Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental condition that affects nervous system development. Some research shows that saffron supplementation may reduce ADHD symptoms.

Saffron is a spice commonly used in cooking, originating from the Crocus sativus flower. It has a variety of beneficial properties, including being anti-inflammatory.

Some studies show the effectiveness of saffron, such as its success in treating symptoms such as hyperactivity. However, more research is necessary as many effects may only be short term.

This article explores the effectiveness of saffron in treating ADHD symptoms. It also details how to take it and other treatments for ADHD.

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Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world, harvested by hand from the Crocus sativus flower. It is available in capsule or powder form for daily supplementation.

Saffron may reduce ADHD symptoms due to its psychoactive properties and its role as an antioxidant.

Studies investigating the impact of saffron on ADHD symptoms in children have found a positive association. For example:

  • A small clinical trial of 63 participants found that saffron and methylphenidate medication were both comparably effective for treating ADHD symptoms and that saffron is more effective for hyperactivity symptoms.
  • A similar study with 70 participants ages 7–17 years found that saffron taken in addition to methylphenidate medication reduced symptoms after 8 weeks.
  • Another study of 44 participants found that taking 15 milligrams of saffron alongside methylphenidate medication reduced ADHD symptoms compared to participants taking only methylphenidate medication.

However, these are small studies, and conducting them for longer periods is necessary for more conclusive results.

What is ADHD?

ADHD can have a substantial effect on day-to-day life. Symptoms include:

  • inattention, such as difficulty sustaining attention and mental effort
  • forgetfulness
  • distractibility
  • hyperactivity
  • fidgeting
  • excessive talking
  • restlessness
  • impulsivity

Learn more about ADHD.

More research is necessary to understand how saffron reduces ADHD symptoms. However, potential explanations include that saffron has psychoactive properties and can facilitate dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline secretion.

Dopamine and noradrenaline link to ADHD, so increasing their levels may help reduce symptoms.

Saffron is also anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. Studies suggestthat increased antioxidant levels can reduce oxidative damage, potentially caused by environmental factors, for example, and improve neurochemical status, possibly leading to reduced symptoms.

Learn more about the health benefits of saffron.

Many people cook with saffron, adding it directly to dishes. For conditions such as ADHD, a person can take saffron as a nutritional supplement.

There are various medications that professionals may prescribe for ADHD symptoms. These include:

  • Methylphenidate: This boosts the activity of the central and peripheral nervous system, which can improve memory and lead to increased awareness. Ritalin is the brand name commonly associated with this medication.
  • Lisdexamfetamine: This helps improve concentration and reduce impulsive behavior by stimulating specific parts of the brain.
  • Dexamfetamine: This also helps improve concentration and reduce impulsive behavior by stimulating specific areas of the brain.
  • Atomoxetine: This increases concentration by increasing the amount of noradrenaline in the brain. Noradrenaline is a neurotransmitter and hormone.
  • Guanfacine: This relaxes blood vessels so that blood can flow more easily. How it works for those with ADHD is unknown, but it is associated with improved attention and impulse control.

These medications can be effective in reducing ADHD symptoms but may also cause side effects. Some families choose to supplement or replace these medications with phytomedicine, also known as herbal medicines, including:

Alongside medication, a person can also consider other interventions, including talking therapies and cognitive behavioral therapies. These aim to support those with ADHD to manage symptoms and minimize disruption to daily activities.

Learn more about medications for ADHD.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder with symptoms that can substantially affect day-to-day life. Several medical interventions are available, but many people look to additional therapies for support.

Research has shown that saffron can help reduce ADHD symptoms, particularly when a person uses it alongside prescribed treatments such as methylphenidate. This is possibly due to its psychoactive, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. It is important for people to consult a doctor before taking any supplements.