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Saffron for Postpartum Depression

4/25/2018 1:41:55 PM
This double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, published in 2017 in the journal Phytomedicine, aimed to evaluate the anti-depressant effect of saffron (Crocus sativus) in breastfeeding mothers with postpartum depression. The study was conducted in Iran, a country where an estimated 25% of mothers experience postpartum depression and where approximately 90% of the world’s saffron originates.  
Saffron is a perennial, stemless herb of the Iridaceae family that has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. A 2014 review of 4 randomized controlled trials reported that saffron is as effective as the antidepressants fluoxetine and imipramine at reducing symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression in adults. Although its exact mechanism of action is unknown, it has been proposed that it might inhibit synaptic serotonin reuptake. Saffron is thought to be safe at dosages up to 1.5 grams per day, with toxic effects reported at 5 grams per day. There is insufficient evidence to say whether saffron is safe to consume while breastfeeding.
Sixty mothers who had delivered a baby within the last 9 months and with confirmed symptoms of depression completed this clinical trial. They were randomized to take placebo capsules or saffron capsules twice a day for 8 weeks. Saffron capsules were manufactured by the Pharmacy School (Mashhad, Iran) and were standardized to provide a dosage of 30 mg of saffron and 10 mg of its active component crocin per day. The primary outcome measure was change in Beck Depression Inventory-Second edition (BDI-II) scores between baseline and 8 weeks.  
There was no difference between groups in baseline scores on the BDI-II. The mean BDI-II scores in the treatment group decreased from 20.0 to 8.4 over 8 weeks (p<.003). The mean BDI-II scores in the placebo group decreased from 19.7 to 15.3 (p<.01). The difference between groups was significant (p<.001). Moreover, 96% (23 of 30) of the participants in the saffron group were in remission at the end of 8 weeks (BDI-II score < 10), compared with only 43% of the placebo group. Complete response rates, defined as 50% or greater reduction in BDI-II score, were 6% for the placebo group and 66% for the saffron group.
Adverse effects reported in the saffron group were low breast milk supply (6.2%), bleeding gums (3.3%), gastrointestinal distress (6.2%), lack of sleep (3.3%), and oversleeping (3.3%). No adverse effects were observed in infants.
The results of this clinical trial suggest that saffron, at a dosage of 30 mg per day for 8 weeks, is an effective and safe treatment for postpartum depression.
Tabeshpour J, Sobhani F, Sadjadi SA et al. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of saffron stigma (Crocus sativus L.) in mothers suffering from mild-to-moderate postpartum depression. Phytomedicine. 2017;36 145-152.