Depression and other mood-related disorders have not only been on the rise in western countries for quite some time now, they have also become extremely prevalent over that time.
As of the time of this writing, depression has become the number one cause of disability among those between the ages of 15-44 in the United States.
Along with this rise have come a number of different treatment modalities as well as medications to help those who suffer from this scourge.
But have any foods or natural compounds shown the potential to help people suffering from depression, specifically postpartum depression?
Fortunately, there is some very promising research.
A team of researchers out of Iran, China and the UK set out to determine whether the spice saffron could have a positive impact on new mothers suffering from postpartum depression.
The results, published in the December 2017 edition of the journal Phytomedicine, were promising to say the least.
The researchers assembled a group of 60 new mothers who scored a maximum of 29 on the Beck Depression Inventory-Second Edition (BDI-II) . They then randomly assigned these new mothers to a group who received saffron daily for eight weeks or a placebo group.
Analysis after eight weeks showed not only significant improvement in the saffron group, but also a significant difference from the placebo group.
The saffron group’s mean BDI-II scores decreased from 20.3 ± 5.7 to 8.4 ± 3.7 while the placebo group’s decreased from 19.8 ± 3.2 to 15.1 ± 5.4.
Note: Higher BDI-II scores indicate a stronger degree of depression.
This means the saffron group saw the scores measuring their level of depression drop by more than half into what is considered the minimal range (0-13) on the BDI-II test.
Additionally, in their final assessment, the researchers found 96 percent of the saffron group to be in remission, compared to 43 percent of the placebo group.
It must be noted, though, that the maximum score among participants allowed in this study was 29, which is the start of the range for severe depression. This means the researchers only tested those with up to moderate depression.
So we do not know what results would have been achieved in those with more severe forms of depression, as this particular study did not test for that. Those with more severe forms of depression may want to take these study results with a grain of salt.
It must also be pointed out that this study was not conducted across a random sample of the population, but rather a very specific group (new mothers), so we do not know if the results would be different in those with non-postpartum depression across the general population.
At this point, we simply do not know if these results would be seen across the general population, at all levels of depression, or what is the most effective and safe dosage for each individual.
The researchers used 30mg/day (one 15 mg tablets administered twice daily), but there are questions as to how tolerable this level is, even though some say it is. Of the 30 participants in the saffron group, seven dropped out of the study due to adverse effects.
Following is an excerpt of what the researchers noted:
“In the current study, saffron had no major adverse effects that required the physician’s attention. Two breastfeeding mothers discontinued treatment because they experienced low breast milk supply…
“The maximum safe dose of saffron during the breastfeeding period is 750 mg/kg (Bahmani et al., 2014). Therefore, 30 mg/day of saffron (5 mg of crocin) can be used safely by breastfeeding mothers. This was confirmed by the fact that no significant adverse effects were reported in our study. One other breastfeeding mother discontinued treatment because of bleeding gums (probably platelet dysfunction).
“It has been shown that the hematologic indices for patients receiving saffron (30 mg/day) did not change significantly during the trial and that there were no differences between the groups (Mousavi et al., 2015). However, 30 mg twice daily of this extract for 26 weeks caused decreases in platelet, white blood cell, and red blood cell counts (Safarinejad et al., 2011, Safarinejad et al., 2010). This suggests that the hematologic complication in our subject could be related to idiosyncratic effects.”
More good reasons to make sure you speak with your licensed health care practitioner before starting or changing any treatment programs or introducing any treatment modalities.
And more good reasons to conduct additional studies so we can determine if and how saffron should be used as a treatment for any form of depression as well as the safe dosage for each individual.
Could Spices Hold a Key to Cures?
Perhaps the most interesting result of this study, however, is the similarity saffron may have with another spice that has been shown in studies to have anti-depressant potential. It now joins turmeric in that unique club.
Why these two particular spices have such potential may not be known yet, but the potential each has shown is tantalizing never the less.
Perhaps, with further studies, we will be able to unlock even more of their potential or find out why they even have it in the first place. If we can unlock those answers, maybe then we can create a more effective means of treating this horrible condition, with the proper ingredients and the proper dosage.
We may even discover other pungent or aromatic herbs and spices that can help treat depression.
Who knows what healing wonders may be hidden away in our kitchen cabinets as we speak?
As always, do not start or change any treatment program based on the information you see here. It is for informational purposes only. Always consult with your licensed health care practitioner before starting or changing any such programs. See disclaimer below.
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