Teenage moods brightened by spice

March 9, 2018

Cheery teens: Murdoch Uni completes world first study on how saffron improves adolescent moods.

In a world first, research has shown that the key to lifting teenage moods could be sitting in the kitchen pantry.

Murdoch University researchers Dr Adrian Lopresti and Professor Peter Drummond have just completed an investigation into the potential for the spice saffron as a natural treatment for depressive and anxiety symptoms in adolescents.

“Saffron has been shown to be an effective natural antidepressant in adults, but we were interested in its potential to alleviate depressive and anxiety symptoms in teenagers,” Dr Lopresti said.

Nearly 70 Australian adolescents suffering from moodiness or mild anxiety between the ages of 12 and 16 years participated in the eight week trial, with very promising results.

The adolescents were given 14mg of patented saffron supplement (affron®) or placebo twice daily.

Over the course of the experiment, teens taking saffron experienced a 33 per cent improvement in mood, compared to only 17 per cent in people taking the placebo.

“This study has shown that saffron has the potential to be an effective treatment with very few side effects for anxiety and depression in adolescents,” Dr Lopresti said.

“Saffron was particularly effective in reducing symptoms associated with separation anxiety, depression and social phobia, and participants reported a reduction in headaches over the eight weeks as well.

“Although cooking with large quantities of saffron may be prohibitively expensive, supplements are a far more cost effective way to ingest the spice. We are now working to identify the optimal dose needed to lift moods and how long the treatment can be used for.

“It is important to note while saffron may improve someone’s response to stress, it is better to identify and treat the cause of stress in the first instance.”

Dr Lopresti and Professor Drummond are now investigating whether the combined use of saffron and a pharmaceutical antidepressant works better than an antidepressant alone, in adults with depression.

The study has been published in the Journal of Affective Disorders and can be read here.

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