New study shows saffron can treat depression in 12 to 16-year-olds, particularly girls.
The multibillion-dollar market for dietary supplements is filled with products that claim to boost mood or improve depression. Some products are even billed as an alternative to prescription antidepressants.
Don’t believe everything you read on a label. Often the claims made by supplement manufacturers aren’t backed up by solid scientific evidence. The potency and contents of supplements can vary widely, with some being anything but “natural”.
Serious depression generally requires professional help, whether or not that includes antidepressant medication.
That said, some supplements – such as St. John’s wort and SAMe (pronounced “Sammy”) – have been tested fairly extensively. And they may improve your symptoms if you experience mild depression or related conditions such as seasonal affective disorder.
Now an Australian study has shown that Saffron could help treat depression in 12 to 16-year-olds, particularly girls.
Compounds extracted from saffron, an ingredient for curries and paella, can help relieve low moods in adults. It can be as effective as Prozac and citalopram.
Psychologist Dr Adrian Lopresti, of Murdoch University, Perth, led the study of 80 children with low moods, irritability, stress and anxiety.
The symptoms affected their quality of life but were ‘not so severe they would lead to self-harm’, he said.
Those given compounds in affron, derived from saffron, showed a 33 per cent improvement. Dr Lopresti said the ‘natural anti-inflammatories’ reduce stress hormones and protect brain cells.
Prof Hamish McAllister-Williams, from Newcastle University, said: ‘If saffron is as effective as drugs I would have no problem with people using it.’
Saffron is a spice, made from the dried stigmas of crocus plants, that is used in cooking. It is also used in traditional Persian medicine to treat symptoms of depression (among other conditions).
Although they can be found online, saffron supplements are not widely available.