6 Studies on Saffron Put Prozac to Shame for Depression and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

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What if a common, affordable spice worked as well or better than antidepressants for mood disorders and anxiety--minus the dangerous side effects? Emerging research on saffron challenges pharmaceutical dominance over psychiatry

Saffron Shines Over Antidepressants in Clinical Trials

Modern psychiatry relies heavily on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like fluoxetine (Prozac) for conditions like depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). But groundbreaking studies show the ancient herbal remedy saffron (Crocus sativus) matches or exceeds synthetic drugs for efficacy, with greater safety and bonus health benefits.

A 2016 double-blind trial tested 30mg daily saffron versus 40mg fluoxetine in women with postpartum depression over 6 weeks.1 Saffron performed on par with the blockbuster drug. Over 40% of saffron patients saw a 50%+ reduction in symptoms versus 50% of fluoxetine patients - no significant difference. Adverse events were also similar between groups.

In an 8-week study of mild-moderate OCD, 60 patients took either 30mg saffron or 40mg fluoxetine daily.2 Saffron again matched the SSRI drug, with significant improvements in Yale–Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale scores in both groups. Saffron patients also experienced many fewer adverse effects.

Two additional clinical trials found the same daily saffron doses WORKED as well as higher-dose fluoxetine (60mg daily) over 8-12 weeks for both mild-severe major depressive disorder3 and panic disorder.4 No differences emerged in efficacy between the herbal remedy and pharmaceutical products containing double the drugs by weight.

Finally, a small but high-quality 2020 study compared 8 weeks of standardized 15mg saffron versus 10mg escitalopram oxalate (Lexapro) for 54 patients with major depression.5 Saffron showed significantly greater reductions in Hamilton Depression scores and response/remission rates versus the blockbuster SSRI. Lexapro performs as one of the most potent antidepressants among SSRIs.

Unlike Drugs, Saffron Offers Bonus Health Benefits

Given the clinical promise demonstrated, saffron's exceptional safety offers a key benefit over antidepressants. Common SSRI drug harms include nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, agitation, insomnia, loss of sexual function,7 and increased suicidal thoughts in young people.6 Saffron trials overall found no meaningful difference from placebo in adverse event frequency at effective doses.1-5 As an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, mounting research actually suggests supplemental saffron likely provides diverse health protection effects against chronic diseases.8 No psychiatric medications offer similar value-adding virtues.

Emerging evidence indicates saffron provides a viable phytopharmaceutical alternative for various mood, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Well-controlled trials find specific standardized extracts compare favorably to classic SSRI drugs for efficacy and safety. Combined with low cost, nutrient value, and a wide therapeutic window, the case for saffron over pharmaceuticals in mental health care keeps growing.

Learn more about the immense health benefits researched for saffron on our database on the topic here.

Learn more about natural approaches to Depression on our database on the subject.

Learn more about natural approaches to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder here.


References

1. Kashani et al. Pharmacopsychiatry. 2017. PMID: 27595298

2. Kazemi et al. Hum Psychopharmacol Clin Exp. 2021. PMID: 33599345

3. Shahmansouri et al. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2014. PMID: 25038424 

4. Kashani et al. J Affect Disord. 2017. PMID: 28532855

5. Sahraian et al. Phytother Res. 2020. PMID: 32090677

6. Friedman RA. N Engl J Med. 2014. PMID: 24552358

7. Baldwin DS et al. J Psychopharmacol. 2013. PMID: 17872974

8. Broadhead GK et al. Future Med Chem. 2019. PMID: 31810620

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