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An analysis of studies show Saffron is a powerful tool for depression

Thursday October 18, 2018

The vibrant red spice saffron (Crocus sativus) has a long history of medicinal use, among them is the use of this unique herbal plant for improving mood and mental health.  Modern science has sought to confirm many of its ancient and traditional assertions.  In fact, recent findings suggest saffron can be a powerful tool in depression.

 

 


Depression is a common, serious mental health condition.  It is suggested to be the leading cause of disability worldwide and at its worst Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) can lead to suicide.  Despite the range of psychological and prescription treatments available there are severe barriers to treatment, such as the social stigma around depression[1].


As well as being used widely as a spice to enhance food flavours, saffron is a notable herbal medicine with benefits reported as anti-convulsant, anti-inflammatory, preventative from oxidative damage, besides learning and memory enhancement, but also as a treatment for depression.  


Recently more studies on the treatment of MDD with saffron have emerged, subsequently Yang et al of The First Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University, China, conducted a meta-analysis designed to provide an overview of the current evidence and an up to date conclusion on the use of saffron for treating MDD in adults.

 


Seven studies were analysed that either compared the effects of saffron to a placebo or anti-depressant medication.  The saffron treatments administered 30mg daily for 6 to 12 weeks.  The results showed that saffron is an effective treatment of adult MDD and produces relief comparable to anti-depressant medication[2].


The exact mechanisms by which these benefits are enjoyed are not fully understood, but it is suggested that the unique bioactives of saffron improve neurotransmitter balance.  Although, more research is necessary to reveal the mechanisms that play a role in the relief of depression, clinical guidelines by the Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments recommended saffron, 20-30mg daily for 6-8 weeks as a third-line additional therapy for mild to moderate depression[3].


The outstanding ability of saffron to perform in a comparable manner to anti-depressant medication provides the patient with a treatment option that is free from side effects.  Anti-depressants can exert side effects that include sexual disfunction, gastrointestinal upset, nausea, increased appetite and fatigue.  In fact, studies have shown a reprieve of anti-depressant associated sexual dysfunction in both males and females through the use of saffron[4] [5].


To date this is the most recent analysis of evidence for Saffron use in depression.  While there may be a need for further long-term research, it cannot be denied that Saffron is an effective treatment in adult depression combined with its excellent safety history and lack of side effects.

Author: Jenny Cardson is a Nutritional Practitioner and Technical Supervisor at Viridian Nutrition. She holds a BSc honours degree in Nutritional Science.  


[1] World Health Organisation, (2018) Depression [Online] http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression Accessed: 28 September 2018.

[2] Yang X, et al. (2018) Comparative efficacy and safety of Crocus sativus L. for treating mild to moderate major depressive disorder in adults: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 14:1297-1305.

[3] Ravindran AV, et al. (2016) Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT) 2016 clinical guidelines for the management of adults with major depressive disorder: Section 5. Complementary and alternative medicine treatments. Can J Psychiatry. 61(9):576–587.

[4] Kashani L, et al. (2013) Saffron for treatment of fluoxetine-induced sexual dysfunction in women: randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study. Hum Psychopharmacol. 28(1):54–60.

[5] Modabbernia A, et al. (2012) Effect of saffron on fluoxetine-induced sexual impairment in men: randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Psychopharmacology. 223(4):381–88.

The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.

 

TAGS: Nutrition News and ViewsBrain, Mood

 

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