Popular spice proves as effective as Ritalin in ADHD trial.

Posted by Daniel Patrick on

Research recently published online in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology found Saffron to be as effective as Ritalin in the treatment of ADHD.

It is thought that saffron and its active constituents can increase the reuptake inhibition of dopamine and norepinephrine and are NMDA receptor antagonists and GABA-α-agonists.

The lead author suggests that stimulants are not right for all patients and calls for a closer look at alternative and herbal medicines but further recognizes the need for evidence-based medicine.

Trial setting and design

A single-center, randomized, double-blind, parallel-group clinical trial conducted over 6 weeks from January 2017 to October 2018

Patients were recruited from outpatient boys and girls 6–17 years of age who met the criteria for ADHD based on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). RS-IV symptoms based on the behavior of their children at home. 

The patients were randomized into two parallel groups. The first group received Ritalin® (MPH) at a dose of 0.3–1 mg/(kg·d). Methylphenidate was titrated up during the trial according to the following schedule: 10 mg/d (5 mg in the morning and 5 mg at midday) in week 1; 20 mg/d (10 mg in the morning and 10 mg at midday) in week 2; 20 mg/d for children <30 kg and 30 mg/d for children >30 kg (10 mg in the morning, 10 mg at midday, and 10 mg at 04:00 PM) in week 3 and thereafter. The second group received saffron capsules at a dosage of 20–30 mg/d depending on weight (20 mg/d for <30 kg and 30 mg/d for >30 kg). Each capsule contains 10 mg of saffron (ACER).


The results of this study must be considered as preliminary. This 6-week course of treatment with saffron showed the same efficacy as methylphenidate in children with ADHD. In terms of safety, there is no significant difference between the two study groups in frequency of side effects. Considering the memory-enhancing and antidepressant effects of saffron, future studies on the effectiveness of saffron compared with placebo should include a broader spectrum of ADHD patients, including those with comorbid mood and anxiety disorders, sleep problems, and ADHD patients with inattentive presentation. Nevertheless, larger “placebo-controlled studies” with longer treatment periods are indicated for future studies.


Sara Baziar, Ali Aqamolaei, Ebrahim Khadem, Seyyed Hosein Mortazavi, Sina Naderi, Erfan Sahebolzamani, Amirhosein Mortezaei, Shakiba Jalilevand, Mohammad-Reza Mohammadi, Mahsa Shahmirzadi, and Shahin Akhondzadeh.Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.http://doi.org/10.1089/cap.2018.0146
  • Online Ahead of Print:February 11, 2019


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