Saffron vs. Prozac for Depression

NF-Mar12 Saffron vs. Prozac

Millions of Americans suffer from depression every year, a disabling disease that can end up fatal (due to suicide).  In my last blog post, Treating PMS with Saffron, I noted remarkable benefits of the spice saffron on the emotional and physical symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. The researchers noticed a significant drop in symptoms of depression as well, and so decided to put saffron to the test. See my 2-min. video Saffron vs. Prozac for the head-to-head test of the simple spice versus the drug Prozac for the treatment of clinical depression.

Remember saffron from my videos Saffron for the Treatment of Alzheimer’s and Saffron Versus Aricept? See my blog Natural Alzheimer’s Treatment for some context and my post on other natural remedies: Amla: Indian Gooseberries vs. Cancer, Diabetes, and Cholesterol.

If one little flower can do that, what might a diet full of plants achieve? Studies have found less depression among vegetarians, but maybe people who are happier go on to eat healthier rather than the other way around. One can’t prove cause and effect unless you put that to the test too, which was done last year. Researchers found that by removing all meat, fish, poultry, and eggs from people’s diets they could significantly improve mood scores after just two weeks! It can take drugs like Prozac a month or more to take effect.

The way drugs like Prozac work is by elevating levels of serotonin, the so-called happiness hormone.  Did you know there’s serotonin in plants? I certainly didn’t, but there’s serotonin, melatonin, dopamine, and all sorts of human neurotransmitters in plants. So much so that there’s been a call to start treating depression with “high-content sources of serotonin” such as pineapples, bananas, kiwis, plums, and tomatoes. And what are the side effects–maybe you’ll get a tomato seed stuck in your teeth or something?

For more, check out my videos on the wrong way to boost serotonin by taking potentially dangerous tryptophan supplements, better ways to boost serotonin to fight disorders like premenstrual depression, and perhaps the best way exemplified by findings from a double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the successful use of butternut squash seeds to treat social anxiety disorder.

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image credit: BitterScripts / Flickr

  • Can you please tell us where to find Saffron that isn’t an extract or an extract that doesn’t throw away the best parts? Is a Saffron extract for weight loss likely to be better or worse than a Saffron extract for depression?

  • SDW

    Is Cymbalta considered to be in the same category of anti-depressants as Prozac?

    • KT

      They are both antidepressants, but Prozac acts via serotonergic pathways, while Cymbalta acts via both serotonergic and norephinephrine pathways.

    • I agree with KT. Relating to the prescribing of antidepressants which I did a fair amount in my career you might be interested in viewing an interview with Robert Whitaker, the author of the book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, at the McDougall Advanced Study Weekend earlier this month. If you go to the McDougall website under Important Links, Watch McDougall Medical Experts you can view his brief interview. It is clear that we need to develop other ways to treat mental illness which guarantees the appropriate use of medications based on both short term and long term studies. Currently I don’t write as many of these prescriptions and mainly for short term use. Of course you need to work closely with your physicians as everyone has a unique situation. Good luck.

  • albert

    just not to forget about St John wort as an effective natural antidepressant which is as efficient as common SSRI drugs with way less side effects – for mild and medium cases of depression

  • Lisa

    I can’t find an exact relelvant blog related to my issue, but wanted to find out if you have any helpful information. I am trying to wean off Cymbalta and it has been the most difficult, traumatic process-physically and emotionally. My questions are 1) Do you have any reccommendations on how to reduce the symptoms naturally? 2) Do you plan to look at the efftects of these pharmaceuticals-the benefits vs long-term effects and the lack of education in the industry to properly educate doctors and patients on the risks and provide a meaningful ‘detox’ plan. Thanks you, any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Once patients are on anti-anxiety or anti depressant meds for greater then 6 weeks it is difficult to get off. The best option is to find a good psychiatrist who uses cognitive behavior techniques and is committed to getting patients off medications. It might be helpful for you to read Robert Whitaker’s book, The Anatomy of an Epidemic. Good luck.

  • Bill Mumford

    I think the right way is to use only supplements for weight loss in your daily meal.

  • Maricela C

    According to the clinical studies you need 30 mg of the saffron extract 2% safranal. There are a couple companies selling this supplement, one is OMAMISTORE.COM and the other is the VITAMINWORLD.COM I’m taking it for the last 10 months and my Citalopram dosage has gone down from 40 mg to 10 mg. I’m hopping to be drug free in the next couple of months. Saffron is the best natural alternative to treat depression and anxiety with no side effects. I know it works and I just hope more companies will offer this product.

  • Landbro

    Can serotonin and other neurotransmitters from plants criss the blood brain barrier ?