An investigation into an evening intake of a saffron extract (affron®) on sleep quality, cortisol, and melatonin concentrations in adults with poor sleep: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-dose study

Sleep Med. 2021 Oct:86:7-18. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2021.08.001. Epub 2021 Aug 11.


Objective/background: To validate and extend on previous positive findings of the sleep-enhancing effects of saffron supplementation in adults with unsatisfactory sleep.

Patients/methods: In this 28-day, 3-arm, parallel-group, double-blind, randomised controlled trial, 120 adults with unsatisfactory sleep received either a placebo, 14 mg, or 28 mg of a standardised saffron extract (affron®), 1 h before bed. Outcome measures included the Pittsburgh Sleep Diary (with sleep quality ratings as the primary outcome measure), Insomnia Symptom Questionnaire (ISQ), Profile of Mood States, Restorative Sleep Questionnaire, the Functional Outcomes of Sleep Questionnaire, and evening salivary melatonin and cortisol concentrations.

Results: Compared to the placebo, saffron supplementation was associated with greater improvements in sleep quality ratings (primary outcome measure), mood ratings after awakening, the ISQ total score, and ISQ-insomnia classifications. However, there were no significant differences between the saffron and placebo groups in other questionnaire and sleep diary outcome measures. Sleep improvements were similar for the two administered saffron doses. Compared to the placebo, saffron supplementation was associated with increases in evening melatonin concentrations but did not affect evening cortisol. Saffron supplementation was well-tolerated with no reported significant adverse effects.

Conclusions: These results provide further validation of the sleep-enhancing effects of 28-days of saffron supplementation in adults with unsatisfactory sleep. Further research is required to examine the efficacy and safety of saffron supplementation using objective sleep measures, over a longer duration, in people presenting with a diagnosed insomnia disorder and other psychogenic and demographic characteristics, and into its potential sleep-enhancing mechanisms of action.

Keywords: Herbs; Insomnia; Saffron; Sleep; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Crocus*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Melatonin*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Plant Extracts
  • Melatonin
  • Hydrocortisone

Associated data

  • ANZCTR/ACTRN12620000973910