If you have mild-to-moderate depression (the most common form) you are not alone: greater than 25% of adult women and 15% of adult men are prescribed antidepressants, in the U.S. (reference). In the oncology population, the percentages are likely higher.
Antidepressants are associated with numerous side effects and there are mounting data suggesting that their efficacy may be no better than placebo (reference).
For my patients who don’t want to use any pharmaceutical drugs, I am always searching for evidence-informed natural remedies.
Here’s one that I think is definitely worth discussing with your doctors: Saffron extract.
In a randomized, double-blinded study of Prozac (20 mg per day) versus saffron extract (30 mg per day) in patients with mild-to-moderate depression, the saffron extract worked as well as the Prozac but with fewer side effects.
The extract used in this study had 0.30-0.35mg of safranal (one of active compounds in saffron.)
The Bottom Line:
This was a small study (40 total patients) and the intervention was short (only 6-weeks), so we need larger studies with a longer follow-up to assess these effects more rigorously.
Nevertheless, I think this is a reasonable therapeutic option to consider for patients with mild-to-moderate depression.
It is reassuring to see a meta-analysis of other studies of saffron extract used for depression that confirm these findings.
Discuss With Your Physician:
As always, make sure you discuss this with your physicians before you start taking saffron extract. As with any supplement, you need to be aware of the potential side effects.
15 mg (tablets or capsules) twice-per-day of Saffron extract. Make sure the ingredients indicate the amount of safranal per serving, as you want to take approximately 0.3mg of safranal per day (as was used in the study, above.)
Here is one example of a presumably high-quality saffron supplement: