threads) are collected and dried to produce saffron powder. Saffron flowers are harvested during a 3-4 week window every year and must be gathered before or right after sunrise because direct heat from the sun can damage the stigma. Each flower grows three stigmas which must be gathered and dried for 12 hours.
Because the flowers are so delicate, mechanical collection is not an option; they must be harvested by hand. It takes 70,000-200,000 flowers and about 400 hours of work to produce only one kilogram of saffron powder.
Beyond its uses in the kitchen, saffron has been used for many years in Ayurvedic medicine to treat physical and mental issues, including:
And though they aren’t the first thing you might think of when you hear “herbal supplement,” saffron supplements are becoming increasingly popular because of their unexpected accessibility and wide range of benefits.
Saffron contains dozens of compounds that work together to provide health benefits, but four stand out as the most important:
Most of what you’ll hear about are crocin, crocetin, and safranal. Picrocrocin is most responsible for saffron’s flavor, and it’s a good sign you have authentic saffron because it’s a compound that, so far, is only found in saffron flowers. However, there are substantially fewer health benefits from picrocrocin than crocin, crocetin, and safranal.
In the same way that picrocrocin determines saffron’s flavor, crocin is responsible for saffron’s red-orange color, and safranal determines its smell. These two compounds are more distinctive — you might see some saffron supplements standardized by either its crocin or safranal content — but crocetin is a particularly curious carotenoid (like chlorophyll and carotene), as scientists are looking into the mechanisms behind what seems to be anti-tumor and cancer prevention effects.
Some other major, overarching effects saffron has on the body include:
Based on these factors alone, it’s hard to tell exactly how saffron might work in practice. Let’s dive a little deeper into the most thoroughly studied applications of saffron for our health.
Though some claim saffron can ease symptoms of both depression and anxiety, it shows a clear advantage toward alleviating mild depression. Most studies find that it’s as effective as fluoxetine (Prozac), with fewer adverse side effects. However, one meta-analysis noted that this research into saffron is riddled with publication bias (that only studies showing results get published), and both Prozac and saffron are equally comparable to a placebo effect, so take this information with a grain of salt.⁸ Saffron also seems to improve sleep quality, though whether that’s an effect of its antidepressant qualities or something that contributes to that success is still unknown.⁹
Much like how saffron has a positive impact on depression symptoms, it’s an extremely promising supplement for people struggling with PMS that interrupts their life or PMDD, a particularly severe form of PMS. Studies similar to those run for saffron’s impacts on depression show similar results: 30mg of daily saffron shows big improvements in reducing the self-reported severity of PMS, even when compared to Prozac (which is another gold standard for treating PMS and PMDD).¹⁰ ¹¹ In particular, saffron seems to relieve breast and abdominal pain and soreness better than any alternatives.¹² Like the depression studies, however, saffron supplements are negligibly better than placebos (but, again, so is Prozac).
As an antioxidant, saffron harnesses the ability to decrease oxidative stress caused by free radicals, which primarily occurs in the brain, by binding to the lone oxygen molecules. Oxidative stress is linked to dozens of problems, but one of the biggest is inflammation. There’s mixed evidence as to whether or not saffron can lower inflammation depending on what biomarkers you look at. Generally, inflammatory cytokines — the small proteins that modulate inflammatory responses — don’t seem to be as affected by saffron supplementation as MDA, which is the key marker for oxidative stress.¹³ ¹⁴ (This isn’t consistent across studies, particularly those related to GI inflammation.) Crocin, crocetin, and safranal are the key compounds that seem to lower oxidative stress, linked to lower MDA and nitric oxide levels, as well as increased antioxidant enzyme activity.¹⁵
Saffron displays some surprisingly strong anti-cancer effects, particularly through crocetin. In the last two decades, saffron and crocetin have been tested on several types of human cells (including HeLa cells), and researchers have discovered that it has both direct and indirect anti-cancer properties.¹⁶ Specifically, it appears to be anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic (meaning sick cells die more easily and don’t replicate) alongside the standard antioxidant and anti-inflammatory measures associated with saffron.¹⁷ In particular, it seems to make the biggest differences in breast, ovarian, gastrointestinal, prostate, and lung cancer, as well as leukemia.¹⁷ Researchers are diving into preclinical and clinical trials, as well as patenting specific saffron compounds, to see if there’s more potential for saffron as a safer anti-cancer or cancer-preventing medication. But note that taking a saffron supplement won’t keep you from getting cancer or cure you of the disease.
Crocin is the main compound responsible for saffron’s remarkable impact on our eye health. Specifically, crocin (and saffron at large) seems to improve age-related macular degeneration, which is an eye disease that damages your retina, blurring the center of your vision. When participants were given 20mg saffron supplements, studies generally show increases in flicker sensitivity (fERG, which is a general marker of your retinal health) and visual acuity (what those eye tests at the doctor measure).¹⁸ One longer-term study found that those changes stayed stable for at least 14 months.¹⁹ This is particularly important because there’s no cure for age-related macular degeneration; saffron’s ability to slow or stall symptom progression is a huge win if this finding is true. However, note that most of this research is done by a small group of researchers. There’s no reason that this makes the results wrong, but we’d like to see the same results performed by different researchers for validation.
There are several other areas that saffron may influence but are either less conclusive or require more caveats than the conditions above. Most of these have to do with metabolic syndromes and systemic inflammation, which is tricky because medical experts don’t have a complete understanding of how the mechanics of systemic inflammation work yet. However, there are a few more things we’ve noticed saffron might be able to do.
There are a number of health markers that are easy to disrupt, including your blood sugar and HbA1c (a long-term measure of blood sugar levels and stability), cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and weight. Saffron seems to make a little bit of a difference in waist circumference, blood sugar, HDL (“good” cholesterol), and total cholesterol. Generally, participants who took large amounts of saffron (about 100mg/day) for at least 12 weeks lost about 1 inch off their waists and had lower blood sugar levels but not lower HbA1cs.²⁰ ²¹ Likewise, they also tended to have lower total cholesterol levels, higher HDL levels, and possibly decreased blood pressure, but not enough to be clinically meaningful.²² ²³ Some researchers think saffron’s effects on waist size and blood sugar have more to do with its inflammation control than any real metabolic differences, but more studies are necessary to determine how truthful that is.
Thanks to saffron’s role in decreasing inflammation, some scientists believe that it may play a bigger role than expected in our GI tract. One study found it significantly influences several gastric diseases, including IBS and IBD, by limiting gastric inflammation and protecting gastric mucosa (the lining of your GI tract).²⁴ Likewise, another study found that it can reduce your ALT serum levels, which points to improved liver health.²⁵ However, both of these findings are still relatively new, so more studies need to be done before we can really state whether or not saffron can support your GI and liver health.
There’s some discussion about saffron improving the sex lives of people with sexual and erectile dysfunctions. One meta-analysis of five major studies looking into this phenomenon found that saffron generally had positive impacts, though it doesn’t change male sexual desire.²⁶ The higher the dose, the more likely it was to work, with the best results coming from a study that gave men 200mg of saffron daily for 10 days to influence erectile dysfunction. However, there are so few studies on this that it’s difficult to draw any serious conclusions.
Some things — like the fact that 20mg of saffron daily lowered hyperactive symptoms in children with ADHD better than Ritalin, or saffron’s potential role in decreasing Alzheimer’s symptoms — are just starting to be investigated but show promise.²⁷ ²⁸ And some things marketed by supplement companies are actually potential side effects that can be spun into positives, like weight loss from appetite suppression and improved mood. This isn’t a bad thing: it shows there’s a lot of promise still to be discovered through saffron supplements.
Saffron’s effects are wide-reaching and, as far as botanical supplements go, pretty remarkable. It’s easy to think of it as a potential miracle product, but keep your expectations tempered: most of these studies, while certainly promising, still involve small populations of people, and not all of them have consistent results. There’s a lot more research that needs to be done, and supplements can’t cure, treat, prevent, or diagnose any conditions. Only prescriptions and products regulated by the FDA can, and saffron isn’t yet under investigation for future medications.
Saffron supplements may also include other ingredients, such as ashwagandha, zinc, or curcumin (the main compound in turmeric), to boost its general effects or target a particular complaint more clearly.
Generally, supplements provide a dose of 20mg-100mg per day. Most successful studies use 30mg of saffron in two 15mg doses (one in the morning, one in the evening), but a lot of saffron supplements contain about 88.5mg of saffron. That’s more than studies find is necessary to work, but it isn’t enough to cause negative effects by a long shot.
Generally, mood-enhancing and eye health improvements start with lower doses around 30mg/day, while higher doses of 200mg and above are necessary if you’re targeting things like ED and hypertension. Note, however, that studies less consistently have good results for concerns requiring higher doses.
Thanks to saffron’s high antioxidant content and other benefits, there are many people who could take advantage of saffron in their diet through a budget-friendly supplement.
If you’re living with macular degeneration, a saffron supplement may be a particularly useful tool in your arsenal alongside regular eye exams, not smoking, and managing your blood pressure. Saffron supplements tend to work better for people experiencing symptoms of the disease rather than people with genetic markers for or a family history of macular degeneration. One study found that genes don’t make a difference in your receptiveness to saffron for early-stage age-related macular degeneration; all participants experienced improved visual processing speeds while taking 20mg of saffron daily.²⁹ It won’t prevent the disease — and, as a supplement, it won’t cure, treat, or diagnose it either — but it can improve your quality of life.
Likewise, if you’re one of the 80% of people with PMS or PMDD who reported they’d rather try a supplement than a prescription antidepressant or contraceptive, saffron may be a good place to start.³⁰ It shows about the same level of efficacy as Prozac (fluoxetine) in clinical studies, but with fewer adverse side effects, and is better for targeting bloating and abdominal and breast soreness. Saffron supplements have roughly the same effectiveness for people with mild depression against Prozac, too, but it isn’t something we’d recommend for people with more severe depression or other mood disorders like bipolar disorder.
There’s also some evidence that saffron might be able to support blood sugar regulation in the long term. Most studies conclude that participants’ day-to-day blood sugar evens out after at least 12 weeks of daily saffron use; it also doesn’t seem to lower HbA1c levels, so don’t expect it to steer you away from type 2 diabetes. (If you’re looking for something that might be able to do both, we suggest looking into berberine or inositol.)
Ultimately, if you’re living with a condition that causes significant daily disruptions related to your mood, eyesight, or inflammation but aren’t sure if you’re ready to try a traditional pharmaceutical treatment, saffron may be a reasonable alternative. Before you try a saffron supplement, though, reach out to your doctor to ensure it’s going to be safe for you.
While antioxidants in our food are particularly good at fighting free radicals, the NIH reports that most clinical studies don’t find general antioxidant supplements work how we’d expect. Antioxidants tend to work best when paired with other compounds found in the original fruits, vegetables, and herbs. At the same time, the best saffron supplements maintain that chemical composition, bringing it closer to something like a greens powder than a vitamin C supplement. It’s a complicated relationship, but taking something like a saffron supplement with antioxidant properties isn’t likely to cause harm.
If you’re exposed to more oxidative stress than the average person, you might still benefit from increasing your antioxidant intake, either from your diet or something like a saffron supplement. Many of the biggest contributors to oxidative stress should be no surprise:
Since saffron contains several antioxidants, it may work in tandem with a healthy lifestyle to decrease the risk of cellular damage and its corresponding health problems.
We can’t stress it enough: taking a saffron supplement is no replacement for cancer treatment and won’t keep you from getting cancer. It may mitigate some effects of oxidative damage and improve your overall cellular health, but supplements aren’t a replacement for life-saving medical care. It could support your overall health while undergoing cancer treatment but talk to your oncologist before you start taking a saffron supplement if you’re in that situation.
Saffron is generally safe to take for healthy adults. If taken as directed, it produces very few side effects. Taking more than 1g of saffron may induce more side effects, including toxicity and poisoning, but most studies find the most success for most people with about 30mg per day. It’s pretty difficult to find a saffron supplement that offers more than 100mg per serving, and for a good reason — combined with the higher risks of adverse reactions at higher doses and increased expenses, there’s very little scientific evidence that positive effects scale with dosage. One study looking at erectile dysfunction found that 200mg of saffron for 10 days significantly improved ED symptoms, but so did a study that used 30mg per day for four weeks.²⁶
Side effects for saffron are few and far between, but the few you might run into are mild and include:
These side effects should subside in a few days; if they don’t, stop taking them and reach out to your doctor immediately. If you’re allergic to rye, olives, Salsola plants (including Russian thistle), or, of course, saffron, you shouldn’t take a saffron supplement.
A few health conditions may make saffron supplementation dangerous for you:
If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, don’t take a saffron supplement. There’s conflicting evidence that saffron could interfere with fetal development. While the research isn’t conclusive yet (and most of it’s been performed in mice), it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your baby’s health. And if you want your child to try a saffron supplement, stick to one designed explicitly for children: it’s generally safe, but children often need lower doses than adult formulas provide.
No matter how safe a supplement seems, you should always talk to your doctor before trying something new. This goes for saffron supplements as well. They aren’t prescription medications, and you shouldn’t take them to cure, treat, or prevent any conditions.
Best for most people
Nuzena Saffron Super Spice + is our top pick because of its simple ingredients, safety measures, and sustainable sourcing. This saffron supplement has 88.5mg of sustainably sourced pure saffron as its only ingredient and is gluten-, sugar-, and GMO-free. Nuzena is also one of only two saffron supplements on our list that uses a vegan-friendly capsule, so there are no dietary restrictions that can keep you from taking this (except for a saffron allergy or contraindication, of course).
Saffron Super Spice + is manufactured in a facility that follows the FDA’s GMP guidelines, which we see in all of our top saffron supplements. However, the Nuzena website also includes a quality certification tracker that allows you to view product testing results as they happen to ensure the products are high-quality, checking for things like allergens, heavy metals, bacterial contaminants, purity of ingredients, and accurate dosing of ingredients. This third-party test is similar to a certificate of analysis, but the real-time updates are a nice touch we haven’t seen before.
As another bonus, Nuzena recommends you take two capsules daily. However, if you find that 88.5mg is too strong, you can cut back to one 44.25mg capsule; this is still almost 15mg more than most studies give participants for things like macular degeneration, depression, and PMS, so you can effectively personalize exactly how much you’re taking. Nuzena is the only pure saffron supplement that provides all of the requirements for this flexibility. The company recommends taking the capsules 20-30 minutes before a meal, one at midday and one in the evening. We also recommend that anybody with a history of sensitive stomach take this supplement before a meal.
Some users will notice effects right away, but not everyone will. Nuzena encourages customers to take the supplement for at least 90 days for full benefits.
One 60-count bottle of Saffron Super Spice +, which is a one-month supply, costs $35. Since we last reviewed them, the company has added a subscription program managed through third-party provider Skio, where you can save 15% (bringing your monthly total to $29.75) and get a new bottle every 28 days. Like all good subscription programs, you can edit, skip, or cancel your subscription at any time without hassle.
Nuzena also offers an in-house bundling offer, where you can mix and match Nuzena supplements in one order to save money. You can pick as few or as many different Nuzena supplements as you want to earn the following savings on the entire order:
No matter how you order, Nuzena offers free shipping on orders over $50. Otherwise, you’ll pay about $5 for standard shipping, though it varies slightly depending on your location.
Unfortunately, their return policy is only 30 days and requires that bottles are unopened, so there’s no way to try Saffron Super Spice + to see if you like it first. Even if you could, by Nuzena’s own admission, it would take some people longer than 30 days to determine how well saffron supplementation is working. This return policy is not very helpful.
Best for cellular health
BrainMD Happy Saffron Plus advertises itself as a good saffron supplement for mood support, and while it does have some non-negligible effects on your mood, it’s just as good (if not better) at improving your overall cellular health. This saffron supplement also includes zinc and curcumin, the main compound in turmeric, in doses similar to those used in successful studies. While it’s a little short on curcumin (providing 400mg when most studies use 500mg-1,000mg), its zinc dose (20mg) and saffron dose (30mg) are spot-on.
Curcumin provides strong anti-inflammatory properties, and zinc is best known for its benefits for your immune system. By combining that with saffron’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant strong suits, BrainMD offers a boost to both your immune system and your mood. Both curcumin and zinc also have some evidence pointing towards antidepressant and anxiolytic properties, though not as much as their immune and anti-inflammatory benefits.
In addition to these active ingredients, the supplement also contains small amounts of the following fillers, additives, and stabilizing ingredients:
Happy Saffron Plus is the only other vegan supplement on our list; it also doesn’t contain milk, dairy, gluten, wheat, yeast, eggs, corn, or artificial colors and flavorings. The supplement does contain trace amounts of non-GMO soy, though, so it’s not a great fit for people with soy allergies.
One bottle contains 90 capsules, which is a 30-day supply, as each serving requires three capsules. On the one hand, you can take them all at once or between meals. But note that these aren’t small capsules (they’re relatively average-sized), and this is the largest serving size on our list, so it probably isn’t the best option for people who don’t like to take several pills at once.
If you’re interested in having your child take Happy Saffron Plus, check in with their pediatrician first. Saffron, zinc, and curcumin are generally safe for children; BrainMD states that children ages 4-18 can also take the supplement and that they should take one capsule per 40 pounds of body weight with a maximum of three daily capsules. But your child’s doctor will have the best recommendations about dosages for their age, stature, and needs.
A one-time purchase of a 30-day supply of Happy Saffron Plus costs $51.45, up slightly from the $49.95 it cost at the time of our previous review. However, they offer a subscription program that combines the convenience of a subscription with some additional bulk deals:
While the price of Happy Saffron Plus has gone up with time, so have your savings opportunities: each subscription deal provides at least a dollar more in savings since last year. You can also get free shipping from all subscription orders, something you’ll have to order $75 worth of products to achieve with a one-time purchase.
BrainMD offers a 60-day money-back guarantee on all unopened products, but you can still get store credit if you’ve opened and tried your supplement but don’t like it. If you don’t plan on getting any other BrainMD products, it might not be your best option, but it’s certainly better than nothing. You’ll need to reach out to the Customer Care team to get a Return Merchandise Authorization and return shipping label first, though; if you don’t, BrainMD will charge a 15% restocking fee.
Luckily, the company offers an alternative route: if you want to try out Happy Saffron Plus or any of their other best-selling products, BrainMD will give you a seven-day free trial for $2.95 with free shipping. After two weeks, you’ll be automatically enrolled in a monthly subscription to the supplement, which you can cancel anytime.
Best for mood enhancement
Youtheory makes a blend of saffron, ashwagandha extract, and Rhodiola rosea extract designed specifically to promote relaxation and even out your mood. While it certainly has other effects (Rhodiola rosea is a potent nootropic, and ashwagandha helps regulate your HPA axis), all three of these ingredients have clear clinical backing to help you cool down. Ashwagandha has long been known to limit anxiety; our testers who’ve tried ashwagandha can verify that it feels like putting your anxiety in a lock box.²⁹ And in a 2020 review of 22 studies, Rhodiola rosea was found to alleviate symptoms of mild to moderate depression and mild anxiety.³⁰
Each two-capsule serving contains the following:
Sensoril brand ashwagandha extract isn’t our favorite, but it’s what you’ll find in this supplement. It has a reasonable concentration of withanolides, the main compound that makes ashwagandha work (akin to safranal), but it also tends to have a lot of oligosaccharides, which are simple carbohydrates that our GI system is not designed to digest. It functions as a prebiotic, but if you have IBS or adhere to a low-FODMAP diet, you should skip this supplement. (We discuss other options in our ashwagandha supplements guide if you’re interested in trying ashwagandha for mood support.)
More importantly, the ashwagandha dose in Youtheory is on the low end. Most ashwagandha supplements contain about 600mg of the plant, which aligns with successful clinical studies. The 150mg here may still give you mood-lifting effects, but it will certainly be a lot less evident than a stronger dose. However, the saffron and Rhodiola extract doses are well formulated; the aforementioned 2020 review of studies found that the most successful studies used between 150mg and 200mg of Rhodiola once daily, and saffron seems to work for most people at around 30mg daily.
One bottle of saffron supplements (60 capsules, or a 30-day supply) costs $36.99 if you purchase it once. Or, you can join Youtheory’s subscription program to save 15% (dropping the price to $31.44) and get a new bottle every 30 or 60 days. They’ve recently increased these savings from 10% to 15%, which is a nice improvement.
Unfortunately, Youtheory’s shipping costs and return policy are where the company falls short. You can get free shipping on any order over $50, but unlike some of our top companies, they don’t offer free shipping automatically on subscription orders. Previously, they charged shipping based on how much product you ordered, where you’re located, and how quickly you wanted your package to arrive; shipping could cost anywhere from $3 to $50. In the past year, they’ve gotten rid of this program, instead opting for a flat shipping rate. Ordering just one bottle of this saffron blend now means you’ll pay a whopping $14.99 in shipping costs. That’s almost half the price of the supplement itself. (But you can get free shipping on Youtheory Saffron by ordering via Amazon as part of an order of $25 or more.)
You can return any unopened product within 30 days of purchase for a full refund, but you won’t get your shipping fees refunded, and you’ll have to pay another $14.99 for a return fee. That means that if you order one bottle of Saffron from Youtheory and have to return it, you’ll end up getting, at most, $7.01 back. It’s better than nothing, but not by much, and that makes it inadvisable for those who aren’t completely sure that they want at least two bottles of this supplement.
Best budget pick
If budget is a top concern, we recommend Nutricost Saffron Extract Capsules because one bottle contains 240 capsules (an eight-month supply) for only $26.95. This is the least expensive supplement on our list, but the low price doesn’t mean it’s an inferior product. These supplements are made with the same 88.5mg dose of saffron as four of our other top six products and specify that the saffron extract contains 0.3% safranal. While it does contain rice flour as a filler, they’re vegetarian, free of all major allergens, and GMO-free, so this will be a viable option for many people.
Each serving is one capsule, which cuts both ways, as described earlier; it simplifies the routine for those who have trouble swallowing pills, but it also means you can’t split a dose to try a gentler onboarding process or ease a sensitive stomach. This makes Nutricost a better option for people who are familiar with taking 88.5mg of saffron and know they enjoy it.
Like all of our other top picks, Nutricost uses GMP-compliant facilities to manufacture its products. There’s no information on the company’s website about third-party testing, which is standard for larger companies, unfortunately. Smaller, independent companies are more likely to be fully transparent with their testing and safety practices. That doesn’t mean that Nutricost’s saffron supplement is inherently unsafe — it just means they aren’t as willing to let thousands of people peek behind the curtain.
The supplement itself is very standard and straightforward. Most of Nutricost’s big benefits come from its price and your potential savings.
Nutricost offers free shipping on orders over $59 to the U.S. Otherwise, expect to pay $7 for standard shipping (or more for UPS Ground or Next Day Air, which are variable depending on your location).
Each bottle costs $26.95 for a one-time order, but you can purchase this saffron extract from Amazon at an even lower price — $19.95, or an additional $7 savings. If you order through Nutricost’s website, though, you’ll get a better subscription deal. Amazon offers 5% savings on your first order and 10% on every order after, but Nutricost offers 15% savings from the get-go, dropping the price to $22.91 per bottle. This subscription offer is new in the last year, and we’re glad to see it added.
Nutricost also offers a particularly generous money-back guarantee. If you decide Nutricost isn’t the right option for you at any point in the 60 days after ordering your saffron supplement, Nutricost will refund you 100% of what you spent (except for shipping costs). You don’t have to send an unopened bottle back like most companies, so it’s safe to try this saffron before making up your mind. And while 60 days isn’t always long enough to feel the full effects of a saffron supplement, this is one of the only return policies on our list that lets you return opened bottles at all. Though this return policy is decent and more useful than many others, it used to be even better — they previously provided that policy over a 90-day period.
Nutricost’s status as the top budget choice is safe for now, but it may be threatened in the future; its saffron supplement was the lowest-priced on our list by a long shot in previous reviews, but Mother Nutrient has recently added another 30 servings to each bottle without increasing their price, meaning that they cost the same per serving. Mother Nutrient costs less at face value for a one-time purchase, but Nutricost contains one more month’s worth of servings and a better subscription deal.
Easiest to take
Mother Nutrient’s Saffron Extract is particularly easy to take because, like Nutricost’s saffron extract, you’ll only need one capsule per day to get the most benefits. Each bottle contains 210 servings — recently increased from 180 — but Mother Nutrients didn’t increase the price from $23. However, note that it’s currently out of stock. We aren’t sure when it’ll be back in stock, but in the meantime, you can buy it through Amazon at a higher price ($29.99).
According to the Supplement Facts list, each capsule contains 88.5mg of saffron, but some information on the webpage states that it’s actually 88.25mg. The difference of 0.25mg is obviously a very small one, but the fact that there’s a discrepancy at all in how much you’re getting is a bit of a red flag for other information that may be inconsistent or incorrect.
The supplement does not contain any major allergens, GMOs, or artificial ingredients, but it does have rice flour to fill the capsules. The capsules are gelatin-free and vegetarian-friendly, and they are manufactured in a GMP-certified facility, where they’re quality-checked by a third party for heavy metals and other contaminants. Mother Nutrient’s customer service team is also notably friendly and well-informed about their products, how those products are made, and when’s the best time to take them. So if you have questions or experience any problems with your order, we think you’ll get good answers quickly.
A one-time purchase of a 210-count bottle is $22.99, which is a seven-month supply. If you know you’ll want to keep taking this saffron supplement, you can also join the Subscribe & Save program to save 5%, which is the smallest savings on our list (but is still savings), dropping the monthly price to $21.84.
If you order at least $50, you’ll earn free shipping; otherwise, expect to pay $4.99. Unlike most of our other options, there’s only one shipping speed (3-5 business days), so combined with the fact it’s out of stock as of March 2023, this isn’t going to be your best option if you’re looking to start trying saffron immediately.
Mother Nutrient has a 30-day risk-free guarantee on most of its products, but what you get in return varies. If your bottle is unopened, you can get all of your money back within 30 days of purchase. If you’ve opened and tried the supplements, you can still return the bottle in that 30-day window, but you’ll only get store credit. There are a few limits around what products qualify under this plan, but this saffron extract is fully covered.
Life Extension Optimized Saffron is a simple saffron supplement containing 88.5mg of Satiereal saffron extract (standardized to 0.3% safranal). The supplement also has a few more fillers than other saffron extracts, which isn’t great for people looking for the most streamlined supplement. It contains:
Silica might sound concerning, but it’s an important compound that our bodies need for bone formation and connective tissue maintenance. More realistically, it’s used in this supplement as an anti-caking agent to keep the capsule contents from sticking together for best absorption, but it’s not something that will likely harm you. These supplements don’t contain any major allergens, GMOs, or gelatin otherwise.
Satiereal saffron extract — the main ingredient in the supplement — was shown in a placebo-controlled trial to aid weight loss in healthy women by enhancing their feelings of fullness over an eight-week testing period.³¹ However, there are so many different reasons you may be feeling an urge to snack — from insulin resistance to chronic stress from work to restricting your calories too far — that saffron extract may not be the right step to fix your concerns at their core.
Life Extension provides a certificate of analysis on every supplement to confirm safety, including for Optimized Saffron. However, you’ll need to reach out to customer service to get a copy of this certificate; it’s not readily available to the public. Our testers had no pushback when they reached out and received a copy within 48 hours for our peace of mind.
Previously, we considered Life Extension one of our top picks for saffron supplements. Though it is still a great option, we’ve since removed it from our top recommendations because of its misleading branding. One study into a particular brand’s extract is good to have on hand, but it’s not enough to definitively state that the supplement will help you primarily with weight loss.
Life Extension also recommends taking two servings daily, which isn’t always clear from its labeling and increases your daily saffron consumption to a whopping 177mg. That’s not a dangerous amount, but it’s twice as much as the strongest supplements on our list. The only clinical evidence we have that people may need that much is for cases of erectile dysfunction or hypertension, and the studies are mixed in terms of saffron’s efficacy in that arena. If you stick to one capsule daily and acknowledge that it may help your eye health and inflammation as much, if not more, than it curbs your urge to snack, Life Extension could still be a good option for you.
A bottle containing 60 capsules costs $27. This is either a one- or two-month supply, depending on which instructions you follow. Life Extension doesn’t offer any bulk discounts, but you can join their AutoShip & Save program to save 11% (paying $24/bottle) and automatically earn free shipping. As a plus, you can pick how frequently you want bottles delivered on a monthly basis from every 1-12 months; none of our other picks that offer subscription programs let you personalize the delivery frequency like this.
Life Extension offers free shipping on one-time orders over $50 to the U.S. If you’re just ordering one bottle of Optimized Saffron, expect to pay varying amounts depending on how quickly you’d like the order:
Notably, Life Extension has the longest return policy on our list, but it isn’t the most flexible. At any time within one year of purchase, you can reach out to the customer service team to get a refund if you decide that this saffron isn’t right for you. However, the refund typically only comes as a credit to your account for other Life Extension products, meaning you can’t get the money back in your bank account. You’ll need to send your bottle back to Life Extension headquarters, as well.
Saffron supplements aren’t going to work for everyone. Maybe you’re hesitant to try them because it’s hard to verify whether or not a supplement contains real saffron, or maybe there isn’t much proof that saffron will address your primary health concern(s). Luckily, for all of saffron’s major benefits, there are other options that may work just as well, depending on your situation. We’ll walk you through a few of them for saffron’s best-proven benefits below.
The best alternative for a saffron supplement, if you’re looking for more antioxidants in your diet, is to literally add them to your diet. Since antioxidants are best absorbed and used alongside other compounds and chemicals present in foods, taking them on their own won’t do as much for you as taking them with foods. Some of the most antioxidant-rich foods include:
More specifically, if you’re looking for food that’s also high in carotenoids, look specifically for orange fruits and vegetables (such as pumpkin, squash, grapefruit, bell peppers, and carrots), as well as egg yolks, broccoli, tomatoes, and leafy greens.
If your diet isn’t something you can change, a greens powder will be your best alternative source of antioxidants. They’re more expensive than saffron supplements — most of our favorites range from $87 to $99 for a one-month supply — but provide antioxidants within their natural contexts, ensuring better absorption than a plain antioxidant supplement.
Consider Athletic Greens AG1, for example. One serving of that greens powder contains 7,338mg of their alkaline, nutrient-dense raw superfood complex and 2,732mg of their nutrient-dense extracts, herbs, and antioxidants. That would give you a much more powerful boost to your daily antioxidant intake than an 88.5mg saffron supplement can. And because greens powders are more mainstream and have been popular for longer, they’re more likely to have earned certifications (like NSF Certified for Sport) and streamlined safety processes.
You can learn more about greens powders in our guide to the best in 2023.
There are several types of supplements that studies have shown can support both depression and PMS or PMDD, as well as a few options for either condition.
If you’re struggling with breast and abdominal soreness, vitamin B6 has shown repeatedly in studies since the 1990s to improve PMS symptoms (especially pain and soreness), as does vitamin E.³² ³³ And a 2022 literature review found that omega-3, vitamin D, vitamin B6, and iron deficiencies can all contribute to PMS and PMDD symptoms.³⁴ (If you menstruate, you need more iron than someone who doesn’t, and not getting enough — such as through a vegan or vegetarian diet — may lead to an iron deficiency.) Luckily, all of those come in relatively inexpensive, high-quality, and easy-to-find supplement forms. A good multivitamin high in all of those (such as Ritual’s Essential for Women 18+, though it lacks vitamin B6 and instead has vitamin B12) will easily fill that gap while also supporting your overall health for about the same price as a saffron supplement, which is much more niche and less critical for your day-to-day life.
Fish oil and other omega-3-rich supplements also seem to improve depression symptoms across several studies.³⁵ So does vitamin D, where deficiencies are correlated with higher rates of depression (which you may experience in winter), and B vitamins, especially vitamin B12.³⁶ A 2017 meta-analysis found that St. John’s Wort is just as good as prescription antidepressants in alleviating mild to moderate depression symptoms, too, though you shouldn’t take it if you have more severe depression, are experiencing suicidal thoughts, or take other supplements or prescriptions that increase your serotonin levels.³⁷
Vitamin D, B12, and fish oil supplements tend to be less expensive than saffron supplements and are also more widely available in retail chains, so you can get hold of them faster if you need them. However, all of your options will take up to 12 weeks before you experience the full effects.
Some other supplements you may want to consider include:
Of course, most medical experts still recommend SSRIs (such as Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, and Paxil) as your first step in treating both unmanageable PMS, PMDD, and depression at any stage. While you might be hesitant, if these conditions interfere with your day-to-day life, don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor. They may suggest an SSRI, or they may have other ideas for supplements that could work better for you with an intricate knowledge of your health history.
The carotenoids found in saffron supplements are fantastic at supporting your eye health and are particularly adept at slowing the progression of macular degeneration. However, plenty of supplements can support your eyesight in general, and others have equally specific benefits.
One of our favorite supplements, originally designed as a nootropic, comes from the brand Focus Factor. While its products are generally short on brain-boosting power, the company’s Brain & Vision formula contains 15mg of lutein and 4mg of zeaxanthin, which are the two powerful carotenoids naturally found in the human eye. They function as light filters, protecting your cornea and retina from blue light damage. While Focus Factor’s Brain & Vision formula is slightly more expensive than the average saffron supplement at $39.99/bottle, consider that you’re also getting a multivitamin’s worth of other vitamins and minerals, as well as 634mg of their proprietary nootropic blend. But this also means that the Focus Factor supplement isn’t a good option for people taking psychiatric medications, blood thinners, or a multivitamin.
If you’re not vegan or vegetarian, krill oil supplements may be another way to efficiently boost your eye health. Not only do they contain large amounts of healthy omega-3s, which may also support eye health, but shrimp get their classic red-pink pigment from astaxanthin — a carotenoid found to be 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C and 100 times stronger than vitamin E without containing the same negative side effects as other antioxidants and carotenoids.³⁸ Most krill oil supplements cost around $30 per month — or roughly as much as a saffron supplement — but you can get Costco brand Kirkland Signature krill oil supplements for a mere $0.16 per serving, too.
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