Saffron therapy for the treatment of mild/moderate age-related macular degeneration: a randomised clinical trial

Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2019 Jan;257(1):31-40. doi: 10.1007/s00417-018-4163-x. Epub 2018 Oct 20.


Purpose: To assess the efficacy and safety of oral saffron, a natural antioxidant, in treating mild/moderate age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Methods: Randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled crossover trial of 100 adults (> 50 years) with mild/moderate AMD and vision > 20/70 Snellen equivalent in at least one eye. Exclusion criteria included confounding visual lesions, or significant gastrointestinal disease impairing absorption. Participants were given oral saffron supplementation (20 mg/day) for 3 months or placebo for 3 months, followed by crossover for 3 months. Participants already consuming Age-Related Eye Diseases Study (AREDS) supplements or equivalent maintained these. Primary outcomes included changes in best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) and changes in multifocal electroretinogram (mfERG) response density and latency. Secondary outcomes included safety outcomes and changes in mfERG and BCVA amongst participants on AREDS supplements.

Results: Mean BCVA improved 0.69 letters (p = 0.001) and mean-pooled mfERG latency reduced 0.17 ms (p = 0.04) on saffron compared to placebo. Amongst participants on AREDS supplements, mean BCVA improved 0.73 letters p = 0.006) and mean-pooled mfERG response density improved 2.8% (p = 0.038). There was no significant difference in adverse event occurrence (p > 0.10).

Conclusion: Saffron supplementation modestly improved visual function in participants with AMD, including those using AREDS supplements. Given the chronic nature of AMD, longer-term supplementation may produce greater benefits.

Keywords: Age-related macular degeneration; Clinical trials; Electroretinogram; Nutritional supplementation; Saffron.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Crocus*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electroretinography
  • Female
  • Fluorescein Angiography
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Fundus Oculi
  • Humans
  • Macula Lutea / pathology*
  • Macular Degeneration / diagnosis
  • Macular Degeneration / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Visual Acuity*