ADHD, Meds and Saffron?

Another example of mother nature perhaps besting the drug industry.

Interesting report which received coverage on Medscape: Iranian scientists have found through experimental research that saffron can be as effective as the stimulant
methylphenidate (MPH) for treatment of ADHD, without the side effects of the drug.(1, 3) In the US market, MPH is marketed as Ritalin, Ritalin SR, Ritalin LA, Aptensio XR, Concerta, Daytrana, Metadate, Metadate CD, Metadate ER, Methylin, Quillivant XR, QuilliChew ER, Cotempla XR-ODT, Jornay PM, and Adhansia XR.(2)

“From this preliminary study, the main point is that we can consider saffron as an alternative [to stimulants] in patients with ADHD,” senior author Shahin Akhondzadeh, PhD, FBPhS, DSc, professor of clinical psychopharmacology, Roozbeh Psychiatric Hospital, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Iran, told Medscape Medical News.

Typical side effects of MPH include loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, and nausea.

The research design:

The research design used in this work appears to be excellent.

“To investigate the question, the researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind pilot trial to compare the efficacy and safety of saffron capsules with MPH in a group of outpatient children (age 6 – 17 years).

“Patients were required to have total and/or subscale scores on the Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Rating Scale-IV (ADHD-RS-IV) of ≥ 1.5 standard deviations (SDs) above norms for the patient’s age and gender.”


There are three caveats on this finding: first, Iran is a major producer of Saffron, so there is some possible potential for bias in reporting the findings. However, Tehran University has an excellent reputation for research in the sciences. Second, the experiment was of limited duration. It would be good to see a trial over a longer period of time to look at longer term effects — as the researchers themselves note. Third, the saffron used was a capsule supplement. Saffron used in cooking might not have the same effect.

Interestingly, the Iranian researchers are concerned about the cost of saffron, which is a very expensive spice, in an environment in which drug prices are relatively modest. In Iran, saffrom is more expensive than MPH. That’s not true in the US. A one month supply of Ritalin is roughly $30 at Walmart and Costco, according to the GoodRx website. Saffron capsules are currently $17.97 (60 capsules) on Amazon, based on a casual Google search.



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