Saffron may treat post COVID-19 symptoms, suggest Kashmiri scientists

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A team of scientists in Kashmir has suggested that saffron — the world’s costliest spice — can be used as a treatment for post-COVID symptoms but said further research is warranted.

The claim has been made by the scientists of the Division of Plant Biotechnology at Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) and their study was published recently on Heliyon, an open-access journal publishing research works across life, physical, social, and medical sciences.

“Saffron has been proven beneficial to deal with symptoms similar to COVID-19 such as dry cough, sore throat, headache, dizziness and confusion etcetera,” said Amjad Hussaini, one of the co-authors and Senior Assistant Professor in the Division of Plant Biotechnology.

“Saffron can play a role in fighting diseases like bronchitis and asthma. That is why we thought of exploring its uses further,” he said.

Hussaini, along with Khan Nadiya Jan and Gowher Wani, in their research paper said that saffron “is a natural product that could help alleviate the symptoms of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (COVID-19) patients”.

“Our study is clearly based on previous studies. We have clearly mentioned saffron as a suitable candidate and people should conduct research over it. It is not the solution but it can play a role in the COVID-19 management,” Hussaini said.

During the study, the researchers found out that “the efficacy of saffron in depression management is comparable with drugs like fluoxetine, imipramine, citalopram”.

“During the post-COVID phase, 30 to 40 percent of people discharged from hospitals suffer from depression. They often get symptoms like anxiety, sleeplessness etcetera due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Saffron can even be used for that,” said Hussaini.

The paper noted that saffron has been confirmed as an antiviral, antioxidant, bronchodilator, anti-inflammatory, and a strong immune booster acting on humoral as well as cellular immunity as per many vitro and vivo studies. “Saffron can be used to manage stress and anxiety during prolonged lockdown, isolation, and quarantine,” read the paper.

As COVID-19 acts more severely on individuals with weak immunity, a robust immune system can help reduce the severity of the viral infection and subsequent disease response, read the study.

“People need to work on their defense mechanism against COVID19 and they should try and improve their immunity. Saffron is an immunomodulator i.e., it improves immunity,” Hussaini told The Kashmir Walla.

Saffron reduces inflammation by inhibiting cyclooxygenase enzyme activity. As per the study, this property can help tackle excessive lung inflammation in SARS-CoV-2 patients due to the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines.

As per the study, strong scientific evidence exists for the antiviral effects of saffron. “Antiviral effects of saffron have been tested and it was found that the saffron extract shows mild activity while crocin and picrocrocin indicated significant anti-HSA-1 and anti-HIV-1 activities. Both crocin and picrocrocin were found to be effective for inhibiting the virus entry as well as its replication,” the research paper read further.

Through the study, Hussaini said that the group of researchers has tried to create awareness about the benefits of saffron through previously conducted researches. “The drug formulation industries and researchers working on drug designing have got a lead that they should try and work on saffron,” he added.

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