Saffron is produced from the dried flower of Crocus sativus, an Iridaceae (Iris) family herb member. Saffron is naturally rich in four bioactive compounds: crocin, crocetin (the hydrolysis product of crocin), picrocrocin, and safranal1 and is traditionally used in Asian (particularly Persian) medicine.
Saffron extract improves depressive symptoms in healthy individuals and contributes to increased resilience against the development of stress-related disorders. Clinical tests showed saffron’s contribution to emotional balance, support of a relaxed state, and a positive mood2. Additional studies showed the efficacy of saffron when compared with antidepressant medications (fluoxetine, imipramine) at a dose of 30 mg/day in participants with major depressive disorder3. Saffron at 30 mg daily positively affected anxiety and depressive symptoms in adults with major depressive disorder and adults experiencing depressive symptoms4. Saffron has also been shown to have mood-enhancing effects in peri-menopausal women5, youth experiencing depressive and anxiety symptoms6, adults with diabetes7, and adults with metabolic syndrome8. It also has demonstrated positive effects on sleep quality in adults experiencing poor sleep9.
- Lopresti AL, Drummond PD. Saffron (Crocus sativus) for depression: a systematic review of clinical studies and examination of underlying antidepressant mechanisms of action. Human Psychopharmacol. (2014) 29:517–27.
- Jackson PA, Forster J, Khan J, et al. Effects of Saffron Extract Supplementation on Mood, Well-Being, and Response to a Psychosocial Stressor in Healthy Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Parallel Group, Clinical Trial. Front Nutr. 2021 Feb 1;7:606124.
- Hausenblas HA, Saha D, Dubyak PJ, Anton SD. Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and major depressive disorder: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. J Integr Med. (2013) 11:377–83.
- Marx W, Lane M, Rocks T, et al. Effect of saffron supplementation on symptoms of depression and anxiety: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Rev. 2019 May 28;77:557–571.
- Lopresti AL, Smith SJ. The effects of a saffron extract (affron(R)) on menopausal symptoms in women during perimenopause: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Menopausal Med. 2021 Aug;27(2):66–78.
- Lopresti AL, Drummond PD, Inarejos-Garcia AM, et al. affron((R)), a standardized extract from saffron (Crocus sativus L.) for the treatment of youth anxiety and depressive symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Affect Disord. 2018 May;232:349–357.
- Tajaddini A, Roshanravan N, Mobasseri M, et al. Saffron improves life and sleep quality, glycaemic status, lipid profile, and liver function in diabetic patients: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. Int J Clin Pract. 2021;7:e14334.
- Jam IN, Sahebkar AH, Eslami S, et al. The effects of crocin on the symptoms of depression in subjects with metabolic syndrome. Adv Clin Exp Med. 2017 Sep;26(6):925–930.
- Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Metse AP, et al. Effects of saffron on sleep quality in healthy adults with self-reported poor sleep: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Clin Sleep Med. 2020 Feb 14;16:937–947.