Welcome to the topic Is saffron a natural antidepressant?
Patients seeking natural therapies over traditional medications are fueling the field of integrative psychiatry’s rapid growth. According to a 2010 survey, most integrative medicine consultations are for mental health issues, with depression being the most common.
We’ll look at how saffron treats depression and as a natural antidepressant in the paragraphs below.
Saffron is the dried stigma of the crocus Sativa plant, and it has long been used in Eastern medicine to treat a variety of diseases, including depression. It takes a lot of time and effort to grow the stigmas, which contain components that are thought to have medicinal effects. Stigmas contain four bioactive compounds: crocins and crocetins, which give saffron its distinctive deep yellow color; picrocrocin, which gives it its bitter flavor; and safranin, which gives it its hay-like aroma. Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, serotonergic, neuroendocrine, and neuroprotective properties are all exhibited by these substances.
An early meta-analysis of six double-blind RCTs including 230 people with major depressive disorder (MDD), all conducted in Iran, provided solid evidence for saffron’s antidepressant efficacy. Saffron dosed at 30 mg per day was compared to conventional antidepressants or placebo in all investigations. Saffron was compared to placebo in two studies, fluoxetine 20 mg daily in three, and imipramine 100 mg daily in one. The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD) decreased significantly overall, but no statistical significance across groups.
Since then, more research has been published. In patients with mild to moderate symptoms, a randomized controlled study (RCT) comparing citalopram to saffron demonstrated benefits in depression and anxiety over six weeks, as judged by the HAMD and the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAMA). Over 12 weeks, another double-blind RCT compared a slightly greater dose of saffron (50 mg daily) to a placebo in mild to moderate MDD patients. The Beck Depression Inventory revealed a statistically significant reduction in depression (BDI).
Notably, none of these saffron investigations found any significant side effects. One study tested its cardioprotective properties in patients with concomitant depression and past post-percutaneous coronary procedures. Crocin scavenging free radicals, exhibiting antioxidant properties, and producing hypotensive effects were proposed as the underlying mechanism.
Saffron dosed at 15 mg twice daily has demonstrated similar efficacy to standard antidepressants in numerous minor studies. This discovery, however, was only seen in patients with unipolar depression that was mild to moderate in intensity. The precise adverse effects, long-term outcomes, and viability for use in comorbid populations or on complex regimens have not been investigated. It’s worth noting that 4 to 6 weeks were necessary for any discernible improvement in all of the research. It’s also worth noting that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) trials in mild to moderate depression have produced outcomes comparable to those of traditional antidepressants and saffron studies. Supplements containing saffron are not inexpensive. It costs $120 per ounce on the internet, which equates to 280 dosages and around 86 cents per day, or $26 per month—twice the price of an SSRI medication.
The bottom line
The current data suggest that saffron may have antidepressant properties. If saffron is subjected to extensive safety and efficacy testing and receives FDA approval. In that situation, it could be a viable alternative for individuals with unipolar mild-moderate depression who have failed to respond to antidepressants or cognitive behavioral therapy.
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