Saffron is the dried elongated stigmas and styles of the blue-purple saffron flower (Crocus sativus L.). In traditional medicine, it has been used as a remedy for many ailments. As far back as the times of Galen and Hippocrates, saffron was believed to be a medical treatment for coughs, colds, stomach ailments, insomnia, uterine bleeding, scarlet fever, heart trouble, and flatulence.
The saffron stigmas contain four major bioactive compounds known as crocin, crocetin, picrocrocin, and safranal. It is these constituents that are believed to be associated with its medicinal effects.
There have now been over a dozen clinical trials investigating the antidepressant effects of saffron in people with depression. These studies have confirmed that saffron is more effective than a placebo for the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression, and several studies have confirmed that saffron is as effective as the antidepressants, Prozac® and Tofranil®. In two recently published reviews and meta-analyses (a statistical procedure that combines the results of all published studies), it was confirmed that saffron is an effective natural option for the treatment of depression, and is as effective as antidepressant medications1,2.
The results of 4 clinical studies investigating the antidepressant effects of saffron in adults with depression are detailed in the slides below.