Saffron has fewer side effects and is just as effective in some cases.
The conclusions come from a review of six separate studies that included 230 clinically depressed patients.
Using saffron as an antidepressant was compared with both Prozac and Tofranil (generically known as fluoxetine and imipramine).
All the studies were high-quality randomised controlled trials — although they were small.
Dr Adrian Lopresti, the study’s first author, said:
“So far the literature shows saffron is as effective as pharmaceuticals.Pharmaceuticals can cause a wide range of side effects.
Saffron has had a number of really well designed, robust studies investigating its antidepressant properties and pretty much all the studies have been positive.”
Some of the most common side effects of pharmaceuticals are:
- and sexual problems.
“Saffron certainly had less severe side effects than pharmaceutical medication.It’s not yet known exactly why saffron works, but it is probably at least partly down to its antioxidant effect.
The most common side effect, which is really only minor, was digestive issues.”
Saffron contains crocin, which is an anti-inflammatory and crocetin, which is an antioxidant.
Dr Lopresti said:
“What’s been found in the literature over the last ten years is that people with depression have high levels of inflammation and free radical damage associated with oxidative stress.Dr Lopresti hopes to carry out further studies with more people and over longer periods, he said:
That led to interesting work looking into antioxidants and anti-inflammatories as antidepressants.”
“We need thousands of samples to get a good idea of the side effects, but so far it looks like there is a better safety profile for saffron.”
Supplements and dosage
The doses used in the studies were 15mg taken twice daily.
They should be taken for 6-8 weeks before making a decision about whether it is helping.
The study was published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental (Lopresti & Drummond et al., 2014).