Results from a new study1 published in the Journal of Affective Disorders indicates that saffron (Crocus sativus L.) may help reduce depression and anxiety symptoms in teenage children. The first-of-its-kind study found that supplementation with Affron, a branded saffron extract ingredient from biotechnology firm Pharmactive Biotech Products (Madrid), improved feelings of separation anxiety, social phobia, and depression in young people.
The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study included 68 young people between the ages of 12-16 with mild-to-moderate anxiety or depressive symptoms. According to data from the World Health Organization, the study authors write, psychiatric disorders including anxiety and depression are among the leading causes of disability in young people, with as much as 15%-20% of the youth population experiencing an anxiety or depressive disorder before the age of 18. Saffron, they add, has been shown to be effective in reducing feelings of depression and anxiety in adults with mild-to-moderate depression. However, saffron for depression and anxiety had not yet been studied in a youth population prior to publication of the current study, they said.
The researchers divided participants into two groups. One group received 14 mg Affron, while another group received the same dosage of a placebo. Both group were instructed to take one tablet of either Affron or the placebo twice daily for a total of eight weeks. In order to determine what effects supplementation with Affron had on parameters of anxiety and depression, participants completed a 47-item questionnaire called the Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS). RCADS includes subscales on separation anxiety, social phobia, general anxiety, panic, obsessions and compulsions, and depression. Subjects’ parents also completed the parent-report version of RCADS; those results served as the secondary outcome measure.
The group supplemented with Affron reported improvements in overall internalizing symptoms, separation anxiety, social phobia, and depression, compared with the placebo group. Parental reports of improvement in the subjects’ mental health were inconsistent. The researchers thus concluded that “administration of a standardized saffron extract (Affron) for eight weeks improved anxiety and depressive symptoms in youth with mild-to-moderate symptoms, at least from the perspective of the adolescent.” Affron was also found to be safe and well-tolerated.
The study authors write that while the results are encouraging, the self-reporting nature of this study represents a limitation. The limited study duration, single treatment dose, and non-clinical sample used in this study likewise limit the overall generalizability of the results, warranting the need for further investigation. Pharmactive Biotech Products funded the study.
1. Lopresti AL et al., “Affron, a standardized extract from saffron (Crocus sativus L.) for treatment of youth anxiety and depressive symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study,” Journal of Affective Disorders. Published online February 26, 2018.