Saffron: Spicy Yellow Solution for Depression

Published: 30th April 2009
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For thousands of years the yellow spice, saffron has been used by traditional medical systems to treat several illnesses. Contemporary clinical research has shown that, when it comes to the treatment of mild to moderate depression, saffron is on a par with fluoxetine (Prozac) and imipramine.

The spice saffron is a yellow powder derived from the stigmata (styles) of the flowering bulb Crocus sativa. It is cultivated on a commercial basis primarily in Iran and to a lesser extent in India, Spain and a few other countries. Prior to the advent of cheaper, synthetic food colorings, saffron was also grown in other European countries including England.

Although other spices have demonstrated value in the prevention and treatment of some neurological diseases saffron is the first of these to undergo clinical trials for depression.

Doctors at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences carried out the clinical trials on patients with depression. The double-blind, placebo controlled trials compared the effects of 30 mg per day of saffron powder to those of normal doses of two common anti-depressant drugs, fluoxetine and imipramine. In all three clinical trials saffron showed that, when it comes to treating mild to moderate depression, it is at least as effective as these two commonly used anti-depressant drugs.

This latest research shows that we have yet another spice that can help with a neurological illness - in this case, depression. Depression affects all age groups but increases in incidence with age. In other words we can include it with other diseases associated with the aging process; such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, cancer and others.

There is some scientific evidence that saffron, like many other other spices, may also help to prevent and treat certain cancers. Saffron contains the compound safranal and many antioxidants such as carotenoids and other compounds common to other spices that have been shown to have anti-cancer properties.

Countless studies have shown that spices can help prevent and treat most age related diseases. Interestingly it is the compounds in spices that give them their strong colours and flavours that counter the disease processes underlying these conditions.

We humans evolved eating a diet consisting primarily of richly coloured, strongly flavoured, bitter, sour, 'spicy' plant foods. Therefore it should come as no surprise to us that it is primarily in spices that a vast repository of therapeutic phytonutrients exists to help us combat depression and other neurological and degenerative diseases.

If we add more spices such as saffron to our meals we will not only be happier with the enhanced flavor but the compounds in these tasty additives should also put more zest into our day and help us to avoid a visit to the psychotherapist.


Keith Scott is a medical doctor with a special interest in the medicinal properties of spices and plant compounds. He is the author of several books including "Medicinal Seasonings, The Healing Power of Spices". To download a free pdf copy of "Medicinal Seasonings" and read more about the health benefits of spices go to: =>

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