Saffron in the treatment of depression, anxiety and other mental disorders: Current evidence and potential mechanisms of action

J Affect Disord. 2018 Feb:227:330-337. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.11.020. Epub 2017 Nov 7.


Background: Depression and anxiety are two common mental health problems with high economic and social costs. Currently, a number of treatments are available for patients with depression and anxiety disorders such as psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy and antidepressant drugs. Due to safety concerns, adverse effects, limited efficacy and low tolerability associated with many antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications, identification of novel agents with less toxicity and more favorable outcome is warranted.

Methods: The current article provides a non-systematic review of the available in vitro, in vivo and clinical evidence on the efficacy, safety and mechanisms of action of saffron and its active ingredients in the treatment of anxiety, depression and other mental disorders.

Results: Several interesting data have been reported about the antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties of saffron, the dried stigmas of Crocus sativus L., in several preclinical and clinical studies. In particular, a number of clinical trials demonstrated that saffron and its active constituents possess antidepressant properties similar to those of current antidepressant medications such as fluoxetine, imipramine and citalopram, but with fewer reported side effects.

Conclusion: Saffron may exert antidepressant effects and represents an efficacious and safe treatment.

Keywords: Anxiety; Crocin; Depression; Psychological disorders; Saffron.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / drug therapy*
  • Crocus*
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*


  • Plant Extracts