According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, an estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. That’s almost 7 percent of all American adults.
While conventional medications are currently part of standard treatment, they can cause side effects in a number of the people who use them. Fortunately, research shows that there are effective botanical ingredients that work along multiple pathways to reduce depression symptoms without creating complications. Curcumin from turmeric (Curcuma longa) and saffron (Crocus sativus) are two of them.
Both inhibit inflammation which is implicated in depression. Saffron balances hormones associated with moods and can help keep emotions running at an even pitch. That means that a combination of the two could have a synergy with a broad spectrum of anti-inflammatory action. And, in fact, that is what a clinical study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found.
In this study, low dosage curcumin, high dosage curcumin, and a low dosage curcumin and saffron combination were compared to a placebo for their ability to relieve the symptoms of MMD. What was interesting about this study was that even at lower doses, people responded very well to curcumin or a combination of saffron and curcumin. The botanical dosages effectively helped relieve symptoms of depression and accompanying anxiety for individuals in the test groups. Like previous trials using curcumin alone, individuals with atypical depression – a difficult to treat condition – also saw their symptoms decrease. The researchers noted that results may be even stronger for people who can start using saffron and curcumin at an earlier onset of symptoms.
One thing to note here is that it didn’t take a lot of saffron to be an effective dose – only 15 mg twice daily combined with 250 mg twice daily of curcumin was sufficient to make a very positive change.
Lopresti AL, Drummond PD. Efficacy of curcumin, and a saffron/curcumin combination for the treatment of major depression: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Affect Disord. 2017 Jan 1;207:188-196.
BACKGROUND: Several studies have supported the antidepressant effects of curcumin (from the spice turmeric) and saffron for people with major depressive disorder. However, these studies have been hampered by poor designs, small sample sizes, short treatment duration, and similar intervention dosages. Furthermore, the antidepressant effects of combined curcumin and saffron administration are unknown.
METHODS: In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 123 individuals with major depressive disorder were allocated to one of four treatment conditions, comprising placebo, low-dose curcumin extract (250mg b.i.d.), high-dose curcumin extract (500mg b.i.d.), or combined low-dose curcumin extract plus saffron (15mg b.i.d.) for 12 weeks. The outcome measures were the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology self-rated version (IDS-SR30) and Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).
RESULTS: The active drug treatments (combined) were associated with significantly greater improvements in depressive symptoms compared to placebo (p=.031), and superior improvements in STAI-state (p<.001) and STAI-trait scores (p=.001). Active drug treatments also had greater efficacy in people with atypical depression compared to the remainder of patients (response rates of 65% versus 35% respectively, p=.012). No differences were found between the differing doses of curcumin or the curcumin/saffron combination.
LIMITATIONS: Investigations with larger sample sizes are required to examine the efficacy of differing doses of curcumin and saffron/curcumin combination. Its effects in people with atypical depression also require examination in larger scale studies.
CONCLUSIONS: Active drug treatments comprising differing doses of curcumin and combined curcumin/saffron were effective in reducing depressive and anxiolytic symptoms in people with major depressive disorder.
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