More and more people suffer from depression today than ever before. Reports reveal that 1 in 10 US adults say they are suffering from depression and by 2020, depression is anticipated to be the world’s second-leading cause of disability. Negative side effects and dangers of psychiatric medications are two main drawbacks to conventional treatment programs for depression. Also, they do not often work. In fact, about 90% of patients endure at least one of the many serious side effects from these medications.
Therefore, natural healthcare providers and their patients are looking for a safer way to fight mood disorders. Saffron is a popular natural depression treatment. In fact, it seems to be as effective as common antidepressant pills like Prozac and Imipramine but without the adverse side effects.
This fascinating spice has been used to treat more than 90 diseases over 4,000 years. Saffron is the most costly spice in the world. Price estimates range from $1,000 to $5,000 per pound. The cost is extraordinary because it takes about 80,000 crocus flowers and a quarter million dried stigmas to deliver one pound of saffron. Moreover, the harvesting is not easy as well. It is done entirely by hand during just one to three weeks a year.
Saffron as Natural Antidepressant:
In traditional Persian medicine, saffron is used for depression. Several studies state that saffron relieves many psychiatric conditions.
Iranian researchers say that saffron may work in the same way that many antidepressants do. Two compounds in saffron (safranal and crocin) protect levels of several brain chemicals that boost and stabilize mood. These compounds may exert anti-depressant effects by keeping balanced levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Chinese scientist concluded that crocin was the active compound and should be considered as new plant substance for curing depression.
The Latest 2014 review of studies examined 14 studies which used saffron as an anti-depressant. Human studies show there is a benefit to both anxiety and depression.
In one study, researchers studied 40 people with mild to moderate depression divided into two groups; one took saffron (15mg x2 daily), the other fluoxetine (Prozac). As a result, after two months, saffron was as effective as Prozac.
In another study from Iran, one group took 30mg of saffron daily; the other received a placebo. After 6-weeks, the ‘saffron group’ had much lower score on the standard test for depression.
Another study saw an even stronger anti-depressant effect of this spice.
Saffron was even compared to a tricyclic antidepressant imipramine (Tofranil) and was shown to be just as effective as the drug and without the negative side effects.
”Findings from clinical trials conducted to date indicate that saffron supplementation can improve symptoms of depression in adults with major depression.”
”Findings from initial clinical trials suggest that saffron may improve the symptoms and the effects of depression, anxiety, premenstrual syndrome, sexual dysfunction, and infertility.”
More Uses and Benefits:
- Sexual Dysfunction (Studies show that saffron is effective in treating erectile dysfunction).
- Macular Degeneration (A study from Australian and Italian researchers shows that it helps slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and improves vision; also, it prevents retinal damage in animal studies).
- Pancreatic Cancer Stem Cells (Researchers found that crocetinic acid inhibited the growth of human pancreatic cancer cells).
- Alzheimer’s Disease (Saffron is as effective as the Alzheimer drug donepezil based on studies).
- Metabolic Syndrome (Saffron may significantly reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome).
- PMS (A study found saffron relieves symptoms of premenstrual syndrome).
- Menstrual Cramps (Significant reduction).
- Infertility (from Urology Journal – 50mg of saffron daily for three months, result: percentage of normally shaped sperm rose by 21%).
- Multiple Sclerosis (Pakistan researchers state that saffron may be potentially useful for the treatment of MS).
- Parkinson’s (Crocetin, a compound isolated from saffron is helpful in preventing Parkinsonism and has therapeutic potential in fighting this neurological disorder).
- Anxiety and Insomnia (In animal study, scientist found that saffron reduced anxiety-like activity and increased total sleep time).
- Memory loss (Saffron improved memory in animals – Findings from Behavioral Brain Research).
- Cancer (Researchers reviewed more than 30 studied on saffron and cancer and concluded that it may have potential to prevent and treat certain forms of cancer).
- Weight Loss (A 2010 study published by Elsevier found that taking saffron could help people control their compulsive eating – significant reduction in their snacking).
- Some More Possible Uses And Benefits: Inflammation, Stomach Problems, Pain Relief, Diabetes, Heart Health, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Potent Antioxidant, Asthma, Cough
Safety, Side Effects and Dosing:
Consuming saffron in higher doses can be dangerous.
For the treatment of mild to moderate depression and in premenstrual syndrome 30 mg daily in two divided doses is effective. Doses of up to 1.5 g per day of saffron appears to be safe; saffron poisoning symptoms appear after you take more than 5 g in a single dose; it may be lethal if taken as a 10-20 g dose.
Also, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid intake of saffron. As always, consult a medical professional or qualified herbalist before adding a powerful new component like this to your herbal regimen.
Remember, that in spite of saffron benefits, high doses can be potentially dangerous – you do not need much. Just a pinch is all you need for most dishes.
Avoid the ‘powder form’ and look for the complete stigmas or threads. The powders are often mixed with poor quality or other spices like turmeric. Saffron fakes are also quite common so be sure to get a genuine one.
If you would like to try saffron for depression, please talk to your doctor before changing or trying anything new. It would be best to work with a natural medicine practitioner who is well-educated on using herbals alongside medications.
- Healing Spices, Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD