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Saffron as Effective as Ritalin in ADHD Treatment


ADHD has become one of the most common childhood disorders. Over 6 million U.S children ages 4-17 have ADHD, and the number continues to grow each year. Despite popular belief, adults also suffer from ADHD. 60% of children diagnosed with ADHD, will continue to have symptoms into adulthood. Recently, there has been a surge in girls and adult women (particularly moms) diagnosed with ADHD as well.

ADHD has negative effects on both children and adults. It can cause deficits in social skills, low self-esteem, decreased academic achievement (difficulty focusing, poor time management skills, impulsiveness, restlessness), and difficulty coping with stress. Those with ADHD are also at a higher risk of motor vehicle accidents and substance abuse.

The standard treatment is pharmacotherapy, with the most common prescribed drug being methylphenidate (Ritalin). While Ritalin has increased the quality of life in many, it does come with negative side effects such as sleeping disturbances, loss of appetite, and heart arrhythmias. In addition, 30% of children do not respond to the medication, or adverse reactions cause poor compliance.

Due to these negative side effects many look to alternative medicine. One study of interest compared crocus sativus (aka saffron) to methylphenidate. Results showed that saffron had the same efficacy with fewer side effects compared to methylphenidate in children with ADHD. Saffron has an antidepressant action, that works on altering different chemicals and receptors in the brain. In essence, it inhibits the re-uptake of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Meaning it increases these two chemicals in the brain, which helps combat ADHD symptoms. Research has found significantly lower levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the those with ADHD, which can be the cause for symptoms in many individuals. Medications such as stimulants (Ritalin and Adderall) also work by modulating the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Saffron also increases GABA in the brain. GABA promotes relaxation, relieves muscle tension, and has anti-anxiety effects. In other words, it targets that hyperactivity component in ADHD. 

In my clinical experience there are many natural approaches that can be used that successfully treats ADHD. In this preliminary study, saffron shows great promise. Depending on the individual and their symptoms other herbs, vitamins, minerals, and dietary changes have proven to be effective.

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Important Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only; it is NOT meant to substitute professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should NOT use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem/disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please schedule an appointment or call 203-693-1429 for individualized natural medicine.


Baziar, Sara, et al. “Crocus Sativus L. Versus Methylphenidate in Treatment of Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Randomized, Double-Blind Pilot Study.” Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 2019, doi:10.1089/cap.2018.0146.

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Dr. Pamela Santapaola Dr. Pamela Santapaola Dr. Pamela Santapaola (AKA Dr. Pam) is a licensed naturopathic physician in the state of Connecticut and co-owner of Healing Duo Integrative Family Medical Practice. Dr. Pam has a passion for educating, whether it be through her writings or in her office in a one-to-one setting. She is an advocate of making small lifestyle changes that can make a big impact in the future. Her goal is to enlighten individuals about holistic medicine and empower them to make the changes necessary to live a healthier life. As her saying goes, "It’s time for you to start feeling like your best self.”

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