The spice that’s key to a happy life

It’s the vividly coloured spice often used to pep up Indian cuisine – and it’s now believed saffron can also brighten up your mood.

A new Australian study has found that saffron may be the secret ingredient in treating depressive symptoms and anxiety in people as young as 12.

A natural mood-booster

While saffron has been recognised as an effective natural anti-depressant for adults, researchers at Perth’s Murdoch University have found it also has promising potential as a therapy for teens.

The study, in the Journal of Affective Disorders, monitored almost 70 teenagers aged 12 to 16 with mild to moderate anxiety or depressive symptoms.

Over eight weeks, some were given a saffron supplement and while others received a placebo.

The research findings

Researcher Dr Adrian Lopresti says the group taking the saffron supplements experienced a 33 per cent improvement in mood compared with 17 per cent in the placebo group.

“This study has shown that saffron has the potential to be an effective treatment with very few side effects for anxiety and depression in adolescents,” Dr Lopresti says.

“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.”

Saffron for cooking is relatively expensive, so Dr Lopresti says supplements are the most cost-effective way to use the spice to treat depression and anxiety.

The spice(s) of life

Saffron joins a long list of spices and herbs hailed for their health benefits.

Aged garlic extract is a potent weapon against heart disease, while ginger has anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea effects, and aids digestion.

Turmeric is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties – it also makes a delicious golden latte.

Ready for some spice-infused, health-boosting meals? Try this cauliflower, spinach and chickpea curry, warm Moroccan cauliflower ‘rice’ salad, madras chicken curry or more mouth-watering dishes.