New horizons for the study of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and its active ingredients in the management of neurological and psychiatric disorders: A systematic review of clinical evidence and mechanisms

Phytother Res. 2024 May;38(5):2276-2302. doi: 10.1002/ptr.8110. Epub 2024 Feb 29.


Saffron (Crocus sativus), as an herbal medicine, has been extensively investigated for treating neurological and psychiatric disorders. This systematic review aimed to assess the overall effects of saffron on cognition, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were identified by searching PubMed/Medline, Web of Science, and Clinical Trials databases up to June 2023 according to search terms and inclusion criteria. The participants were either healthy or suffering from some diseases, including neurological and psychiatric disorders, and consumed saffron or its extracts as an intervention. The risk of bias was assessed according to the Cochrane guidelines, and the PRISMA statement was followed. The meta-analysis was performed using RevMan and STATA software. A random-effects or fixed-effects model was used to calculate the pooled effect sizes. Forty-six RCTs were enrolled, and the duration of these trials ranged from 4 to 48 weeks with saffron or its extracts, both alone or in combination with conventional drugs. Saffron was more effective than placebo in improving cognition, depression with an overall effect size of -4.26 (95% CI: -5.76, -2.77), anxiety of -3.75 (95% CI: -5.83, -1.67), and sleep disorders of -1.91 (95% CI: -2.88, -0.93). Saffron was non-inferior to conventional drugs for treating cognitive disorders, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and OCD, and it exhibited good tolerance with few side effects. Saffron may exert protective roles for neurological and psychiatric disorders and represents a relatively favorable and safe treatment.

Keywords: ADHD; OCD; cognition; depression and anxiety; saffron; sleep disorders.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / drug therapy
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy
  • Crocus* / chemistry
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy
  • Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts* / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts* / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / drug therapy


  • Plant Extracts