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Saffron vs. Prozac

A head-to-head test of the spice saffron versus Prozac for the treatment of clinical depression.

October 19, 2012 |
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Sources Cited

Acknowledgements

Images thanks to: Nick Brooks and  alubavin.

Transcript

In the double-blind, randomised and placebo-controlled trial of saffron for PMS symptoms, the researchers also noticed a significant drop in symptoms of depression as well. Well, duh, it’s probably because they just felt so much better, but researchers decided to put it to the test.

Millions of Americans… suffer from depression, each year, a disabling disease and even end up fatal, due to suicide.

Enter, Saffron. A double blind, randomized trial: saffron versus Prozac. For 6 weeks 40 outpatients diagnosed with clinical depression got capsules containing the spice saffron—or, identical-looking capsules containing Prozac.

Within just one week a significant drop in depression symptoms that got better and better throughout the 6 weeks. One of those lines is the Prozac group, the other, the saffron group, and as you can see it doesn’t really matter which is which because they both worked equally effective. 20% percentage of Prozac users suffered from sexual dysfunction, an all too common side effect, whereas not one did in the saffron group.

“[P]atients and their families may view “alternative medicine,” that is, those treatments that are not traditionally taught in medical schools or generally practiced by clinicians, as being complementary or even superior to conventional medicine, but in majority of cases there is simply no evidence to support that. But in the case of saffron, the evidence, is, growing.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

This is the third of three videos on the latest saffron research. Wednesday's NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Saffron for the Treatment of PMS is what's referred to at the start of this video, followed by yesterday'sNutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Wake Up and Smell the Saffron, which described what even the scent of saffron may be able to do. If this one plant can have such a significant effect, what about a whole diet filled with plants? See Improving Mood Through Diet. I also have a 4-part video series on other plants that may be helpful starting with Human Neurotransmitters in Plants and ending with The Best Way to Boost Serotonin.

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Saffron vs. Prozac for Depression and Hibiscus Tea: The Best Beverage?

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

    This is the third of three videos on the latest saffron research. Wednesday’s video Saffron for the Treatment of PMS is what’s referred to at the start of this video, followed by yesterday’s, which described what even the scent of saffron may be able to do. If this one plant can have such a significant effect, what about a whole diet filled with plants? See Improving Mood Through Diet. I also have a 4-part video series on other plants that may be helpful starting with Human Neurotransmitters in Plants and ending with The Best Way to Boost Serotonin.

    If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      Well presented!
      My love for your fantastic ability to present research information in a concise and humorous format is “Growing’ as well.
      :-}
      I have the incredible honor of working with John McDougall, M.D. again this weekend at the Whole Foods Inc Immersion as one of the patients Physicians.   Thanks to you and all your hard work my confidence to work with such an icon has grown and provided me with such a wealth of information as to feel of value to such an important movement in the field of medicine.
      Sincerely from the bottom of my heart, Thank You!

    • Lesley

      Dr. Greger, what is your recommendation for intake to avoid depression symptoms?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shane-Jackson/1135727622 Shane Jackson

    Out of curiosity according to the data of the study which one was slightly better at reducing depression symptoms at the end, saffron or Prozac?

    • BPCveg

      The slightly better one was Prozac (see Fig. 1 of Noorbala et al. 2005, which is second on the list of sources cited).

  • veggie carrie

    How much saffron was used and how does a person get these amounts of saffron?  Just chomp on a handful of saffron? 

    • BPCveg

      Short answer = 30 mg/day

      Long answer reproduced from Noorbala et al. :

      ” 2.2. Saffron capsule preparation

      The saffron was used in this study was dedicated by Novin Zaferan Co. Mashhad, Iran) and was identified by the Department of Cultivation and development of Institute of Medicinal Plants, Tehran, Iran. The part of Crocus sativus that are being used as additive and also herbal medicine is stigma. The stigma’s extract was prepared as follow: 120 g of dried and milled stigmas were extracted with 1800 ml ethanol (80%) by percolation procedure in three steps then the ethanolic extract was dried by evaporation in temperature between 35 and 40 °C. Each capsule had dried extract of saffron(15 mg), lactose (filler), magnesium stearate (lubricant), and sodium starch glycolate (disintegrant). The dose of each capsule was calculated according to an animal study (Karimi et al., 2001). The extract was standardized by safranal. Each capsule had 0.30–0.35 mg safranal. ”

      Doesn’t seem so natural after you read all the steps, does it?

      • tattesu

        How about converting that to teaspoons?

  • Myjolina

    How to best include saffron in your diet – pill form or through our diet?
    Also, saffron was great for PMS but was there any evidence for saffron supporting menopausal symptoms?

  • Suwells

    I would like very much to find that saffron is more effective than Big Pharma agents. But what is the P value for this study? Of course, I can’t see the entire abstract but it appears to be 0.71. Pharmaceutical companies and the FDA have generally set 0.05 as the cut-off for the probability measure that these findings are not a fluke. 

    • BPCveg

      p=0.71 was the p-value for the comparison between the saffron and the prozac protocols — i.e. not significant. –> meaning that both protocols were equally effective.

      However, both protocols were highly significant in reducing depression.  Quoting from the paper: “a one-way repeated measures analysis of variance showed a significant effect of both protocols on Hamilton Depression Rating Scale scores (P < 0.0001)"

      By the way, Dr. Greger only discusses one of nine side effects, namely sexual dysfunction.  As described in the paper: "Nine side effects were observed over the trial. The difference between the saffron and fluoxetine in the frequency of side effects was not significant (Table 2)."  In other words, both protocols had side effects, including saffron.  We don't come away from Dr. Greger's video even considering that — it almost seems as if he is saying that saffron is good because it is natural.

      But, Table 2 of Noorbala et al. lists side effects attributed to the saffron including: 3 cases on anxiety, 2 cases of decreased appetite, 5 cases of increased appetite, 1 case of sedation, 2 cases of nausea and 3 cases of headaches.

    • Ted

       I think the P value of 0.71 is related to the difference between saffron and prozac’s ability to reduce depression–not the difference between the treatment working and not working.  The high P-value suggests that the saffron is just as good as the “Big Pharma agent.”

  • Be

    I’d like to believe your interpretation Michael on this one, but it might also be due to the Hawthorne effect. 

    • Be

      and… there was no control group? Since studies show that antidepressants may not be any better than placebos… a better study would need to show that the subjects didn’t just feel better over the passage of time with or without either experimental condition. Given that the SSRIs take up to a few weeks before there’s any effect (other than side effects) I don’t think much can be concluded by this study alone. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1063938502 Matthew Miller

        Quite right – There was no control group, so it’s plausible that both the fluoxetine and saffron groups’ effects were really just placebo effects (as you said, it’s far from clear that SSRIs are better than placebo) or simply the natural tendency for reported mild and moderate depression to resolve over time. Also, the low N in this study (20 per group) makes detecting differences between groups on reported instances of side effects fairly unlikely. It would have taken a difference of 5 subjects (1/4 of a group) to be statistically significant. It’s an interesting study, but far from conclusive. That being said, unlike fluoxetine, saffron is quite tasty, so it’s still worth tossing some in your dinner.

        • Be

          While I very much enjoy Michael’s videos and I look forward to his presentations in person locally when he comes through, I am beginning to believe that his reports and interpretations can be more misleading than helpful. They are entertaining, but it takes more than a few minutes of a video to understand a well written paper that has significant findings. These sound bites rather should spark attention for further investigation. I wish there was a disclaimer at the beginning of each clip that provides the viewer to “watch with caution and at your own risk”.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670735069 Tan Truong

            Be, I understand your concern for objectivity. Just wondering though for this video: do you believe Dr. Greger is misinterpreting the study or that the study itself is flawed?

          • HemoDynamic, M.D.

            Tan T,
            Read my reply above to Be.  Read this study http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22393205

          • BPCveg

            Tan,
            I know you have written this post to Be, but I liked your question and thought I would add my point of view:

            I think that this study cannot be considered flawed because it is clearly stated to be a “pilot study” and acknowledges its own limitations. Randomized double blind controlled trials are very expensive and, therefore, usually are motivated by less expensive pilot trials like this one that provide preliminary data. I view this is a natural part of the cycle of getting funding to conduct expensive trials.

            Based on the language used in the video, I don’t think that Dr. Greger has misunderstood this study at all. I think he has likely deliberately and rightly left out discussion of limitations since the purpose of this website is to use scientific data to promote veganism among the general public.

            As vegans, I think we are very lucky to have this website as a learning tool!  I look forward to waking up every morning and getting my two minute long placebo effect, courtesy of Dr. Greger.

          • BPCveg

            Thanks for raising this point, Be.

            Interestingly, the scientists who performed the study were very clear about limitations. Quoting Noorbala et al. (final sentence Discussion section):

            “The limitations of the present study, including lack of a placebo group, using only a fixed dose of saffron, the small number of participants and short period of follow up should be considered so further research in this area is needed.”

            I have mixed feelings about whether this video has misrepresented this study.  On one hand, Dr. Greger clearly states (video 0:42) that this study is “a double blind randomized trial” and this contrasts with the Agha-Hosseini study which was comparatively described (video 0:10) as “placebo-controlled”.

            On the other hand, when referring to the effects of saffron versus prozac, Dr. Greger states (video 1:10-1:12) that “they both worked equally well”. Unqualified, this statement does suggest that prozac and saffron were definatively reducing depression. Although this could be true (as Hemodynamic suggests), I think that more context should have been provided for the benefit of the non-specialist.

          • Be

            I’m all for well designed science studies that destroy our myths and beliefs about we all thought was tried and true regarding diet and nutrition. I’ll disclose that I’m a big fan of the work of Gary Taubes in this regard. I’m also in favor of wanting to believe that plant based diets are important and under reported in the literature regarding health benefits. However, I’m not in favor of misleading information that only promotes the benefits of a strict vegan diet, when there’s also clear evidence to the contrary. 

          • BPCveg

            Thanks, Be, for your post.  Please read below to my lengthy response.

        • HemoDynamic, M.D.

          Please read my reply to Be above and here is a link to an interesting study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22393205

      • HemoDynamic, M.D.

        Be,
        You may be right, but not according to the largest and only study to look at short term treatment of fluoxetine and venlaxafine and compared to placebo.  Just published Jun 2012.
        Here’s the link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22393205

        Their conclusion:
        “To our knowledge, this is the first research synthesis in this area to use complete longitudinal person-level data from a large set of published and unpublished studies. The results do not support previous findings that antidepressants show little benefit except for severe depression. The antidepressants fluoxetine and venlafaxine are efficacious for major depressive disorder in all age groups, although more so in youths and adults compared with geriatric patients. Baseline severity was not significantly related to degree of treatment advantage over placebo.”

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670735069 Tan Truong

           Great and interesting find. I’ve always wondered about these drugs — well about their effects, not about taking them. :)

        • Be

          Thanks for citing that new paper HemoDynamic re: prozak and effexor. I, perhaps like so many other Gregor fans, would so very much like to believe and know how herbal and plant based supplements can help address health and medical conditions. We are all learning as we go along. Having these video summaries certainly brings attention to things that would otherwise never be uncovered. 

          Sometimes this research like case study reports need to be seen for what they are, promising but often inconclusive. 

          In the meantime there are certain beliefs we all still hold onto and want to be true, like the pursuit of happiness, we all believe that organic green leafy vegetables are ok to eat. Beyond that… one can’t really say for sure. 

  • Dssikes

    To add a skeptic’s opinion – I’d be much more impressed if these results could be duplicated by scientists who don’t live in a saffron-producing country.

  • Joanofz

    What is American Saffron and is it as effective?  It is certainly cheaper!

  • http://nutrientuniverse.blogspot.co.uk/ JamesKB

    Hooray for plant power :)

  • http://nutrientuniverse.blogspot.co.uk/ JamesKB

    There’s this study too. Done on rats I believe. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19787421. Also seems kind of promising.

  • Emily

    So what is saffron acting on within the body to balance those with PMS symptoms and depression? If it balances hormones, as is suggested by its ability to relieve PMS, could it not be useful in treating other hormone-related/metabolic conditions?

  • John Gerry

    While these studies are very encouraging…. they must be put into perspective with who has done the research.  The researchers were from Iran.  Iran is also responsible for 90% of the global production of saffron (according to Wikipedia).  So… it makes sense Iranians would study a substance they can easily get, yet at the same time, they may be motivated to find good results by saffron growers, or their government, etc..  Research needs to be done by competent people outside the influence of commercially produced saffron.

    • Be

      Good point John!

    • albert

      Thanks for pointing this out. (Dr. Greger, wouldn’t it be great if every video had a quality mark for the research used – like 3,4 or 5 stars – from small sample number funded by those financially interested to large sample cross double blind etc. etc.?)

  • BPCveg

    Be: Thanks for your posts! I always enjoy engaging with those who are truth seekers.

    I agree with you for the most part, but believe this website has great value as a learning tool despite some limitations. 

    Do not expect pure objectivity from the videos. Think of them like little advertisements for veganism and use the comments to discuss your thoughts.  There are plenty of interested readers (like myself) who will gladly engage with you in an effort to learn more about the articles. Dr. Greger has been kind enough to not delete any comments, as long as they do not contain any ad hominem attacks.  He is a really good guy!

    Please understand that this website is ultimately rooted in animal rights activism. If you don’t believe me, look at the listed sponsors (http://nutritionfacts.org/about/

    1- The humane society of the united states who employs Dr. Greger’s to work on this website, and

    2- The Jesse & Julie Rasch Foundation, who pays for the website and who is clearly interested in animal welfare as can see by their list of sponsored organizations: (http://www.raschfoundation.org/programs/organizations/)

    Furthermore, Dr. Greger has a history of writing about animal rights. For example, in his article ‘Why Honey is Vegan’ (http://www.satyamag.com/sept05/greger.html),
    he wrote about his experience in persuading others to become vegan:

    “So I talk to them of mercy. Of the cats and dogs with whom they’ve shared their
    lives. Of birds with a half piece of paper’s worth of space in which to live and
    die. Of animals sometimes literally suffering to death. I used to eat meat too,
    I tell them. Lots of meat. And I never knew either. Slowly but surely the
    horror dawns on them. You start to see them struggling internally. How can they
    pet their dog with one hand and stab a piece of pig with the other? ”

    Getting back to your issues with studies, I believe that the science of nutrition is so vast and complex that it is extremely difficult to get a total understanding of any physiological mechanisms. Studies on humans are impossible to perform in a completely controlled manner and will never be entirely satisfactory.  This gives rise to many oversimplified points of view on nutrition. I don’t understand why you are a fan of Taubes as I have carefully studied Gary Taubes’ magnum opus titled “Good calories, Bad calories”.  It is a deeply flawed book for the following reasons:

    1- Taubes’ starts off as an arm chair critic poking holes into nearly every human trial that attempted to link cholesterol and saturated fat intake to heart disease. While he does an effective job in pointing out limitations of these studies, he totally misses the point. These human studies grew out of highly controlled trails performed on rabbits (followed by various other herbivores) that clearly showed the precise mechanism by which cholesterol intake leads to plaque formation. It was even shown that carnivores with a suppressed thyroid gland develop plaques in the same way as herbivores. The goal of the human studies (which are too expensive to conduct thoroughly) was simply to provide an argument for showing correspondence with the animal studies.  Taubes persuades his readers by glossing over all that foundational animal research!

    2- after shooting down the cholesterol argument, Taubes then persuasively argues that refined carbohydrate intake can lead to insulin resistance. So far so good. But then, he astonishingly (and with almost no good data to support him) speculates that ALL carbohydrates are the cause of the main diseases of affluence. He uses belief as a launching pad to argue in favour of the Atkins diet.  Taubes’ like Pollan is a writer and a scientist. The basic problem with Taubes is that he doesn’t apply the same standard of criticism to his own point of view as he does to the mainstream perspective on nutrition.  He is guilty of oversimplying a complex subject and of using sophistry to persuade others.

    • Veganrunner

      BCPveg,

      Ok this time you have outdone yourself! Truly great post.

      When all is said and done–if I had depression I would try saffron. I like to stay away from pharmaceuticals whenever possible.

    • Be

      Thanks for pointing out the animal rights sponsorship and funders. It’s interesting that I’ve been following Gregor for a few years and hadn’t noticed the animal rights association. Well, makes sense. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 40 years and support the animal rights stance. However, I also find additional health benefits of eating certain and fermented organic grass fed dairy products and organic eggs from pasture happy chickens over the cruelty concerns if there is no cruelty involved. Many vegans ignore the health studies and eat vegan junk food and some how justify it all with animal rights issues. it’s mind boggling, to my mind. I do not wish to get into any further debate about veganism here. 

      Regarding Gary Taubes, I respectfully disagree with your interpretation of his work. His research and writing is solid and continues to become more widely respected. Yes, it emphasizes meat eating, as does Cordain and the Paleo and atkins folks, but I am an avid believer that the principles can be applied to a plant based lifestyle, doing no harm to animals, while still benefiting from the health advantages. High good fats, very low carbohydrates, and moderate organic plant based proteins. Where’s the debate here? 

      • Veganrunner

        Hi Be,

        What research has he done? Actual peer review articles regarding dairy, meat and eggs and cardiovascular disease?

        He loses me when he advocates saturated fat and cholesterol consumption but I would be interested in reading research he has conducted. 

      • Toxins

        The harms seen with dairy and eggs far outweighs any sort of benefit that is received. I am curious to see what health attributions you see with these foods.

        The low carb, high meat diet is covered quite thoroughly by Dr, Greger’s free ebook
        http://www.atkinsexposed.org/

    • Mike Quinoa

      I wouldn’t agree that ” this website is ultimately rooted in animal rights activism.” Dr. Greger is upfront about any affiliations he has. Many people become vegans for health rather than ethical reasons (Bill Clinton, Mike Tyson). There are plenty of websites that focus on animal issues from an ethical perspective. This one attempts to examine veganism from a scientific viewpoint.

      Dr. Greger provides an open, uncensored forum for those wishing to dispute his conclusions. Keep in mind, there are plenty of forums where shills from the meat and dairy industry “anonymously” post a heavily slanted viewpoint while posing as an average Joe (MBA’s, Masters of Beef Advocacy, anyone?). 

  • BPCveg

    Thanks Veganrunner; that’s a high complement coming from someone who has made so many excellent posts!

    By the way, given your interest in natural remedies, you might like James Duke’s Green Pharmacy series including the Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods.  In these books, I found many interesting ideas for natural things to try. 

    • Veganrunner

      Its on its way! thank you. Gotta love amazon.

  • BPCveg

    Thanks Be for sharing your point of view.

    So where is the debate you ask?  If you haven’t already seen it, you may wish to follow the link below to view an excellent debate on dietary fat:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdBDQdOKbJQ

    One problem is that the debaters in that video are not evenly matched. Gary Taubes (journalist) is a real lightweight as he takes on Dr. Barbara Howard  (mainstream nutritionist) and Dr. Dean Ornish (scientist and genius).

    • Veganrunner

      I just watched the 5 part series. Excellent. What I found most interesting is that it mirrored the arguments that occur in nutritionfacts.org comment sections. Taubes’ argument is that the research on WFPB diets being superior is flawed. That is the argument of those who comment here touting that cholesterol and saturated fats are healthful.

      Is that really all they have? Show be supporting data.

  • BPCveg

    Glad you enjoyed the debate, Veganrunner.

    Yes, I know it is hard to believe, but you have just seen a demonstration (via Taubes) of the best arguments that the Atkins school has produced. I know it is astonishing how they have essentially persuaded people to eat extreme quantities of meat based on the following four “arguments”:

    1- refined carbohydrate consumption can lead to insulin resistance.
    Based on this argument, they claim that all carbs sources including whole grains are bad for health.

    2- the anthropological record shows that humans in hunter-gather societies that ate lots of meat.
    Based on this argument, they assume that evolution is on the side of meat eaters without backing up their claims based on physiological principles.

    3- nutrition studies on humans are incomplete.
    They use this argument to attack the established view on cholesterol and saturated fat consumption and to dismiss research supporting vegetarianism. Amazingly, they never apply the same criticism to their own data (or rather their lack of it).

    4- people who switch from the standard american diet to the Atkins diet sometimes experience short term weight loss. 

    Obviously, any change from the standard american diet (chips, pizza and beer) to whole foods is likely to lead to some weight loss (even possibly due to increased time spent shopping and cooking), so what does this prove?

    So based on these four arguments, you can see how lucrative the diet doctor business can be!

    • Veganrunner

      You would think the meat and dairy groups would be more than happy to fund good research. It makes me think they know what the outcome would be.

      It is kinda like the arguments against global warming. I would hate for everyone to ignore the possibities and find out 30 years from now that we are too late. My father had a massive heart attack at 52. I best not ignore current peer review research….

  • BPCveg

    Mike: Thanks for your post. Though nothing you have said has challenged the very clear evidence I provided that this website is strongly influenced by animal welfare considerations. Please have a look at the article by Dr. Greger titled ’Why honey is vegan’ – nobody but an animal rights activist could write that piece. Also see the links to this website’s sponsors and read their mission statements clearly. 

    Please note that I am not implying that Dr. Greger is dishonest or even disagreeing with his overall viewpoint. In fact, I respect his animal rights motives. I doubt, however, that he can separate his animal rights motives from his medical interests to remain entirely objective when reporting on articles.

    I do appreciate that Dr. Greger maintains an uncensored forum. The biggest problem I have is that he does not respond to the critical questions that viewers like “Be” often ask. Sometimes the tone of his videos can also be very mismatched from that of the scientists whose articles he tries to represent.

    • Mike Quinoa

      Dr. Greger certainly doesn’t hide his affiliations. All one need do is click on the “About” link—no detective work required. In his position as  Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States, I imagine one of Dr. Greger’s duties is to study emerging zoonotic diseases, as he did with the Avian Flu. This facet of his work has little to do with “animal rights.” As you know, Dr. Greger is a graduate of the Cornell University School of Agriculture and the Tufts University School of Medicine, which is a unique blend of education, and very appropriate for his position at the HSUS.

      Frankly, since he always provides sources cited, and allows an uncensored forum (where any and all are welcome to present disparate views), I find the website remarkably democratic. These are not his own personal studies, though I imagine he writes the script for each video. If you feel he is biased towards animal rights, one can always investigate the work of Drs. Esselstyn, Ornish, McDougall, Fuhrman, etc. These MDs have no connection that I know of with the animal rights movement, yet all are proponents of a plant-based diet. They have found this type of diet to be restorative to their patients’ health.

      I’ve been looking for a study that tests the effect of a diet high in animal foods on cardiac patients. A plant-based diet seems to have positive effects on people with cardiovascular disease (elimination of angina, claudication, etc.). I wonder if someone has attempted this kind of resolution from an animal-foods diet.

  • BPCveg

    Mike:  Do you work for Dr. Greger?  I am wondering because you are beginning to sound as if you are Dr. Greger’s PR person.

    • Mike Quinoa

      Nah. I just don’t think there is any lack of transparency re: his association with HSUS, etc. Also, it’s a self-correcting site as regards bias, since even Masters of Beef Advocacy are free to post. I do notice that Dr. Greger usually quotes verbatim from the studies featured in the videos, so his own personal bias/interpretation is kept to a minimum. I admire Dr Greger very much, but it certainly doesn’t hurt any of us to be a bit skeptical these days.

      • mollyhorn

        It’s only tangentially related, but the American Dietetic Association (y’know, the guys responsible for the food pyramid?) is sponsored by:
        National Dairy Council
        Pepsico and CocaCola
        Hershey’s Chocolate and Mars Inc.
        and … Unilever

  • BG

    Hi Dr. Greger,
    I’ve been on anti-depressants for many years for mild-moderate clinical depression.  I have been seeking an alternative to pharmaceuticals, but do not know how to safely switch from the pharmaceutical to a natural alternative, such as saffron or St. John’s Wort.  I believe St. John’s has a similar mechanism to SSRIs, so it can be dangerous to take both the pharmaceutical and the St John’s at the same time.  This makes it difficult to wean off the one drug and on to the other.
    Do researchers understand how saffron works, i.e. it’s mechanism of action?
    Do you have any advice for weaning off the pharmaceuticals and onto an herbal?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you for all the great information you provide.

    BG

  • BPCveg

    Mike: The issue is not whether Dr. Greger’s affiliations are transparent (I have never claimed that they are not) or whether this forum is uncensored (I also never claimed otherwise). If we have volley after volley agreeing with each other on such points, it will soon seem like a “who’s on first” skit. The information I provided on animal rights affiliations was useful to at least one person, namely,  ”Be”,  who thanked me for pointing it out. 

    As I see it, the main point of dispute between us is the extent to which Dr. Greger’s interpretations of scientific articles carry a bias in favor of veganism.  You clearly feel that there is negligible bias whereas I often find his interpretations to be highly biased (which I assume is related to an animal rights motive).

    Although I continue to participate in this forum, because I still find this website to be entertaining and useful to my education on nutrition, I find some of these videos to be bordering on offensive…in fact, some of his videos have even seemed like an all-out assault on meat eating. Dr. Greger portrays meat eaters as smelly, sexually-dysfunctional, diseased and constipated. In contrast, vegans (who follow Dr. Greger’s whole foods plant based diet) are made to sound as if they are portraits of perfect health.

    In reality, the american dieticians (the experts) acknowedge that a well planned vegan diet is achievable for the general population and may have several health benefits. But they never paint such a disgusting portrait of meat eaters as does Dr. Greger. Which is more likely, that the largest organization of dieticians in the world is suffering from a mass delusion (“the tomato effect”) or that one animal rights activist working for the Humane Society is mixing his thoughts with his feelings.  

    Let’s look at the data more closely: The life expectency increases seen among vegans has so far been fairly dissapointing. You can try to explain that away as being due to B12 deficiency or poor omega-3/omega-6 balance, but I have yet to see a study showing that followers of a purely whole foods plant based diet will live more than a couple of years longer (on average) than the general population (with all other factors controlled). In fact, there are even studies that Dr. Greger won’t discuss that provide evidence that fish eaters had a longer life expectancy than vegetarians and vegans. This is one of the reasons I think the portrait that Dr. Greger provides is very skewed given the current scope of data on nutrition.

    Dr. Greger has also taken a very narrow interpretation of food (i.e the healthfulness of a food is measured by the total number of antioxidnants present). Probably antioxidants are a contributing factor to good health, but health is not conventially interpreted by the scientific community as mainly dependent on antioxidant consumption. For the less nutritionally inclined person, it can be hard to see where Dr. Greger is simplying making a hypothesis versus where he is really telling us facts. 

    As Dr. Greger has discussed in the context of supplements, food nutrition is greater than the sum of its parts due to synergistic effects of nutrients. Ok – but then why does he reject all animal products simply based on their nutrient components – why not consider the synergistic effects of animal and plant products. No doubt that eating more fruits and vegables is great advice for the general populations, but I don’t think that nutrition boils down only to a division between eating animals versus eating plants!

    • Mike Quinoa

      “The issue is not whether Dr. Greger’s affiliations are transparent (I have never claimed that they are not) or whether this forum is uncensored (I also never claimed otherwise).”

      I think these issues are relevant. Would you not be suspicious if you found a pro-meat website that was secretly funded by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association? Dr. Greger is totally upfront about his connection with HSUS. And the fact that the forum is uncensored allows anyone to dispute Dr. Greger’s interpretation of a particular study (and he conveniently provides his readers with the appropriate citations to do so). At that point, it’s up to all of us to do our own research. I think it is good that people like yourself “police” this site. I think the unvarnished truth is what most of us are seeking to learn.

      As I have also mentioned, there are many prominent MDs who advocate a whole-foods plant-based diet who have no affiliations with any animal group. In other words, there are MDs who agree more or less with Dr. Greger and who couldn’t give a fiddler’s fig about animal rights. You don’t have to be an animal rights activist to generally concur with Michael’s findings. 

      The study of veganism is still a fairly new science. As veganism becomes more mainstream more will be learned on how to optimize a plant-based diet. Fish won’t probably be a factor in the future, since we’re going to fish out the oceans until they’re all gone. In the meantime, eating fish can mean ingesting  dioxins, PCBs, and mercury. This does not bode well for fish-eaters in future longevity comparisons.

  • BPCveg

    Fair enough, Mike Quinoa. Thanks for the exchange of opinions.

  • Tmdriver

    Hello Dr Greger

    I was wondering if you can recommend the best way to supplement a diet with saffron. I have looked online and there are many supplements that are expensive. I trust your opinion and know you would make a good recommendation.

    Thanks in advance.

  • June Siegel-Hill

    Dr. Greger, I recently read an article online about saffron, which said that in order to find out if it’s been artificially colored, have it steep in hot water and if it instantly colors the water, it’s artificially colored. Does that mean it’s also of an inferior quality? I bought saffron from Trader Joe’s and from Safeway and both waters were colored immediately. Do you know which spice company has better quality saffron? I have not tried it yet with Whole Foods saffron because of the expense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nurit.amitai Nurit Amitai

    BPCveg, THANK YOU!!! I think Dr. Greger should hire you to work with him on the site, seriously. I am new to this site, but have been reading a lot of it in the past few days, and I’m so happy to have encountered this debate now, and understanding better the overall picture of the information presented in this site. I agree with you on everything you wrote, I appreciate Dr. Greger’s work and the establishment of this site a lot, but also believe that everything should be considered, including who funds the site and the researches, and what is not said on the videos and articles. I have been vegetarian for 8 years in my teens, mostly for ethical ideals, and now, 13 years later, I’m trying to become vegetarian again, for health reasons mainly, but also ethical reasons. but I do believe everything should be taken into perspective and not be counted on blind folded. I’ll be sure to keep following your comment in this site, thanx for caring, cheers.

    • BPCveg

      Nurit- thank you so much for your kind words. And I am glad that you found the above discussion useful! It will be exciting to continue to follow the discussion on this website as nutrition knowledge evolves. Best wishes!

  • Loren Marks D.C., DACBN

    While the Persian studies cross-referenced saffron s effects against Prozac, French researchers have performed studies against Saffron’s effects on depression with the drug Imipramine. See life extensions article and references.
    http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2010/aug2010_Curb-Compulsive-Eating-Naturally_02.htm?source=search&key=Saffron%20effects%20on%20Depression

  • http://profiles.google.com/museredux dm conner

    What is a good source for buying saffron, or any herb? — so we know the dose or purity.

  • http://twitter.com/RosemoreRiver Rosemore Rivers

    What is the saffron dosage to receive relief?

  • Qaisar J Qayyum MD,PC

    Dear Doctor Greger,

    I am new to your website, and I like it very much. Please keep up the good work. How can we access the full articles you mention in your presentations?

    Qaisar Qayyum MD

    • Thea

      Qaisar Qayyum MD: If you look below the videos, you will see a “Sources Cited” section. Just expand the section to see the references for the articles.

      When Dr. Greger can, he includes a link to an on-line version of the study. Sadly, some studies are not accessible without a fee. For those, you will have a reference, but will have to find your own way to actually review the study.

      Hope that helps.

  • Sebastian Tristan

    This is impressive.