saffron for adhd

Saffron for ADHD: Does It Work?

Saffron for ADHD has shown promising results in studies, and it’s something that parents are turning to to help their children naturally.

Our guide covers what to know about taking saffron as a supplement, including the benefits and potential risks.

We also talk specifically about saffron for ADHD, how it works, and what you should know about giving this supplement to children.

Saffron As a Supplement

Saffron is more than a brightly colored and flavorful spice.

It’s got amazing medicinal properties, especially when it comes to mental health.

Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, is hand-harvested from the flower Crocus sativus.

It’s more commonly known as the saffron crocus.

The term saffron itself refers to the threads from the flowers, called stigma.

The Health Benefits of Taking Saffron as a Supplement

Broadly, the benefits of using saffron as a supplement include the following:

  • Antioxidant properties: It has an array of plant compounds like crocin and crocetin. These are compounds that can improve inflammation and reduce oxidative stress.
  • Mood: In studies, taking 30 mg of saffron daily was as effective as prescription antidepressants, with fewer side effects. In a review of multiple studies, a saffron supplement was significantly more effective than placebos for treating the symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression.
  • Cancer: Since it’s high in antioxidants, saffron and the compounds it contains may help kill specific cancer cells. In test-tube studies, for example, saffron killed colon cancer cells or suppressed their growth but didn’t harm healthy cells. Other cell lines that have been studied include bone marrow, prostate, lung, cervix, breast, and skin. Crocin, a primary antioxidant in saffron, may also make cancerous cells more susceptible to chemotherapy drugs.
  • PMS Symptoms: Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, affects many women, and studies show in women between the ages of 20 and 45, taking 30 mg of daily saffron was more effective than placebos to treat symptoms like pain, headaches, cravings, and irritability.
  • Cortisol: Even smelling saffron and taking it as a supplement can lower anxiety levels and cortisol.
  • Libido-booster: Saffron is a natural aphrodisiac that can boost your libido, particularly for people who take antidepressants and suffer sexual side effects. In one study, taking 30 mg of saffron daily for four weeks improved erectile function significantly over placebo in men with ED related to antidepressant use. In women with low desire, the same dose for four weeks reduced sexual-related pain, increased sexual desire, and improved lubrication, compared to a placebo.
  • Weight loss: Saffron helps reduce appetite likely because it elevates your mood and positively affects brain chemicals like serotonin. It can help you feel fuller as well.

Other potential benefits of using saffron as a supplement include reducing the risk factors for heart disease, lowering blood sugar, and improving eyesight in adults with age-related macular degeneration.

The antioxidant properties of saffron may boost cognition in adults with Alzheimer’s.

Frequently Asked Questions About Saffron As a Supplement

Is saffron a good supplement to take?

Saffron can be an excellent supplement to take. I take it daily because of its benefits for mood and mental health.

What are the benefits of taking saffron?

Saffron has many plant-based compounds with health benefits. Saffron can elevate your mood, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and help with weight loss. It may also have libido-boosting benefits and anti-cancer properties.

Is it safe to take saffron daily?

While you should follow the instructions of the specific saffron supplement you use, it is considered a very safe supplement since it’s a commonly used cooking ingredient.

Do saffron supplements have side effects?

If you take a dose of around 30 mg, it’s unlikely saffron would have side effects. Even at high doses, side effects are likely mild and might include dizziness, nausea, appetite changes, or headaches.

Saffron for ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a neurodevelopment condition affecting the nervous system. There is research to show that saffron extract for ADHD can be beneficial.

The reason that saffron supplements for ADHD may be effective is because it has psychoactive properties. Taking it as a supplement could affect neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline.

The ability of saffron to positively influence dopamine levels is one of the key reasons it’s potentially a beneficial natural ADHD treatment.

Dopamine regulates our emotional responses and helps us perform actions to achieve certain rewards. It’s responsible for our feelings of reward and pleasure, and people with ADHD often have different dopamine levels than people without the condition.

Researchers believe that the neurons in the nervous system and brain of someone with ADHD who isn’t on medication may have high concentrations of dopamine transporters. These are proteins. The concentration of these is known as dopamine transporter density or DTD.

A higher DTD can lower the brain’s dopamine levels, a key risk factor for ADHD.

Many of the prescription medicines for ADHD are designed to increase dopamine, which can, in turn, stimulate focus. These medicines target dopamine transporters to increase levels of dopamine.

A study published in the Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science found saffron extracts increased dopamine in the brain but didn’t negatively affect the levels of other hormones like serotonin.

Saffron can affect not only dopamine and serotonin positively but also norepinephrine. It’s thought to have these benefits on the brain chemicals because it can decrease the activity of something called acetylcholine esterase, and it can block the action of monoamine oxidase in the brain.

Crocin in saffron can potentially prevent impaired memory and learning and damage to the hippocampus that’s brought about by chronic stress, alleviating cognitive deficits.

Can saffron help ADHD in Kids?

Saffron is considered very safe, and some studies have looked at its benefits for ADHD in kids, teens, and adults.

Saffron works similarly to common medications like Ritalin and Adderall regarding its ability to modulate dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. Saffron can also increase GABA levels in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it promotes a sense of relaxation, has anti-anxiety properties, and alleviates muscle tension. GABA may, in theory, help with the hyperactivity aspect of ADHD.

What’s the Best Saffron Supplement for Kids?

My favorite saffron supplement for kids is from JoySpring, called Mood Munchies. These saffron supplements can help kids boost their mood and sense of emotional well-being. They are sugar-free and contain passionflower, GABA, St. John’s Worth, and saffron.

They’re also non-GMO and gluten-free.

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What’s the Best Saffron Supplement for Adults?

I’ve been using a saffron supplement that I highly recommend. It’s from Pure Micronutrients, and it’s a 100% pure saffron extract. I find that it’s effective for mood and focus, as well as memory.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are brief answers to some of the common questions you might have about using saffron for ADHD.

Is saffron good for ADHD?

There’s much evidence to suggest that saffron is good for ADHD. It may help symptoms in children and adults on its own or when used along with prescription ADHD medications.

How much saffron should I take for ADHD?

While it’s not a regulated substance, in studies, typically, children are given 20 mg a day of saffron if they’re under 66 pounds. For kids and adults over 66 pounds, the dose of saffron for ADHD is usually 30 mg daily.

In some studies, older teens and adults have taken doses of 50 mg up to 88 mg daily for ADHD.

Does saffron work like Adderall?

Like methylphenidate, saffron works for ADHD by blocking the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine, meaning more of these chemicals stay in the brain. People with ADHD often have low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine.

In a six-week study of children with ADHD, treatment with saffron was as effective as treating participants with methylphenidate, a stimulant prescription medicine.

Does saffron help with focus?

Even outside of treating ADHD, saffron could be useful if you’re struggling with focus or brain fog. It’s been shown to benefit learning, concentration, memory, and aging-related mental impairment.

What are the side effects of saffron extract for ADHD?

Saffron extract supplements are considered safe for most people. Unless you’re allergic, you’re unlikely to experience side effects. At high doses, mild side effects might include anxiety, drowsiness, upset stomach, or headache.

Does saffron increase dopamine?

Dopamine is critical not only for focus and learning but also for your general mood. According to studies, Saffron extracts can increase dopamine levels in the brain without negatively affecting other brain hormones.

How long does it take for saffron to work?

If you’re taking saffron for ADHD or improving focus and concentration, as is true with most natural supplements and pharmaceutical alternatives, ensure you’re giving it enough time to work. Looking at dozens of studies, regularly using saffron can help you see mental health and focus-related benefits within four to eight weeks.

For some people, the benefits of saffron can become apparent after just a week, with the benefits continuing to build up over the first two months of use.

Does saffron improve brain function?

Saffron, as well as helping with ADHD, can help your overall brain function. It’s been shown to help with memory and learning ability, and it can protect brain cells from damage caused by oxidative stress.

What time of day should I take saffron?

You can take saffron in the morning or evening. I take it in the morning, and you can take it with or without food. However, you may have some stomach upset if you take it without food.

Can saffron be given to children?

Often called a wonder plant, saffron can be given to children, but be mindful of the dosages listed above and the instructions for the particular extract supplement you decide to use.

What other supplements help with ADHD?

If you or your child are struggling with ADHD, you can also consider the following nutrients that can work well along with saffron extract:

  • In studies, zinc is often lower in people with ADHD.
  • Vitamin C helps balance antioxidant levels and support the healthy balance of neurotransmitters.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Polyphenols, which balance antioxidants and reduce inflammation.

Does saffron increase energy?

While it’s not a direct stimulant like medications like Adderall, taking saffron can improve your energy levels and mood.

Saffron for ADHD Final Thoughts

Based on current research, saffron for ADHD does appear to be a viable option. It’s possible that taking a saffron supplement along with ADHD medicine could be helpful, or even using just the supplement. Saffron is also considered very safe as a supplement, including for children. 

Medically reviewed by — By Ashley Sutphin Watkins — Updated on October 10th, 2023
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