Anyone who struggles with depression can feel trapped by the condition. Unfortunately, the conventional drugs commonly used to treat it can cause side effects that feel just as confining.
While prescriptions can be helpful, they aren’t the only option. In fact, clinical research increasingly shows that time-tested natural medicines can be incredibly effective, but without creating other issues that can complicate, or even worsen, depression symptoms. Saffron (Crocus sativus) is one of them.
This clinical study focused on two things: depressive symptoms and food cravings, which frequently occur together. For twelve weeks, women who struggled with depression, weight, and food cravings received 30 mg of saffron or a placebo each day.
Saffron significantly reduced depression symptoms, although in this case, it did not reduce food cravings although past research has shown that saffron can have that effect, and participants lost weight.
However, while no direct results were seen for reducing the urge to eat or in weight, the researchers in this study do consider saffron to be a safe and effective alternative to people dealing with mild to moderate depression. And once those symptoms are under control, other aspects of life seem much easier to address, too.
Akhondzadeh S, Mostafavi SA, Keshavarz SA, Mohammadi MR, Hosseini S, Eshraghian MR. A placebo controlled randomized clinical trial of Crocus sativus L. (saffron) on depression and food craving among overweight women with mild to moderate depression. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2020;45(1):134-143.
What is known and objective: Crocus sativus L., commonly known as saffron, has known anti-depressive properties. However, its effects on food craving and body weight in depressed patients are unknown. Hence, we aimed to evaluate the effects of saffron capsules on food craving, body weight and depression among overweight women with mild and moderate depression compared to the placebo.
Methods: Seventy-three women with BMI ≥ 25 comorbid with mild-to-moderate depression were recruited in this 12-week double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial. Participants were randomly assigned into one of the two groups receiving daily either 30 mg of Crocus sativus capsules (15 mg twice/day) or placebo capsules (twice/day). We performed body composition assessments, and beck depression inventory-II at the baseline, and then 2, 4, 8 and 12 weeks later. One month after the participants stopped taking the capsules, weight differences were measured and compared between groups.
Results and discussion: Fifty-two patients finished the study. The demographic and clinical variables at baseline were the same in two groups. Mean depression scores in the saffron group significantly decreased compared to placebo (mean ± SD: -8.4 score ± 5.9 vs -3.9 ± 5.5; t = 2; P = .007; 95% CI: 1.3-7.7). There was not a significant effect of saffron on food craving using repeated-measures ANOVA, F(1, 29) = 0.38, P = .54. Patients in the saffron group showed fewer side effects.
What is new and conclusion: Saffron capsules were not effective in reducing food craving, but as a safe over-the-counter supplement, it may help reduce the symptoms of depression in patients who experience mild or moderate depression and are overweight.
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