Saffron may help tense kids


Research suggests the cooking spice might do more than make food taste good. Andrew Masterson reports.


Saffron: great in a curry, and not bad in a troubled brain, either, it seems.
Saffron: great in a curry, and not bad in a troubled brain, either, it seems.
R. Tsubin / Getty Images

It sounds at first blush like a bit of dubious homespun hippy wisdom, but a small university-conducted trial has found that taking saffron may reduce anxiety in adolescents.

The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, involved 68 young people, aged between 12 and 16, who had been diagnosed as suffering from mild to moderate anxiety.

Over eight weeks, the cohort was given either a daily 14-milligram dose of a commercially prepared saffron extract, or a placebo. During the trial, those receiving the extract reported significant reductions in separation anxiety, social phobia and depression.

Based on self-reported data, overall anxiety was reduced by 33%. Participants on the placebo reported an overall decrease of 17%.

The results, however, were not cut-and-dried. Parents of the participants were also asked to estimate symptom severity in their children, and returned a mix of results inconsistent with the self-reports.

The research was led by psychologists Peter Drummond and Adrian Lopresti of Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia.

“Saffron was particularly effective in reducing symptoms associated with separation anxiety, depression and social phobia, and participants reported a reduction in headaches over the eight weeks as well,” says Lopresti.

“Although cooking with large quantities of saffron may be prohibitively expensive, supplements are a far more cost-effective way to ingest the spice. We are now working to identify the optimal dose needed to lift moods and how long the treatment can be used for.”

And while saffron, or a commercial extract thereof, might promise a moderate reduction in anxiety symptoms, Lopresti is quick to say “it is better to identify and treat the cause of stress in the first instance”.

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  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032717327131
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032717327131
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