Feeling stressed? Are you a hard charger in your career and demand top performance of yourself, but sometimes feel the blues, can’t sleep well due to anxiety, or just don’t seem to often feel “up”? Then you are are experiencing what tens of millions of Americans do every day. Our on the go, always on, online and available by cellphone lives can make you feel drained. And for women reading this, of course you can identify with the periodic visits of not feeling with it, or the swings that go with menopausal symptoms.
Fortunately, adding a simple crimson spice, saffron, to your daily diet can work wonders. Now, you might be thinking, “Saffron…yum, that aromatic aromatic condiment for Persian rice or Spanish Paella can give me a feeling of well-being?” And the answer, according to multiple clinical studies, is a strong yes! Studies have shown that saffron can help lift mood, reduce depression, and help reduce anxiety, which can lead to better sleep.
Sometimes referred to as “Red Gold” because it is the world’s most expensive spice by weight, saffron has a long history of medicinal uses. In fact, it is used in Persian traditional medicine to treat depression. But how does saffron compare to commercial drugs for treating depression?
In an early small double-blind, randomized clinical trial of saffron vs Prozac done in 2005, researchers gave 20 participants capsules containing saffron and 20 participants capsules containing fluoxetine (Prozac) over a six-week period. As the test progressed, participants in both groups had a significant—and approximately equal–drop in symptoms of depression.
Yes, that’s right, the saffron appeared to perform as well as the commercial drug, without the side effects in men (about 20% of the men taking the Prozac experienced ED as a result).
In 2008, saffron was tested on women with PMS symptoms. In a double-blind randomized and placebo-controlled clinical trial done over six months, women were given either a capsule containing saffron or one containing nothing. Over the period of the trial the women taking the saffron reported significant drops in PMS symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, depression, mood swings and feelings of being out of control, insomnia, confusion, headaches, crying and fatigue, and less pain. It seems we’re onto something here.
Since then, there have been many more randomized clinical trials comparing saffron to traditional antidepressants or vs a placebo. A systematic review published in 2019 by Oxford Academic of 23 of these studies gives the conclusion that saffron is as effective as the commercial drugs without the (sometimes serious) side effects of the drugs.
So, what will it be: an expensive drug with potential serious side effects or a natural spice that adds wonderful flavor to your foods and has no serious adverse effects?
- Oxford Academic Systematic Review of 23 Studies:
“Effect of saffron supplementation on symptoms of depression and anxiety: a systematic review and meta-analysis” 2019
Wolfgang Marx, Melissa Lane, Tetyana Rocks, Anu Ruusunen, Amy Loughman, Adrian Lopresti, Skye Marshall, Michael Berk, Felice Jacka, Olivia M Dean
- Comparison of Saffron versus Fluoxetine in Treatment of Mild to Moderate Postpartum Depression: A Double-Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial
L Kashani, S Eslatmanesh , N Saedi, N Niroomand , M Ebrahimi, M Hosseinian, T Foroughifar, S Salimi, S Akhondzadeh
- Hydro-alcoholic extract of Crocus sativus L. versus fluoxetine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized pilot trial. 2005
A A Noorbala, S Akhondzadeh, N Tahmacebi-Pour, A H Jamshidi
- Crocus sativus L. (saffron) in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: a double-blind, randomised and placebo-controlled trial. 2008
M Agha-Hosseini, L Kashani, A Aleyaseen, A Ghoreishi, H Rahmanpour, A R Zarrinara, S Akhondzadeh
- The effects of Crocus sativus (saffron) and its constituents on nervous system: A review
Mohammad Reza Khazdair, Mohammad Hossein Boskabady, Mahmoud Hosseini,Ramin Rezaee, and Aristidis M. Tsatsakis