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Saffron & Chamomile for Depression
In this interesting study, saffron with chamomile was used to treat depression. Saffron is an interesting spice that is sometimes used as a medicine. As you may recall, we recently reviewed a study suggesting saffron might have a role in the treatment of ADHD. Chamomile is a ubiquitous herb and has a long history of medicinal use for anxiety, insomnia, skin disorders and indigestion.
This was a small study of 50 people (J Pak Med Assoc, Vol. 73 No. 6 (2023): JUNE, 1245-1250). In this study the researchers monitored the patients' depression and metabolic health, IE cholesterol level, HDL (so called 'good' cholesterol) and LDL (the 'bad' cholesterol). The theory was that if the patient's health improved, the metabolic markers and depression would both improve.
All 50 patients continued on their previously prescribed medications and antidepressants. Unfortunately, antidepressants only work for about half the patients they are prescribed for. And the half that do benefit don't necessarily achieve total remission of their depression. Some get a little improvement, some get a lot and some get full remission.
In this country, over 1/3 of all health care dollars are spent on mental health issues, of which depression is the biggest problem. Thus the ongoing search for new and better treatments for depression for the people that don't get any improvement from prescription antidepressants, as well as those that only get partial improvement and need additional help.
In this study, 25 patients were given teabags containing 1 mg of saffron and 20 mg of chamomile, to make into tea, to drink twice a day for one month. The other 25 did not get the teabags. So this was really a study of how much conventional treatment would be improved by adding this mixture of herbal tea to drink twice a day. Apparently Saffron/Chamomile is a popular combination. The tea pictured is one of several brands I found on a quick internet search.
I'm a big fan of herbal medicine, and have used herbal medicine extensively over the last 40 years with my patients. In this newsletter I have written articles recently about some great herbs including kava and valerian, echinacea and ginseng. But I prescribe herbal medicines in standardized pill form. Hence when I prescribe an herbal medicine, each dose represents a specific amount of the active ingredient.
I don't have any experience with using a home brewed herbal tea as a medicine. So part of the interest for me was to see the results of using an herbal medicine in such a basic, simple fashion.
Saffron & Chamomile Tea Improved Cholesterol Level
Well this tea had some good results. At the end of the 30 day study the cholesterol, HDL and LDL showed some very favorable changes in the saffron/chamomile tea group compared to the group that didn't get the tea.
Total cholesterol decreased an average of 43 in the tea group, vs just 11 in the control group.
HDL, (higher is better) went up 11 in the treatment group and down 1 in the control group.
LDL (lower is better) went down 30 in the tea group but only went down 7 in the control group.
Those are healthy changes! Typically you expect to see these types of changes when a person makes a major improvement in their health. For example when sedentary people begin an aerobic exercise plan, after a couple of months you might see these types of changes in cholesterol and HDL. We might see the same results if an overweight person lost 25-50 pounds. So it is a very reasonable interpretation to conclude that drinking this saffron/chamomile tea twice a day for a month caused an improvement in general health, similar to what we would expect to see with implementing an exercise plan or an overweight person successfully losing weight.
Saffron & Chamomile Tea Improved Depression
And the depression improved! Final depression scores for the tea group were substantially better than the group that only continued on their medications.
Saffron and Chamomile Are Effective for
Depression and Metabolic Health
Hence this small, well designed study demonstrated that a saffron/chamomile tea mixture, when combined with standard medical treatment, led to improved general metabolic health and significantly reduced depression and did so in just one short month. If this inexpensive medicine can reliably improve metabolic health AND mental health, it could become an important tool in a nation plagued with heart disease and depression.
Further studies should be performed to see if this herbal combination is effective as a stand alone therapy.
Take care and BE HEALTHY!
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