Beyond Adderall: Nutritional and Botanical Options for ADHD Symptom Relief

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Emerging research reveals saffron and key nutrients can treat ADHD and attention issues without Adderall's disturbing side effects

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a diagnosis applied to 5-10% of children worldwide.1 Considered an "organic disorder" related to neurobiological issues by the majority of conventional medical professionals, legitimate concerns have emerged that dysfunctional pedagogical models, poor nutrition, enviornmental toxicants, and even common pharmaceuticals and vaccinations are contributing to the epidemic. Despite these preventable and modifiable dietary, lifestyle and environmental factors playing a key role, conventional treatment relies heavily on stimulant medications like Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine) to suppress or mitigate these debilitating symptoms. However, these drugs risk addiction, heart damage and disturbing side effects.2 Fortunately, there is a growing awareness that nutrition and lifestyle measures can safely and effectively complement standard ADHD care. For instance, Greenmedinfo.com contains an extensive database of studies on natural approaches to the disorder.

Case in Point: Saffron versus Ritalin

A promising natural alternative is saffron, a spice derived from the Crocus sativus flower. Saffron contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that enhance dopamine and may aid ADHD.3 Recent research found 30mg daily saffron over 3 months improved ADHD symptoms similarly to methylphenidate (aka Ritalin) in children aged 7-17 years.4 The study details were as follows: 

Study Design:

  • Non-randomized, open-label clinical trial
  • 63 children and adolescents ages 7-17 years with ADHD
  • Assigned to 12 weeks of treatment with either methylphenidate or saffron

Interventions:

  • Methylphenidate group (n=27): Extended-release methylphenidate, 1 mg/kg/day
  • Saffron group (n=36): Saffron extract (Saffr'Activ) 30 mg daily

Outcomes Assessed:

  • ADHD symptoms (SNAP-IV scale, Conners scale)
  • Executive function (BRIEF-2)
  • Sleep (SDSC scale)
  • Sustained attention and impulsivity (Conners CPT-3)

Key Results:

  • Both saffron and methylphenidate significantly improved ADHD symptoms
  • Improvements were comparable between groups overall
  • For inattention, methylphenidate tended to show greater effects
  • For hyperactivity, saffron tended to show greater effects
  • Both treatments improved executive function deficits
  • Only saffron improved time to fall asleep

In summary, saffron extract at 30mg daily demonstrated similar efficacy to methylphenidate for ADHD symptoms and executive deficits in this pediatric population. Saffron showed particular promise in relieving hyperactivity and sleep onset problems that are common comorbidities. Researchers called for the need for larger blinded trials to further confirm their promising findings.

Other evidence-based options include:

Top 10 Natural ADHD Interventions

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Multiple studies show supplemental EPA/DHA from fish and algae oils boost focus and attention in those with ADHD.3 Experts theorize omega-3s repair cell membranes and modulate dopamine activity.4

2. Zinc - Up to 30% of ADHD kids have zinc deficiencies. Supplementing zinc reduces hyperactivity and enhances social and behavioral function.

3. Saffron - The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in saffron enhance dopamine. One study found 30mg daily saffron improved ADHD symptoms similarly to methylphenidate over 3 months in children aged 7-17 years. Saffron particularly benefited hyperactivity, while methylphenidate worked better for inattention. Additionally, saffron eased falling asleep unlike stimulants.6

4. Vitamin C - One study found vitamin C and EFA supplementation significantly improved ADHD outcomes.7

5. Iron - Up to 30% of ADHD children have low iron stores, which are essential for dopamine activity. Iron supplements effectively reduce symptoms.8

6. Magnesium - Magnesium aids nervous system function. Combined with omega-3s in one study, magnesium lead to significant ADHD symptom improvement.9

7. Ginkgo Biloba - Multiple studies show the botanical Ginkgo biloba enhances attention and alleviates hyperactivity.10

8. Flaxseed Oil - One study found flaxseed oil with vitamin C improved ADHD symptoms more than routine care alone.11

9. Pine Bark Extract - By reducing oxidative stress, pine bark extract improves focus, attention and behavior in those with ADHD based on studies.12

10. Chamomile - Research indicates the chamomile herb significantly improves inattention and hyperactivity.13

The integrative approach of combining drug-free interventions like supplements, diet changes or saffron with medications when necessary, allows for achieving good symptom control while minimizing or altogether eliminating concerning medication side effects.


References

1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24002955

2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17934180

3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19184176/

4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17629918

5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18083281

6. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/19/4046

7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16314082

8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18054688

9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20868469

10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25925875

11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16314082

12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16984739

13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19097772

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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