This article considers the link between saffron and ADHD, to explore if taking this highly potent, natural spice could help treat ADHD in young people.
It looks at a number of studies into saffron and its role in reducing ADHD symptoms, and whether it could be used as a natural alternative to current medications.
What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It affects a person’s executive functions, mental processes that we use to focus on a wide array of tasks, including many daily tasks others take for granted.
Someone with ADHD can be inattentive, while others might be impulsive or experience hyperactivity. Some have all these symptoms, switching between them depending on how they are. Dealing with these symptoms each day can be difficult and can affect an individual’s life in many ways.
In the UK, current figures say that most people with ADHD are diagnosed before they reach their teenage years. However, it is believed that the disorder is underdiagnosed in adults, who may have learned how to cope or mask their symptoms, even though they may struggle in daily life.
Treatment often involves therapy, although some people take daily medication to manage the symptoms, such as methylphenidate. However, recent research suggests that saffron could perform better as a treatment for ADHD than methylphenidate.
What is saffron?
Saffron comes from the crocus sativus flower. It is a spice and is one of the most expensive in the world – but there is a reason for that. It comes from the red stigma of the flower and can only be harvested by hand owing to its delicate nature.
Saffron has been shown to trigger the receptors responsible for secreting dopamine and noradrenaline…
It’s also grown only in certain parts of the world, including Morocco, India, and Iran. This exclusivity makes saffron a pricey prospect to buy, yet its properties make it much sought after. This could increase given how useful it could potentially be to those with ADHD.
The psychoactive properties of saffron
To first understand why saffron has hit the headlines in this way, we must consider the potential effects it can have on the brain. It has long been used across Asia as a medicinal plant. Studies have shown it performed well against fluoxetine; a drug used for depression.
It also triggers the receptors responsible for secreting dopamine and noradrenaline. These are the two neurotransmitters that have been associated with people who are diagnosed with ADHD.
Studies into saffron and its possible role in reducing ADHD symptoms
There have been three recent studies exploring whether saffron may play a role in improving the symptoms experienced by those with ADHD. One study found no notable differences between treating patients with saffron compared to treating them with the medication methylphenidate. A second study noted that while methylphenidate alone improved symptoms for those taking part, the results improved further when saffron was added. This result was supported by information gleaned from a further study.
Saffron has been found to improve the quality of sleep, allowing users to sleep for longer as well as achieving better sleep overall …
That said, the studies didn’t examine whether the executive functioning of those taking part improved in any way once saffron was added to the picture. Clearly, further studies are required to determine the role saffron may play in improving the symptoms experienced by those with ADHD.
Finally, the study examining prior research into this topic noted that only children and adolescents with ADHD were included. So, it remains unknown whether saffron may have any positive effects for adults with the disorder.
Can saffron improve sleep quality?
As a footnote to this article, it’s worth mentioning that prior studies into the properties and uses of saffron have found that it may help improve sleep quality in those who have been struggling to sleep.
Poor sleep is also noted to be a key factor among those who have ADHD. Indeed, a study into the efficacy of saffron extract for children and adolescents with ADHD noted that its effect on sleep could be beneficial for ADHD sufferers. Saffron has been found to improve the quality of sleep for those trying it, allowing them to sleep for longer as well as achieving better sleep overall.
Could saffron be a practical alternative to regular medication for ADHD?
It’s certainly worth exploring further, although the limited supply of saffron and its price could produce issues. There are many saffron supplements available, but because of quality issues and a lack of control some do not contain saffron, and others may not contain the amount stated. Price is a factor here – since saffron must be picked and processed by hand, the cost of any future medication could be problematic.
However, since standard medications for ADHD often involve unwanted side effects, saffron is beginning to stand out as a safer, natural alternative. Clearly, further research is required since there were limitations to the studies that have already taken place.
Today, saffron is much sought after as an ingredient in many dishes, with only a tiny amount required when adding it. However, given this research, there could be a time in the future when its primary role will be that of an ingredient in medication. We will keep you updated of any further information or studies into the potential powers of saffron when associated with ADHD. For now, though, it does sound a promising alternative to standard medication offered through the NHS and around the world.
Where can you buy saffron?
Sara Saffron offer a full range of premium quality, authentic saffron for incredible freshness, deep colour, pungent aroma and superb flavour. In our expert opinion this is the finest saffron you can buy.
Our award winning saffron comes direct from the best farms in the Middle East and includes Pushal, Negin, Super Negin and Organic saffron.