We've all had that moment when we're feeling a little blue. Maybe you're stressed about work, or maybe you just feel kind of down for no reason. Whatever the cause, saffron might be able to help!
That's right—the same stuff that makes your favorite Indian dish so flavorful can also improve your mood and help treat depression. It's a rich source of carotenoids, which are antioxidants that protect against cell damage and may help ward off signs of aging too.
But how does saffron, or Crocus sativus, do this magic?
Well, it turns out that the spice contains an amino acid called crocin, which has been shown to increase levels of serotonin in the brain—that feel-good neurotransmitter that makes us happy!
Saffron is an antidepressant and mood lifter that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. It's also a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, so it can help boost your immune system while it helps improve your mood. This spice contains carotenoids (like crocetin)—powerful antioxidants that fight free radicals. Free radicals are created by stress and pollution, and they can cause tissue damage throughout the body by attacking healthy cells. By fighting these free radicals with carotenoids, saffron can help keep you healthy while it helps lift your mood.
What's the science say?
The first study (here) was a randomised, double blind trial with a control group - i.e. the best kind. Out of the 30 people who completed the trial in the saffron group, all reported reduced depression scores on testing, and improved social relationships. As depression often has negative effects on socialisation and therefore relationships, this is so heartening so see! Not only did mood improve, but the response to stress improved too. A physiological stress test showed that saffron lessened the feelings on stress during this test. This means saffron also works as an adaptogen.
Another report suggested improvements in sleep onset and insomnia. "Saffron intake was associated with improvements in sleep quality in adults with self‐reported sleep complaints". This study used around 14 mg twice a day in the 55 strong group. Now this can get pretty pricey if your trying to do this at home. A practitioner can dispense a quality medical grade extract that is a much more effective and affordable option. They can also work out why you need support here, and remedy the driving factors behind sleep issues - click here. The best part of that study? NO REPORTED SIDE-EFFECTS!! I love herbal medicine.
The final study, was regarding diabetes type 2, now this was interesting. Saffron was able to noticeably reduce hyperglycaemia AND hyperlipidaemia. Wait there's more! In the 8 week clinical trial, the 35 people on saffron (100mg/day) also had improved liver function. This is really important, as diabetics often have super high toxin load and stress on the liver. "At the end of the eighth week, saffron supplementation significantly decreased FPG, triglyceride (TG), insulin, aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT)"
So next time you're feeling blue, try adding a pinch of saffron to your cooking—or even try making a cup of tea with it! You'll be surprised how quickly this spice will lift your spirits!