Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common diagnosis in children and adolescence. Many of us probably know someone personally who is struggling with ADHD. Stimulants, such as Adderall, are a mainstay in the treatment of ADHD. However, about a third of people diagnosed with ADHD are unresponsive to stimulants and/or are unable to tolerate their adverse effects. These patients may need to explore behavioral modifications and herbal alternatives. This is especially true if they are interested in a plant-based strategy to managing their disease.
There is a recent study that was published comparing Crocus sativus (more commonly know as saffron) to methylphenidate (a stimulant that is the generic of Concerta). The randomized double-blind study looking at 54 patients (children 6-17 years old) over a six-week period had positive results. The study concluded, “Short-term therapy with saffron capsule showed the same efficacy compared with methylphenidate.” The limitations of the study included the patient panel size and length of observation. Hopefully, this will encourage researchers to conduct a larger study over a longer period of time.
Additionally, saffron has been used in traditional medicine for several conditions including depression, cramps, anxiety, and asthma.
For depression and anxiety two clinical trials, both with methodological limitations, showed greater reductions in anxiety and depression with saffron compared with placebo.
First, a clinical trial randomly assigned sixty adult patients with generalized anxiety and depression to receive a 50 mg saffron capsule or a placebo capsule twice daily for 12 weeks. At the end of the trial, patients in the saffron group experienced greater reductions in anxiety and depression compared with placebo.
Second, a clinical trial of 40 patients with major depression treated with either fluoxetine or sertraline were randomly assigned to receive crocin, the main ingredient of saffron, or placebo as an adjunct treatment. At the end of the trial, patients receiving crocin showed greater reductions in anxiety and depression compared with placebo.