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Saffron & Low Mood

Membership, Mental health

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Important Note

Remember that if you are considering using a supplement – you should discuss it with your healthcare team. Your healthcare team – whether your GI or IBD dietitian – can help double check for any potential interactions that you need to be aware of.

Also, low mood and anxiety could be signs that we need to look at other factors of nutrition like nutrient deficiencies and overall intake. Vitamin D is one of the more well known nutrients that when low can impact mood.

Lastly, remember if you find yourself in need of further support reach out to a therapist as well.

Herb Focus: Saffron

Saffron is a beautiful herb that is used as a spice in cooking and is gaining a lot of traction in its use as a mood supportive herb. Saffron is thought to have this beneficial effect through it’s modulation of neurotransmitters such as:

  • Dopamine, that contributes to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction
  • Serotonin, which is the body’s natural “feel good” chemical
  • Norepinephrine, which increases alertness, attention and arousal

Both rat and human studies have confirmed this anti-depressant effect. In a double blind randomized human trial, forty adults diagnosed with major depression were divided into two groups- placebo group and the saffron group. The saffron group took 30 mg of a well absorbed saffron, twice daily. After 6 weeks:

  • Those taking saffron improved their score on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (used to access depression) by 56% compared to placebo which was 22%.

Saffron vs. Medications

Saffron also seems to fare pretty well when compared to common drugs such as Tofranil, Celexa and Prozac.

  • Tofranil- In a double blind trial, 30 patients with depression were divided into 2 groups- 100 mg of Tofranil group and 30 mg saffron group.
    • Results: After 6 weeks, both the drug and saffron were found to be equally beneficial. The only difference being side effects reported in the Tofranil group (dry mouth and tiredness)
  • Celexa- In a randomized study of 66 patients who had major depressive disorder and anxiety- one group took 40 mg of Celexa and the other 30 mg of saffron.
    • Results: After 6 weeks, both groups showed similar significant improvements in depression and anxiety scores. No side effects with either.
  • Prozac- In a double blind study of 40 adults with depression- one group took 20 mg of Prozac and the other 30 mg of saffron.
    • Results: After 6 weeks, saffron was shown to be as effective as Prozac for the treatment of mild to moderate depression. No side effects with either.

Written by: Ashley Hurst, MS, RD, LD