In 2016, it was estimated that 9.4% of children and adolescents between the ages of 4 and 17 struggled with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ¹ This rising trend has been most noticeable in the amount of ADHD medication that’s prescribed. More and more children are getting access to drugs such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) and dextroamphetamine/amphetamine (Adderall).
While these medications are quite effective at treating ADHD, they can have both short-term and long-term side effects. These include a loss of appetite, weight fluctuations, sleep problems, mood swings, and tics. ² Inevitably, it may be in many of your best interest to ween off this medication or find another therapeutic route altogether.
Herbal alternatives have been garnering a lot of popularity as they provide fewer side effects and don’t promote addictive behaviors. Throughout this article, we’re going to review the 7 best herbal remedies for ADHD. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
Best Herbal Remedies for ADHD
Before we dive into the recommended herbs, it’s important to understand that these ARE NOT cures for ADHD. Rather, these are remedies that can help with specific symptoms of the condition. Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved of any of these alternatives for ADHD treatment.
For this reason, we highly recommend consulting your doctor before consuming these alternatives. Some may have negative interactions with certain medication you or your child is already taking in concerns to ADHD or other medical conditions.
Not to mention, everyone’s experience with ADHD is different from the next. You may find that one herb is more effective than another. In such cases, a bit of experimentation can go a long way.
1.) Ginkgo Bioba
Currently, studies concerning Ginkgo biloba and ADHD have found mixed results. However, the herb has been well-known to increase focus and refine memory.
In one study, a group of children to 240mg of Ginkgo biloba extract daily for three to five weeks. Many showed a reduction in ADHD symptoms and an overall improvement to their mental health. Not to mention, very few experienced any side effects. ³
However, another study from 2010 found quite that ginkgo still wasn’t as effective as methylphenidate (Ritalin). For six weeks, participants were given either a dose of Ritalin or ginkgo. While both groups showed improvement in their ADHD symptoms, the group who took Ritalin showed even more improvement. ⁴
Furthermore, it was discovered that Ginkgo biloba was interacting with certain medications, such as blood thinners. For this reason, it’s not recommended for those struggling with bowel diseases.
If you’re thinking about trying ginkgo for ADHD, it may work best alongside traditional treatment for further benefits.
2.) Gotu Kola
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is known for its high levels of nutrients that provide you with healthier brain functions. Some of which include vitamin B1, B2, and B6.
Due to these brain benefits, gotu kola may be able to help those struggling with ADHD. In a 2000 study, it was discovered that gotu kola was able to reduce anxiety levels in those that participated. In turn, many felt more mental clarity. ⁵
Unfortunately, this study was done on healthy subjects rather than those struggling with ADHD. In turn, more research is necessary in order to confirm the true benefits of this herb on ADHD symptoms.
Originally from China, ginseng is a herb that’s been used for centuries to increase brain function and energy. There are a number of different strains of ginseng, with the Korean red ginseng showing some potential to ease ADHD symptoms.
One study observed 18 children diagnosed with ADHD between the ages of 6 and 14 and gave each 1,000mg of ginseng daily for eight weeks. After the test, many reported feeling less anxiety and showed improvements in personality and social functioning. ⁶
4.) Herbal Tea
It may come as no surprise that children with ADHD tend to have sleep difficulties – from falling asleep at an appropriate hour to getting up in the morning. ⁷ If you’ve noticed these patterns in your child, it’s likely a doctor will prescribe medication in order to help promote a regular sleep cycle.
However, you may find that herbal teas can do just the trick in relieving sleep issues. Those that contain chamomile, green tea, spearmint, and lemon grass have been found to induce relaxation and are generally safe to take. ⁸ ⁹
Unfortunately, the teas by themselves probably won’t promote sleep. Rather, having a scheduled bedtime along with certain rituals to calm the brain and body (i.e. reading a book, meditating) will. With that said, herbal teas may be a great option for these rituals.
5.) Pine Bark Extract
Proanthocyanidins (better known as pine bark extract) is a compound that’s rich with polyphenols, such as procyanidins, catechins, and phenolic acids. In turn, this extract may act as an antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory in humans. ¹⁰
With that, some people experience supported blood flow, immunity, brain function, and skin support. For the numerous health benefits pine bark extract appears to have, many have taken it to reduce ADHD symptoms. In fact, one study found that it helped to assimilate antioxidant levels in those with ADHD. ¹¹
In a 2006 study, researchers observed how a daily dose of either 1mg of Pycnogenol (a brand of pine bark extract) or a placebo had an effect on 61 children with ADHD. Over the course of four weeks, it was discovered that the pine bark extract decreased hyperactivity along with increasing attention and focus. ¹²
In a 2007 study, it was discovered that Pycnogenol had significant results in reducing stress hormones within participants. Not to mention, it was able to reduce the neurostimulator dopamine in ADHD patients by 11%. ¹³
Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) is often recommended as a therapeutic treatment to be taken alongside traditional medication. Recent research has been increasing and it’s discovering that brahmi has significant abilities to improve brain function and memory, even in those with Alzheimer’s Disease. ¹⁴ ¹⁵
Unfortunately, there currently aren’t any studies concerning brahmi and ADHD. However, considering it’s been found to help people retain new information, it’s granted it may help with the mental health condition. ¹⁶
7.) Green Oats
Commonly sold under the name Avena sativa, green oats are well-known for their calming, stress-reducing, and anxiety-relieving effects. Unfortunately, there currently is no research concerning green oats and the effects it may have on those with ADHD.
However, early studies do suggest that it can help with attention and concentration. In a 2011 study, it was discovered that the extract helped people make less errors on a test which measured how well they’d be able to focus on a single task. ¹⁷
Combining Herbal Remedies for ADHD
As mentioned, it’s likely you’re going to have to experiment around with these herbs before seeing significant results. It’s important to understand that these alternatives rarely work immediately and require at least a week before effects are shown.
Furthermore, you may find it beneficial to use more than one of these herbs at a time. In fact, some studies suggest that taking multiple herbs to improve ADHD symptoms is often better than just taking one at a time.
In Canada, there was a small study concerning children with ADHD who took ginseng and gingko. After taking the herbs twice a day for four weeks, it was discovered that they experienced improvements in social issues, hyperactivity and impulsivity. ¹⁸
If you struggle with another mental illness, it may be worth looking into whether or not other herbal treatments can help you. For example, there are herbal protocols for anxiety and depression that may prove to beneficial.
It’s also worth mentioning that some studies have found that these alternative treatments are often best when done alongside traditional treatments. ¹⁹ For this reason, it may be worth consulting your doctor before diving into these herbal remedies.
Other Therapeutic Remedies for ADHD
When it comes to alternative treatments for ADHD, it may prove to be beneficial to take these herbal remedies alongside other holistic therapies. These often incorporate lifestyle changes and can include:
- Promoting a Better Diet – Research has found that children with ADHD tend to struggle with allergies and food sensitivities. More simply, certain foods can cause ADHD symptoms to spiral out of control. By identifying which foods cause further symptoms, you can help to eliminate these from your child’s diet. Most doctors suggest you cut out refined sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, food with dyes, and other processed foods. ²⁰ ²¹
- Exercise and Outdoor Activity – This tool is useful for just about anyone looking to promote attention. Exercise has the ability to release hormones that will increase your mood, boost concentration, and help to regulate key chemicals in our brains, such as dopamine, serotonin, and GABA. ²² This is ideal for children with ADHD as they tend to have low levels of these brain chemicals. ²³ ²⁴ Furthermore, going outside and into areas of nature can prove to help better mindfulness. ²⁵
- Omega Supplements – Some children who struggle with ADHD have lower levels of omega fatty acids within their blood. Fatty acids are essential for neurons in our brain to communicate properly with one another. ²⁶ That being said, without omega fatty acids, children may end up acting out of impulsivity and have difficulty focusing. It may be worth looking into certain diets that are high in omega fatty acids or purchasing these over-the-counter supplements. Some research suggests that omega fatty acids can have minor improvements in ADHD symptoms. ²⁷ ²⁸
If you’re an adult struggling with ADHD, you may also find it beneficial to participate in habits that practice mindfulness, such as meditation and yoga.
It’s important to treat ADHD early on in a child’s life as it can cause further issues later on in their adolescent and adult life. While ADHD is a lifelong condition for many, it can be managed with the right medication and therapy.
We hope our list of the best herbal remedies for ADHD helps take you one step closer on your path to recovery. We guarantee that the right treatment plan is out there and with a bit of research, you’re already one step closer to discovering yours.
Still have questions concerning herbal remedies for ADHD?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Data and Statistics
² The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders (Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.): Using Stimulants for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Clinical Approaches and Challenges
³ National Library of Medicine (PubMed): Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761® in children with ADHD
⁴ National Library of Medicine (PubMed): Ginkgo biloba for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: a double blind, randomized controlled trial
⁵ National Library of Medicine (PubMed): A double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the effects of Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) on acoustic startle response in healthy subjects
⁶ Journal of Ginseng Research (Elsevier): Clinical Effects of Korean Red Ginseng on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children: An Observational Study
⁷ Journal of Child Neurology (SAGE Journals): Sleep Structure in Children With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
⁸ Molecular medicine reports (HHS Public Access): Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future
¹⁰ Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences (Wolters Kluwer — Medknow Publications): Pharmaceutical and nutraceutical effects of Pinus pinaster bark extract
¹¹ National Library of Medicine (PubMed): The effect of polyphenolic extract from pine bark, Pycnogenol on the level of glutathione in children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
¹² National Library of Medicine (PubMed): Treatment of ADHD with French maritime pine bark extract, Pycnogenol
¹³ National Library of Medicine (PubMed): Urinary catecholamines in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): modulation by a polyphenolic extract from pine bark (pycnogenol)
¹⁴ Rejuvenation Research (Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.): Neuropharmacological Review of the Nootropic Herb Bacopa monnieri
¹⁵ Annals of Neurosciences: Neurocognitive Effect of Nootropic Drug Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) in Alzheimer’s Disease
¹⁷ National Library of Medicine (PubMed): Acute effects of Avena sativa herb extracts on responses to the Stroop Color-Word test
¹⁸ Journal of Psychiatry Neuroscience: Effects of herbal extract combination Panax quinquefolium and Ginkgo biloba on attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a pilot study
²⁰ National Library of Medicine (PubMed): Dietary sensitivities and ADHD symptoms: thirty-five years of research
²¹ HHS Public Access: Restriction and Elimination Diets in ADHD Treatment
²² brain sciences (MDPI): Exercise Benefits Brain Function: The Monoamine Connection
²³ Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment (Dovepress): Attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder and reward deficiency syndrome
²⁵ International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (MDPI): A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Nature-Based Mindfulness: Effects of Moving Mindfulness Training into an Outdoor Natural Setting
²⁶ Purdue University (Purdue News): Deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids tied to ADHD in boys
²⁷ Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment: Critical appraisal of omega-3 fatty acids in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder treatment