The fastest rising herbal stars for depression are curcumin and saffron. The most recent study to evaluate the benefits of these herbs looked at curcumin and saffron either alone or together in the treatment of major depression. . . .

This double-blind, placebo-controlled study included 123 people with major depression. It divided them into 4 groups: one served as a control group and received only a placebo, the second received 250mg of curcumin extract twice a day, the third received the larger dose of 500mg of curcumin extract twice a day, and the fourth received 250mg of curcumin extract and 15mg of saffron twice a day.

At the end of the 12 week study, the herb groups had significantly greater improvement both in depression and also in anxiety. The herbs also brought about significantly greater improvement in people with atypical depression. Atypical depression is a common form of depression that is characterized by mood reactivity, increased appetite and weight gain, excessive sleep and greater risk of suicide. 65% of people with atypical depression improved on the herbs compared to 35% on the placebo.

There was no difference between the different herbal groups. It is not totally clear why since the efficacy of both herbs is well established for depression. The researchers speculated that it was either because an antidepressant ceiling was hit even with the lowest dose of curcumin or because the study was did not have enough people in it to detect group differences.

Journal of Affective Disorders 2017;207:188-96

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