Saffron petal effective for mild-moderate depression.
Previous controlled studies from Iran have revealed that Crocus sativus (saffron) possesses significant antidepressant activity. Saffron is the world's most expensive spice and has previously been reported to exert anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antioxidant and antispasmodic actions, via it main constituents: volatile oils, carotenoids and polysaccarides.
This six week trial involved forty adults with DSM-IV diagnosed depression, being quantified as having a score of at least 18 on the Hamiliton Depression Scale. Subjects were given 30 mg of saffron petal twice a day or placebo in tablet form. The results revealed that after 6 weeks of treatment the saffron group had a significantly better outcome than the placebo group (p<0.001). A highly significant change was demonstrated with the saffron group having a mean reduction of-14.01 [+ or -] 5.53 compared to placebo groups reduction of -5.05 [+ or -] 4.63 (p<0.0001).
The side effect profile of saffron petals was comparable to placebo although there was a trend towards the herb causing more mild reactions such as anxiety, nausea, tremor, headaches and tachycardia; these events are similar to the side effects from various synthetic antidepressants.
Comment: The novelty of this trial is that while previous studies used the stamen of Crocus sativus (which accounts for the expense of the spice saffron), this trial used the less expensive part, the petals, and demonstrated albeit in a small sample that it is an effective and cost effective antidepressant.
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