By TAP Integrative

Major depressive disorder, or depression, is conventionally treated with a combination of counseling and pharmaceutical interventions. Most patients do not achieve full resolution of their symptoms, however, and some discontinue medications because of side effects. Interest in natural alternatives is particularly high for patients with depression, with one study reporting that as many as 50% of women with depression seek complementary and alternative options.

Curcumin (derived from Curcuma longa) and saffron (Crocus sativus) are dietary supplements that have been studied for their anti-depressant effects. Meta-analyses conclude that curcumin and saffron are more effective than placebo for the treatment of major depressive disorder, and several studies have found saffron to be equally as effective as antidepressant medications. Previous studies, however, have been limited by their duration (lasting no longer than 8 weeks), small sample sizes and use of similar dosages across studies.

The current randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, published in 2016 in the Journal of Affective Disorders, evaluated the effects of curcumin and saffron in patients with major depressive disorder over 12 weeks. A total of 123 participants were assigned to 1 of 4 treatment arms: placebo, low-dose curcumin extract (250mg, as BCM-95® twice daily), high-dose curcumin extract (500mg, as BCM-95® twice daily), or combined low-dose curcumin extract plus saffron (15mg bid). Curcumin capsules were standardized to 88% curcuminoids, and saffron capsules were standardized to >3.5% lepticrosalides. All capsules were supplied by Dolcas-Biotech LLT (New Jersey, USA). Outcome measures were scores on the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (IDS-SR30) and Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).

Participants in all treatment arms experienced significantly greater improvements in depressive symptoms and significantly greater improvements in state and trait anxiety than those in the placebo arm. A response rate, defined as >50% improvement in symptoms, was achieved in 28% of those on active treatments and 13% of those on placebo (P = 0.31). However, this difference in response rates approached, but did not reach statistical significance. Of note, improvement in the placebo group plateaued after 4 weeks, whereas improvements in the active treatment groups persisted throughout the study. Additionally, there were no significant differences in outcomes between any of the treatment groups, suggesting that treatment efficacy was adequately achieved with the low-dose curcumin and that addition of saffron did not enhance treatment efficacy.

The results of this well designed, placebo-controlled trial add to the body of data suggesting a role for curcumin in treating patients with major depressive disorder.



Lopresti AL, Drummond PD. Efficacy of curcumin, and a saffron/curcumin combination for the treatment of major depression: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Affect Disord. 2017;207188-196.

This content has been provided exclusively to Natural Partners by TAP Integrative. To learn more about TAP as well as details on how you can attain a discounted TAP Integrative membership, click here.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease