Saffron versus anti-depressants – Natures way of uplifting our mood

Many of us either take them ourselves or we know of someone who does, but antidepressant drugs seem to becoming more common than ever before. They are known to produce some not so great side effects, but what if there was a way in which you could potentially treat depression, naturally, without the side effects?

On-going studies are revealing the power of saffron as a natural anti-depressant with increasing number of studies showing that this prized spice may in fact work as well as common prescribed medications.

Dried saffron spice and Saffron flowers

A quick background to Saffron & its use in traditional medicine

Saffron (Crocus sativus), the expensive culinary spice handpicked from the stigmas of crocus flowers, have been used for traditional Persian medicine for centuries – treating people with depression, pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), improving male fertility, improving sight drastically in elderly people  – and as a potential prevention of cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Recent research into saffron and its treatment of depression and anxiety 

Results from numerous studies indicate that saffron supplementation (~30mg/day) reduces depression in adults with s

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imilar effectiveness as common antidepressant groups (i.e imipramine, citalopram and fluoxetine).

Saffron’s ability to produce antidepressant and uplifting properties is due to its high B vitamins (especially B6 and B12) and carotenoid content. Carotenoids are a family of antioxidants that help to protect omega-3’s which in turn are protecting our neural tissue in the brain that once damaged, is hard to repair and can lead to depression. The B-Vitamins are involved in the conversion of the amino acid found in proteins; tryptophan, into serotonin – also known as the happy hormone.

Recommended dosage, cautions and interactions

Studies show that around 30mg/day for 6-8 weeks should see results in lowering symptoms of depression.

If you prefer to take saffron naturally, rather than as a supplement, dosages of 1.5g appear to be safe. Either add to your main meal by flavouring your rice, or even stir into warmed milk each day, but do not exceed more than 5g in one single dose.

If you are pregnant then saffron should be avoided but always check with your doctor or health care professional first. Those with bipolar disorder should also avoid taking too much saffron as it may induce mania or hypomania due to its interaction with serotonin.



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Wang, Y., Han, T., Zhu, Y., Zheng, C.J., Ming, Q.L., Rahman, K., Qin, L.P (2010) Antidepressant properties of bioactive fractions from the extract of Crocus Sativus L. J Nat med 64(1):24-30

Hausenblas, H.A., Saha, D., Dubyak, P.J., Anton, S.D (2013) Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and major depressive disorder: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. J Integr Med  11(6):377-383

M, Shafiee., S, Arekhi, S., Omranzadeh, A., Sahebkar, A (2017) Saffron in the treatment of depression, anxiety and other mental disorders: Current evidence and potential mechanisms of action. J Affect Disord 7(227):330-337

Agha-Hosseini, M., Kashani, L., Alevaseen, A., Ghoreishi, A., Rahmanpour, H., Zarrinara, A.R., Akhondzadeh, S (2008) Crocus sativus L. (Saffron) in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: a double-blind, randomised and placebo-controlled trial. BJOG 115(4): 515-519

Akhondzadeh, S., Shafiee, S.M., Harirchia, M.H., Togha, M., Cheraghmakani, H., Razeghi, S., Hejazi, S.S., Yousefi M.H., Alimardani, R., Jamshidi, A., Rezaadeh, S.A., Yousefi, A., Zare, F., Moradi, A., Vossoughi, A (2010) A 22 week, multicenter, randomized double blind controlled trial of crocus sativus in the treament of milkd to moderate alzhimers disease. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 207(4):637-643

Heidary, M., Vahhabi, S., Reza Nejadi, J., Delfan, B., Birjandi, M., Kaviani, H., Givrad, S (2008) Effect of saffron on semen parameters of infertile men. Urol J 5(4):255-259

Maccarone, R., Di Marco, S., Bisti, S (2008) Saffron supplement maintains morhphology and function after exposure to damaging light in mammalian retina. Invest ophthalmol Vis Sci 49(3):1254-1261


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