According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 38 million Americans suffer with anxiety and depressive disorders each year, and 78 million will be afflicted at some point in their lives. Left untreated, depression and anxiety can have serious personal, interpersonal, occupational and social consequences.
Until recently, many people felt that anxiety and depression were the result of a weak will, bad character, or sin. Recent brain science has clearly revealed that these disorders are in large part the result of brain dysfunction. Depression, for example, is associated with low levels of certain neurotransmitters, especially norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin.
When people with anxiety or depressive disorders seek help (typically from a primary care physician), most receive medication as the only intervention. However, these medications often have significant side effects, especially in the area of sexual dysfunction, weight gain, and relapse.
Thankfully, more natural and safer interventions are available.
Multiple research studies suggest that saffron, a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, may support healthy levels of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being. Saffron is high in carotenoids and B vitamins that help increase the levels of serotonin and other chemicals in the brain that are associated with depression.
A meta-analysis of five studies found saffron extract to be as effective as antidepressant medication in treating people with major depression. Another study found saffron to be as effective as fluoxetine (Prozac) in reducing mild to moderate depression.
Additionally, research has demonstrated the effectiveness of curcumin, the naturally occurring chemical compound in turmeric, as an effective and safe therapy for treatment in patients with depression. One study in particular found that not only was curcumin tolerated well by all the participants, but they discovered curcumin was as effective as Prozac in managing depression.
In a 2013 study of depressed human subjects, curcumin’s effectiveness was similar to that of a standard antidepressant medication. Maybe more importantly, though, curcumin contains none of the side effects associated with commonly antidepressant medications and provides additional health benefits as well.
Recent research published in the Journal of Affective Disorders looked at the effectiveness of both curcumin and saffron in treating major depression. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on 123 individuals with major depressive disorder, it was shown that doses of curcumin and combined curcumin/saffron were effective in reducing depressive and anxiolytic symptoms.
Dietary supplements can be a great way to attain the same nutrients that are found in research studies to have amazing health benefits. Supplements can help enhance the functions of the body with little to no side effects. It is important when taking dietary supplements that you are confident in their quality, and that you speak to a nutritionally informed physician before beginning any new regimens.
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