Herbs for ADHDShare on Pinterest

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As many as 11 percent of children and adolescents ages 4 to 17 years old had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as of 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Treatment choices are difficult when facing an ADHD diagnosis. People with ADHD are being prescribed — and getting positive results — from methylphenidate (Ritalin) at an increasing rate.

Others are coping with side effects from the medication. These include dizziness, decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping, and digestive issues. And some don’t get relief at all from the use of Ritalin.

There are alternative therapies for ADHD, but there is limited scientific evidence proving their effectiveness.

Proponents of special diets say you should eliminate sugary foods, artificial food colorings, and additives, and eat more sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Yoga and meditation may be helpful, and neurofeedback training is yet another option.

All of these therapeutic options can work together to have some effect on ADHD symptoms.

What about herbs? Read more to learn if they could help improve symptoms.

Twinnings Herbal Tea

A 2015 cross-sectional, case-control study looked at the sleep structure of 28 children with ADHD who had not received drug treatment. Fifteen healthy children were also involved in the study, serving as participants in the case-control group.

Results showed that children with ADHD had more problems falling asleep, sleeping soundly, and getting up in the morning. Researchers suggested that additional treatments might be helpful further evaluate the study findings.

Herbal teas that contain chamomile, spearmint, lemon grass, and other herbs and flowers are generally considered safe options for children and adults who want to relax.

They’re often recommended as a way to encourage rest and sleep. Having a nighttime ritual at bedtime (for adults too) helps your body better prepare for sleep. These teas may be best used before bedtime.

Nutricost Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba has long been recommended for improving memory and increasing mental sharpness. Study results on the use of ginkgo in ADHD are mixed.

A 2014 study, for example, found that symptoms improved for people with ADHD who took a ginkgo extract. Children who took 240 mg of Ginkgo biloba extract daily for 3 to 5 weeks showed a reduction in ADHD symptoms with few negative side effects.

Another study from 2010 found slightly different results. Participants took either a dose of ginkgo or methylphenidate (Ritalin) for 6 weeks. Both groups experienced improvements, but Ritalin was more effective. Still, this study also showed potential benefits from ginkgo.

It’s important to note that Ginkgo biloba interacts with many medications such as blood thinners and would also not be a choice for those with bowel diseases.

Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) is also known as water hyssop. It’s a marsh plant that grows wild in India. The herb is made from the leaves and stems of the plant. It has been used for centuries to improve brain function and memory.

Studies on humans are mixed, but some have been positive. The herb is often recommended as an alternative treatment for ADHD today. Research is increasing because of earlier studies.

One study involving 31 children ages 6 to 12 years found that taking 225 mg of brahmi extract daily for 6 months significantly reduced ADHD symptoms, such as restlessness, poor self-control, inattention, and impulsivity in 85 percent of the children.

A 2013 study found that 24 healthy adults taking 320 mg of a specific abstract of brahmi showed improvements in their ability to retain new information following six repetitions of the Cognitive Demand Battery (CDB).

Another study conducted in India also found benefits. Participants taking another specific brahmi extract showed significantly improved performance in their memory and brain function.

Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) grows naturally in Asia, South Africa, and the South Pacific. It’s high in nutrients that are needed for healthy brain function. These include vitamins B1, B2, and B6.

Gotu kola may benefit those with ADHD. It helps enhance mental clarity and reduce anxiety levels. A 2000 study showed that gotu kola helped reduce anxiety, as measured by the acoustic startle response (ASR), in human participants within 30 minutes following a 12-gram oral dose of the herb.

A small 2016 study compared the effects of gotu kola extract and folic acid in boosting cognitive function after a stroke. This small study assessed the impact on three groups of participants — one taking 1,000 milligrams (mg) of gotu kola per day, one taking 750 mg of gotu kola per day, and one taking 3 mg of folic acid per day.

Although gotu kola and folic acid were equally beneficial in improving overall cognition, gotu kola was more effective in improving memory domain.

Green oats are unripe oats. The product, also known as “wild oat extract,” comes from the crop before it matures. Green oats are sold under the name Avena sativa. They have long been thought to help calm nerves and treat stress and anxiety.

Early studies show that green oat extract may boost attention and concentration.

A 2011 study involved measuring the performance level of a group of older adults diagnosed with a cognitive impairment while they worked on the Stroop Color-Word test after they were given three specific dosages — 0 mg, 1,600 mg, and 2,400 mg — of Avena sativa on a weekly basis.

Results showed that participants taking the 1,600-mg extract made fewer errors on the color-naming component of the test.

Another study, also conducted in 2011, involved reviewing the brain activity of healthy study participants who received two specific dosages — 1,250 mg and 2,500 mg — of a special oat preparation of Avena sativa herba. Results showed improvement in the region of the brain responsible for cognitive performance.

Ginseng, an herbal remedy used for centuries in China, has a reputation for stimulating brain function and increasing energy. The “red ginseng” variety also has shown some potential to help calm symptoms of ADHD.

A 2011 study involved 18 children between ages 6 and 14 years old who were diagnosed with ADHD. Researchers gave 1,000 mg of ginseng to each child for 8 weeks. Researchers reported improvements in anxiety, personality, and social functioning.

Pine bark extract contains natural compounds called proanthocyanidins. The extract made from these compounds is commonly sold under the registered trademark brand name Pycnogenol.

Researchers gave 61 children with ADHD either 1 mg of Pycnogenol or a placebo once a day for 4 weeks in a study conducted in 2006. Results showed that the Pycnogenol reduced hyperactivity and improved attention and concentration. The placebo showed no benefits.

Another study found that giving the extract over a 1-month period helped normalize antioxidant levels in children with ADHD.

One study published in 2007 showed that Pycnogenol lowered stress hormones by 26 percent. It also decreased the amount of the neurostimulant dopamine by nearly 11 percent in people with ADHD.

Some studies have indicated that combining some of these herbs may produce better results than using one alone.

A small study in Canada studied children with ADHD who took both American ginseng and Ginkgo biloba twice a day for 4 weeks. The results showed that participants experienced improvements in socializing problems, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

There are not many completed studies of the efficacy of herbal ADHD remedies.

A 2011 review of complementary treatments for ADHD found that pine bark and a Chinese herbal blend may be effective and brahmi shows promise, but further research is required.

With so many options, it’s best to talk with your doctor, an herbal specialist, or naturopath for more information.

Also, seek advice about reputable companies from which you can make your herbal purchases. The FDA does not regulate or monitor the use of herbs, and products have been reported tainted, incorrectly labeled, and unsafe.