If you have been diagnosed with 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.
If you score more than 2 points on the following questions, you may have depression (and you should inform you doctor):
Antidepressants are associated with numerous side effects and there are mounting data suggesting that their efficacy may be no better than placebo (reference).
For those who prefer to use natural therapies over pharmaceutical drugs, Saffron and Curcumin are two evidence-informed options you might want to consider.
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 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 more than one study of saffron extract used for depression that support these findings. See the video below for more confirmatory data:
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 high-quality saffron supplement:
In a randomized, study of Zoloft (20 mg per day) versus curcumin extract (1000 mg per day) or a combination of both Zoloft and curcumin, in patients with major depression, the curcumin extract worked as well as the Zoloft but with fewer side effects.
Additionally, the combination of Zoloft and Curcumin seems to work a little better than either alone (but the results were not statistically different.)
The Bottom Line:
As with the saffron study, above, this too was a small study (51 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 (and possibly, severe depression.) Other clinical trials have also supported the association of improved depression symptoms in patients treated with curcumin.
1000 mg per-day of curcumin.
Here is one example of a high-quality curcumin supplement:
Discuss With Your Physician:
As always, make sure you discuss this with your physicians before you start taking any dietary supplement. As with any supplement, you need to be aware of the potential side effects and interactions with other treatments.