In a stressful situation or in case of depression, the consumption of a supplement based on saffron extracts would give good results to overcome this complicated moment.

Saffron, nicknamed “red gold”, is the most complicated spice to produce, which explains its very high price. Some 150,000 plants are needed to produce 1 kg of saffron, which is obtained by manually removing the small stigmas (pollen receptacles at the end of the pistil), the only parts that have the desired aromatic properties. Saffron is mainly used in cooking as a condiment, but it is also attributed medicinal properties, and this for a long time.

Depression and anxiety

Today, its active compounds, and in particular crocetin (found in flowers), are being studied as potential anticancer agents, while some preliminary work has shown a possible benefit in the face of major depression. A Franco-British team (Northumbria University and University of Bordeaux) explored this action in the face of stress and depression.

Generally healthy volunteers, aged 18 to 50, participated in a two-part experience. The participants had mild symptoms of depression or anxiety. For two months, half of them received a saffron extract supplement at the rate of one 15 mg capsule twice a day, while the others swallowed a placebo (inactive substance, in the same amount and with the same presentation). The assessment looked at the subjective feeling of anxiety and depression, and members of the “saffron group” reported a reduction in the feeling of “blues” and improved social relationships.

Stress and nervousness

On another level, tests have been carried out in the laboratory to determine the immediate action of saffron on stress reduction. The participants were placed in a situation designed to trigger stress, and before the experiment, some were given a saffron extract, others a placebo. A favorable observation here too: if we base ourselves on the variability of the heart rate (an indicator of stress) and on the person’s feeling, saffron seems to attenuate the nervous reaction.

Three components would play a key role: safranal, crocetin and crocin, carotenoids that give saffron its color and aroma. Further work is certainly necessary to verify these initial data. Should people who are moderately anxious or slightly depressed try saffron to alleviate their discomfort? If this can help prevent an unfavorable development, with the prospect of taking anti-anxiety or antidepressant drugs, why not.

Angie Mahecha

An fitness addict passionate of all things nature and animals, Angie often volunteers her time to NGOs and governmental organizations alike working with animals in general and endangered species in particular. She covers stories on wildlife and the environment for the Scientific Origin.