You’ve probably heard about saffron (Crocus
sativus) as an incredibly ancient, and incredibly expensive, spice. The reason
for its steep price is that saffron harvesting must be done by hand.
It is the three stigmas in the flower that supply the spice
and color that we know as saffron, and the compounds that fight depression.
Saffron is uniquely qualified to restore normal body
chemistry. It boosts serotonin production, lowers cortisol, and helps preserve
levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which are typically lower in people
with depression. Without a proper balance of these neurotransmitters we’re
going to feel too high-strung or too dragged down.
One double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial reported
in the journal Phytotherapy Research, found that saffron reduced symptoms of
Persistent Depressive Disorder (dysthymia) in just six weeks.
In more serious and harder-to-treat forms of depression,
especially when they overlap with anxiety, saffron also works well to relieve
symptoms. An Iranian clinical trial found that a 12-week regimen of saffron had
a significant impact on the outcomes of two measurement scales: the Beck
Depression Index and Beck Anxiety Index—questionnaires answered by patients
that gauge both conditions.
Additionally, a small study showed saffron can potentially
boost the effectiveness of conventional anti-depression medications.
Best of all, in addition to being effective, saffron is
incredibly safe. The results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical
trial published in the journal Phytomedicine show it relieved symptoms of mild
to moderate postpartum depression in 96 percent of breastfeeding mothers after
eight weeks. There were no significant adverse effects for the mothers or their
Curcumin Fights Depression, Too
Of course, as effective as saffron is for depression, there
is another powerful botanical that will help restore your sense of peace.
Curcumin, a compound from turmeric (Curcuma longa) is
one of the most effective natural medicines on the planet. It truly does
everything—stops pain, cancer, liver disease, and of course, depression.
Curcumin can be difficult for the body to absorb, though, so I recommend a
clinically studied form that is combined with turmeric essential oil for
enhanced absorption and blood retention. It more readily gets into the
bloodstream and continues to circulate there for longer-lasting effects.
One clinical study of curcumin and individuals with major
depressive disorder (MDD) divided participants into three groups to compare the
efficacy of high absorption curcumin (curcumin blended with turmeric essential
oil), the prescription anti-depressive fluoxetine, or a combination of the two.
The best response, measured by the Hamilton Depression
Rating Scale (HAMD-17), was in the group using the combination of fluoxetine
and curcumin at 77.8 percent. But interestingly, the single-therapy groups
scored almost exactly the same, with fluoxetine at 64.7 percent and curcumin at
62.5 percent—numbers so close that the data is not statistically significant
from one another.
So this study showed curcumin was, in reality, as effective
as a prescription drug and proved that it can be used as a treatment for
patients with MDD.
In other clinical trials, people suffering from depression
felt much better thanks to curcumin, too. In one, individuals improved significantly
in just four weeks; at eight weeks, their relief was even more pronounced.
Patients in trials with atypical depression found relief too. Curcumin is an
extremely valuable, natural medicine for taming emotions and quenching
depression across the board.
Even Better Together: Saffron and Curcumin for Emotional