Better than stimulant medicines, saffron could be the next ADHD treatment
07/03/2019 // Cassie B. // Views

Curcumin has been in the spotlight for the past few years as scientists discover more and more of the impressive health benefits it offers, but another yellow herb could be trying to knock it off its throne. Researchers are becoming increasingly interested in exploring the use of saffron to address mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s, and now a study has shown that it could be a very promising treatment for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

In a study that appeared in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, researchers looked at children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 17 who had been officially diagnosed with ADHD. They were divided into two groups in the randomized, controlled trial. One was given 30 milligrams of saffron per day over the course of six weeks, while the other took Ritalin (methylphenidate), which is currently a standard treatment for the mental illness.

The researchers found that saffron worked just as well as Ritalin at addressing ADHD symptoms. This is excellent news for the 30 percent of patents who don’t respond to stimulants or who can’t tolerate them, and it’s likely to inspire further studies and better future treatments.

Ritalin is one of the most commonly prescribed ADHD drugs, and it brings with it a host of undesirable side effects. For example, although it can reduce the restlessness often experienced by ADHD suffers, it can make anxiety even worse, even at normal doses. It can also make people more irritable, nervous, or hostile. As a stimulant, it can make it hard for people to fall asleep at night and raise their heart rate. It can also raise blood pressure; those with high blood pressure are generally advised not to take it.


Another big problem with Ritalin is that it can temporarily slow children’s growth, especially when they first start taking it. In fact, children are sometimes advised to take a break from it – often during summer so as not to affect concentration in school – to give their body a chance to grow. This is hardly something most parents want their children to take if it can be avoided.

It also has an adverse impact on circulation, sometimes making people’s fingers and toes cold or causing a bluish skin tone. In addition, it is known to cause stomach aches, nausea and diarrhea. Ritalin can even be abused, leading to feelings of hostility and paranoia, not to mention the withdrawal symptoms people face upon stopping it.

Saffron is a safer alternative

Saffron, in contrast, is safe when it’s consumed in small amounts like those used in the study, although it shouldn’t be used by those who are pregnant or have bleeding disorders. Natural and filled with vitamins, minerals and other compounds, it actually improves blood pressure and enhances the immune system.

Saffron is often used as a spice or to color food like paellas and stews. It contains a-crocin, a type of carotenoid that serves as an antioxidant and can protect you from disease and infection.

In addition to its effects on ADHD, saffron has been shown to alleviate anxiety, which 60 percent of people with ADHD also suffer from. It can also lift your mood overall and lead to general mental health improvements. That’s why it has long been a natural depression remedy in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Double-blind studies have shown it to work just as well as drugs like Prozac in treating depression.

The idea that so many people, especially children, could potentially be spared the risks of pharmaceuticals like Ritalin in favor of spices like saffron is a very promising one, and we hope that this study will lead to safer treatments in the future.

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