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Mellow Yellow for Muscles

What if a daily dose of a certain supplement had greater impact on delayed-onset muscle soreness than an anti-inflammatory drug and actually increased muscle strength? What if it also happened to be derived from among the most expensive spices in the world? Still worth it?

Findings from a small study published last spring in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine (2015 [25], 1–5–12) showed that a daily dose of dried saffron powder (300 milligrams per day) taken over 10 days had a greater preventive effect on DOMS in nonactive men than either a placebo or thrice-daily 25 mg doses of an anti-inflammatory drug. The doses began 1 week before and ended 3 days after the muscle soreness protocol (eccentric exercise).

  • Thirty-nine nonactive male
    university students aged around 18 were randomly divided into saffron (n = 12), indomethacin (n = 12) and control (n = 15) groups. They were tested in a controlled research lab, with
    a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, pretest– posttest study design.
  • Ten days before and 24, 48 and 72 hours after the muscle soreness protocol, the researchers measured the students’ maximum isometric and isotonic forces, plasma creatine kinase (CK), plasma lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), perceived pain, knee range of motion and thigh circumference. The students performed the protocol with
    a weight load equal to 80% of maximum isotonic force; they completed four sessions, each with 20 repetitions, and rested 3 minutes between sessions.
  • The study authors reported that 10-day supplementation with 300 mg of saffron significantly decreased CK and LDH concentrations. In the saffron group, there was no decline in maximum isometric and isotonic foces after eccentric exercise, but a significant decline in isometric force was observed in the control group. No pain was reported in the saffron group, whereas the indomethacin group experienced pain within 72 hours.

Saffron threads, which must be dried before they are ground into powder, come from Crocus sativus, a flower cultivated for culinary and medicinal use in specific climates around the world. The three stigmas from each flower are hand harvested and amount to just 7 mg of dried product. Each 300 mg capsule used in the study would have required the stigmas from about 43 flowers!

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