Saffron, a spice that’s only found in Southeast Asia, is known for its bright orange color and bitter flavor that improves the flavor of different dishes. Aside from being a spice, saffron also has a history of being used as a medicinal spice. It is after all rich in carotenoids, where it owes its bright orange hue. Depression is just one of the conditions that can be remedied by the use of saffron.
Saffron extract on mice
According to a 2010 Chinese study published in the Journal of Natural Medicines, saffron extract has been shown to have anti-depressant effects when used on mice. It was noted that the mice appeared active in stressful conditions even though they remained calm in non-stressful events. This implied that saffron had stress-adaptation benefits as well as a bioactive compound called crocin 1. Apparently, this bioactive compound is what’s responsible for stress-adaptation.
Saffron vs. fluoxetine
Before that, a 2007 Iranian study found on Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry determined that saffron was as effective as fluoxetine. Fluoxetine is a drug used for the treatment of mild to moderate cases of depression. The study was conducted over an 8-week period where the participants were given 15mg of saffron extract two times a day. Results showed that there was a 25% remission rate from the saffron and fluoxetine groups. There was also a fair amount of side effects present.
Saffron and PMS
In 2008, an Iranian study determined that saffron can be used to treat depression associated with premenstrual syndrome or PMS. The study involved women from the 20-45 age group; each one was given 30mg of saffron extract per day continuing for their next two menstrual cycles. The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale was used to measure the effects of saffron on the individuals. According to the results of this particular study, there was a significant reduction in depression associated with PMS.
Saffron extract may well be effective as an alternative treatment to depression, but the quality of the saffron extract is still relevant. A German study stated this in the June 2008 publication of Planta Medica. This study revealed that there is a difference in the concentration of bioactive components when extracted using different methods. Apparently, the bioactive component found in saffron can bind to NMDA, which is the nerve receptor associated with learning, memory, and forms of depression. Unfortunately, inadequate or improper extraction methods used on the preparation of saffron products may result in the absence of the important bioactive compound. Ergo, the wrong method will not yield effective saffron extract products.