Background: Saffron has antidepressant and anxiolytic effects in adults with mild-to-moderate depression. However, this is the first study examining its mood-related effects in teenagers.
Methods: In this 8-week, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, youth aged 12-16 years, with mild-to-moderate anxiety or depressive symptoms were given tablets containing placebo or a saffron extract (affron®, 14 mg b.i.d). The youth and parent versions of the Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS) were used as outcome measures.
Results: 80 participants were enrolled and 68 completed the study. Based on youth self-reports, affron® was associated with greater improvements in overall internalising symptoms (p = 0.049), separation anxiety (p = 0.003), social phobia (p = 0.023), and depression (p = 0.016). Total internalising scores decreased by an average of 33% compared to 17% in the placebo group (p = 0.029). However, parental reports of improvements were inconsistent as mean improvements in RCADS scores were greater in the saffron group (40% vs 26%) (p = 0.026), although no other significant differences were identified. affron® was well-tolerated and there was a trend of reduced headaches in participants on the active treatment.
Limitations: The use of a self-report instrument, limited study duration, single treatment dose, and non-clinical sample used in this study limit the generalisability of study findings.
Conclusion: The administration of a standardised saffron extract (affron®) for 8 weeks improved anxiety and depressive symptoms in youth with mild-to-moderate symptoms, at least from the perspective of the adolescent. However, these beneficial effects were inconsistently corroborated by parents.
Keywords: Anxiety; Clinical trial; Depression; Saffron extract; Teenager; Youth.
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