Writing in Frontiers in Nutrition, scientists from France and the UK report that the proprietary saffron extract Safr'Inside by French company Activ'Inside also improved depression scores on the Profile of Mood State-2 (POMS) scale, compared to placebo.
An additional acute study showed that the saffron extract reduced the response to stress in a stress test, while stress levels increased in the placebo group.
“The results revealed several beneficial effects of saffron on subjective mood and quality of life measures, with the clearest finding reflecting a greater reduction in the depression scale of the POMS compared to placebo. This was accompanied by an improvement in social relationships on day 56,” wrote the researchers.
Saffron and mood
Saffron is derived from tendrils taken from the flowers of the Crocus sativus plant. As a spice, saffron has been in trade and has been used in culinary applications for centuries and has long been considered the world’s most expensive by weight.
More recently extracts of saffron have been investigated for their cognitive benefits in mood, memory and in ameliorating disorders brought on by cognitive decline.
The new study included 56 healthy men and women aged between 18 and 54 with subclinical feelings of low mood and anxiety and/or stress, The participants were randomly assigned to receive either the saffron extract (30 mg per day) or placebo for eight weeks.
Results showed that crocetin levels in urine increased significantly following saffron supplementation. These increases were correlated with changes in depression scores, added the researchers.
“This finding [the impact on depression scores] reflects a growing body of evidence supporting the use of saffron in the treatment of depression in patient populations,” wrote the researchers. “However, demonstration of the efficacy of saffron extract supplementation on depressive symptoms in a healthy population self-reporting low mood is completely new. Indeed, to our knowledge, only one other study has reported a positive effect of saffron on depressive symptoms in a healthy population.
“In our study, we found that changes in urinary crocetin, probably due to changes in blood saffron metabolites, were strongly associated with variation in POMS depression T-score,” they added. “This novel finding adds further evidence linking specific bioactive constituents of saffron with subjective mood in humans.”
In addition, the researchers also considered the effects of an acute dose on heart rate variability (HRV), which is directly related to stress (the higher the stress becomes, the lower the HRV gets).
The results showed that HRV remained the same in people consuming the Safr'Inside supplements, but it decreased in the placebo-group.
On the quality of life measures from the eight week study, the researchers found a positive effect of the saffron extract on social relationships ratings at the end of the intervention.
“This finding could be interpreted in the context of the concurrent improvement in depression scores observed in participants who received saffron,” they said. “It follows then that an improvement in depressive mood may manifest in enhanced social relationships. What is less clear is why the aforementioned change in mood would not be reflected in improvements in other quality of life measures.
“As this is the first time an effect of saffron on an individual's life beyond their mood state has been observed, further investigation is recommended.”
Safr'Inside is distributed in North America by SEPPIC | Air Liquide Healthcare Specialty Ingredients.
Source: Frontiers in Nutrition
Published online, open access: doi: 10.3389/fnut.2020.606124
“Effects of Saffron Extract Supplementation on Mood, Well-Being, and Response to a Psychosocial Stressor in Healthy Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Parallel Group, Clinical Trial”
Authors: P.A. Jackson et al.