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   May 27

Hypericum, saffron effective in treating depression

An excellent medical review published this year in Psychiatria Polska finds that out of more than 20 herbal remedies – hypericum (also known as St. John wort) and saffron are as effective as conventional medicine in treating mild to moderate depression.

Among the reviewed herbal remedies, seven herbal remedies including hypericum, lavender, borage, roseroot, chamomile, saffron and ginseng are identified as promising antidepressants that may be used to treat depression, anxiety and insomnia or sleep disorders although only hypericum and saffron have been clinically confirmed to have an effective antidepressive activity and are safe to use.


The efficacy of hypericum whose active components are hyperforin and hypericin, has been demonstrated in more than 5,000 patients in multiple clinical trials. Research has proved that this herbal supplement treated depression as effectively as SSRI and tricyclic antidepressants.

SSRI stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – drugs indicated for the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, and some personality disorders. The common side effects associated with use of SSRI include sexual dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, discontinuation syndrome, suicide risk, pregnancy and breastfeeding issues, and bleeding problems.

Evidence suggests that hypericum relieves depression by modulating monoamine transmission and influencing dopaminergic activity and neuroendocrine modulation.

Something you need to know about hypericum:

Efficacy: It is as effective as SSRI and TLPD. Research suggests hypericum may be effective in preventing depression recurrence for a long term.

Safety: Hypericum has a low profile of side effects. Only 0 to 5.7% of participants dropped out due to side effects, which was similar to that of placebo. It is better tolerated than serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Caution: Hypericum in high doses may trigger CYP3A and p-glycoprotein induction and it may decrease serum levels of oral contraceptives, digoxin or warfarin. Hypericum can also interact with clomipramine, citalopram, alprazolam, sertindole, clozapine, aripiprazole, ziazepam and zopiclone.

Dosage: Hypericum extracts can be used in a dose of 900 to 1800 mg per day as second or third therapy in patients with mild-to-moderate depression who do not want to use synthetic drugs or can’t tolerate those drugs well. Because of the potential interaction with other drugs, hypericum is not recommended to be used together with other drugs.


It has been proved that saffron is effective in treating mild to moderate depression. In two trials, saffron was compared with placebo and in other four randomized, controlled trials, it was compared with fluoxetine in a dose of 20 mg per day or imipramine in a dose of 100 mg per day.

Saffron relieves depression symptoms by inhibiting monoamine NA, DA (crocin), 5HT reuptake (safranal), antagonizing NMDA, agonizing GABA alpha and potentially activating BDNF.

Efficacy: Saffron decreased depression symptoms in the HDRS-17 Hamilton scale after six weeks of supplementation was 12.2 points compared with 5 points in those taking placebo. Saffron was also compared with imipramine 100 mg per day. Its efficacy is similar to that of control, but resulted in less side effects such as dry mouth and sleepiness within six weeks of intervention.

Safety: Saffron has a low profile of side effects and it is well tolerated. Both were well tolerated.

Dosage: Standardized saffron extract in a dose of 30 mg per day which is the same as 0.6 to 0.7 mg of safranal (the active ingredient in the preparation) was used to treat mild-to-moderate depression.

One good thing about saffron is that when it is used with fluoxetine, it can mitigate certain sexual dysfunctions caused by serotonin reuptake inhibitors in men and women. Sexual dysfunction can be caused by SSRI.

Other potential herbal remedies that may be used to treat depression

Other potential herbal remedies that can be used to treat depression include lavender, borage, roseroot or arctic root, chamomile, and ginseng.

Lavender: Trials indicated that using lavender tincture together with imipramine can greatly reduce depressive symptoms.

Borage: Preclinical trials show borage extract has a similar therapeutical effect to that of serotonin reuptake inhibitors. In high doses, borage preparations may have some toxic effects and because of this, its use is not recommended.

Roseroot: It has only a weak effect on depressive symptoms.

Chamomile: It is effective in treating depressive symptoms on the Hamilton Scale. It is well tolerated although chamomile may interact with warfarin, statins and oral contraceptives as described in literature.

Ginseng: One study shows that women improved their depressive symptoms after taking ginseng preparations.

In summary, hypericum and saffron are effective herbal medicines that can be used to replace the conventional medications indicated for the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression. (David LIU PHD)

Source: Foodconsumer.org

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