In a recent study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the addition of saffron to standard pharmaceutical antidepressants was investigated in people suffering from depression.
Forty adults diagnosed with depression were randomly allocated into one of two groups. One group received a pharmaceutical antidepressant plus crocin capsules (a major component from the spice saffron) while the other group received a pharmaceutical antidepressant plus placebo capsules. This was a double-blind study, which meant that neither the researchers nor participants knew which group they were allocated into.
After 4 weeks of treatment, people on the antidepressant plus crocin capsules experienced significantly greater improvements in mood, compared to the antidepressant and placebo treated group. The crocin group experienced a 42% reduction in depressive symptoms after 4 weeks, whereas the placebo group only experienced a 16% reduction in depressive symptoms. People on the crocin capsules also reported greater reductions in anxiety and several other mental health symptoms.
This is the first study investigating the effects of treating depressed individuals with saffron and pharmaceutical antidepressants. The positive findings mean that people on antidepressants could potentially be treated with lower-dose antidepressants meaning a lower likelihood of side effects. Antidepressants are commonly associated with side effects which often increase in severity with higher doses. Further research is required to replicate this study with a larger sample size, but it provides further validation for the antidepressant effects of saffron.
Talaei , A., et al (2015) Crocin, the main active saffron constituent, as an adjunctive treatment in major depressive disorder: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, pilot clinical trial. Journal of affective disorders, 174, 51–56.