A study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology suggests that Crocus sativus L., an extract from Spanish saffron is well tolerated when administrated with antidepressant drugs and may help reduce depression in adults with persistent depressive symptoms.

In an eight-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, adults with persistent depression, currently taking a pharmaceutical antidepressant were given a placebo or a saffron extract (Pharmactiveaffron, 14 mg twice daily). Of the 160 participants enrolled, 139 provided usable data. Based on the clinician-rated Montgomery–Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), depressive symptoms decreased more in participants taking saffron compared with a placebo, with reductions of 41% and 21%, respectively.

However, scores on the participants’ self-rated MADRS-S decreased 27% and 26% in the saffron and placebo conditions, respectively. Saffron was associated with a greater reduction in adverse effects of antidepressants, although this was non-significant after covarying for baseline values. Quality of life improved in both groups with no significant between-group differences.

The researchers concluded that “adjunctive administration of a standardized saffron extract for eight weeks was associated with a greater improvement in depressive symptoms as measured by the clinician-rated MADRS but not the self-report MADRS-S. Given the conflicting results, further research is needed to clarify the clinical benefits of saffron as an adjunctive treatment for adults with persistent depressive symptoms despite antidepressant drug treatment.”


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