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A double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial of Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) in the treatment of anxiety and depression

  • Mohsen Mazidi , Maryam Shemshian , Seyed Hadi Mousavi , Abdolreza Norouzy , Tayebe Kermani , Toktam Moghiman , Akram Sadeghi , Naghme Mokhber , Majid Ghayour-Mobarhan EMAIL logo and Gordon A. A. Ferns


Background: Depression and anxiety are prevalent serious psychiatric disorders. Several drugs are used to treat these conditions but these are often associated with serious side effects. For this reason alternative therapies, including herbal medication such as saffron, have been proposed. We aimed to assess the effects of saffron extract for the treatment of anxiety and depression using a 12-week double-blind, placebo-controlled trial design.

Methods: Sixty adult patients with anxiety and depression were randomized to receive a 50 mg saffron capsule (Crocus sativus L. stigma) or a placebo capsule twice daily for 12 weeks. Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) questionnaires were used at baseline, 6 and 12 weeks after initiating medication. 54 subjects completed the trial.

Results: Saffron supplements had a significant effect on the BDI and BAI scores of subjects in comparison to placebo at the 12 week time-point (p<0.001).

Conclusions: Saffron appears to have a significant impact in the treatment of anxiety and depression disorder. Side effects were rare.


The authors wish to thank the Iran National Science Foundation, Birjand University of Medical Sciences and Mashhad University of Medical Sciences for their financial support in performing this trial. This work is part of Maryam Shemshian’s MSc thesis; grant number (A-323).

Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

Research funding: Mashhad University of Medical Sciences. A-323.

Employment or leadership: None declared.

Honorarium: None declared.

Competing interests: The funding organization(s) played no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the report for publication.


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Received: 2015-6-20
Accepted: 2016-3-11
Published Online: 2016-4-21
Published in Print: 2016-6-1

©2016 by De Gruyter

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