3.4.18 Saffron

Saffron #

Binomial / Botanical Name Crocus Sativus
Street Names Saffron
Major Active Compound Crocin; Crocetin; Picrocrocin; Safranal;
Indigenous Source Iran; Greece; Mesopotamia
Form Threads (Plant Matter)
RoA Oral
Personal Rating On Shulgin Scale +**


According to the Pharmacy Times, saffron (derived from crocus sativus) is the world’s most expensive spice. Whilst generally used for its colour, taste and smell I have recently encountered a number of claims that it has psychoactive properties.

For example, crocus-sativus.com states that “Saffron is also capable of relieving stress and both physical and mental pain”, whilst entheology.com claims that “In the 18th and 19th centuries, saffron was used as an inebriant, with the effects said to resemble those of opium.” Even webmd.com weighs in with “Saffron contains chemicals that alter mood, kill cancer cells, decrease swelling, and act like antioxidants.

Sourcing this was definitely a bit of a lottery. I started with Amazon. There were dozens of options; some extremely expensive. However, all seemed to have a percentage of reviews claiming lack of authenticity, which was a concern. In the end I plumped for one which had amongst the fewest (as a percentage).

Dosage was extremely difficult to establish. In some cases saffron was sold as an extract or part of a supplement, whilst in others a dose for daily use was suggested, which is outside my modus operandi. Indeed, reference doses for one-off use of traditional raw saffron were almost conspicuous by their absence.

Some sources also referred to the risk of overdose. This from examine.com: “Using saffron in food will provide the same effects as supplementation, since saffron supplements are dehydrated extracts of the spice. Saffron does not have a high margin of safety, so care should be taken during supplementation. The standard daily dose is 30mg, used for up to eight weeks. It is possible that even double the dose could result in harm to the body.” However, this is countered by websites such as drugs.com, which suggest that much higher doses carry minimal risk, at least on a single occasion.

I decide to pitch at about 250mg, and start to brew as tea in my Joy Division mug. The water turns an orangey colour and I begin to sip at 2:45pm. Time will tell whether I will be mad about saffron, as per Donovan’s Mellow Yellow.

Interestingly enough, 20 minutes in I begin to feel a little… mellow. This is still in placebo range but my disposition is now more content than it was earlier.

Heading towards 45 minutes there does seem to be an anxiolytic property in play; a sort of heady drifty mood lift, albeit quite minor in nature. This gentle serenity is subtle, and would possibly go unnoticed if I was out and about, rather than relaxing into it. Over the next few hours this slowly fades, whilst leaving behind a better frame of mind.

Overall, I didn’t expect fireworks, and I didn’t find any. However, there did seem to be mild glow to this which mitigated rough edges and stress. This was more discernible than I expected it to be, such that should I encounter it on my travels to one of its indigenous locales I will certainly sample it again.