Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neurological condition that causes difficulty in concentrating, irritability, impulsivity, and hyperactive behavior. It impacts 8% of adults and 11% of children in the US. Medication is the standard treatment for ADHD, but these drugs can have side effects. However, several natural remedies can treat and manage the symptoms of ADHD.
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is usually diagnosed in childhood and often lasts until adulthood. It is marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention, and hyperactivity that interferes with functioning and development.
ADHD can affect adults, as well. Such people act impulsively and have more extreme responses as compared to others. In adults with ADHD, the hyperactivity may decrease, but they continue to struggle with impulsiveness, restlessness, and difficulty in paying attention.
Signs of ADHD
Though it is normal for children to have trouble focussing or behaving some times, children with AHDH do not grow out of this behavior. This can lead to difficulty at school, home, and friends. The signs of ADHD in children include –
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Easily distracted
- Easily bored
- Prone to losing things
- Fidgeting and squirming
- Difficulty in getting along with others
- A problem in following instructions
- Difficulty in completing tasks
- Difficulty in being quiet and sitting still
In adults, ADHD symptoms include –
- Hot temper
- Trouble multitasking
- Poor time management
- Mood swings
- Inability to cope with stress
Risk factors of ADHD
While researchers are not sure what exactly causes ADHD, several factors lead to the development of ADHD.
- Genetics – Genes play a role in the development of ADHD.
- Environment – Exposure to high levels of toxins such as lead during pregnancy.
- Pregnancy issues – Exposure to environmental toxins during pregnancy. Smoking, drinking, or drug use during pregnancy.
- Premature birth – Low birth weight or problems with the central nervous system during development.
Conventional treatment for ADHD
The most commonly used treatment for ADHD is medication. Medicines like Ritalin and Adderall are nervous system stimulants. They help control the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which activates the brain’s ability to concentrate. Unfortunately, these drugs can also cause some side effects, including fast heartbeat, headaches, irritability, anxiety, and loss of appetite, stomach upset, tremors, and insomnia.
Some studies have also shown that these medications may have some long term effects. According to an Australian study, there is no significant improvement in behavior and attention problems in children between the age of 5 and 14 who took medication for ADHD. Their self-perception and social functioning also do not improve (1). Thankfully some several natural treatments and therapies can help lower the symptoms of ADHD without any side effects.
Natural remedies for ADHD
1. Regular exercise
Exercise is a great way to burn excess energy and can help to balance hormone levels. Other than building strong muscles and bones, exercise also helps in relieving stress. Practicing yoga and meditation can also help.
2. Connect with nature
Spending time outdoors I green spaces can benefit children with ADHD. According to a study by the University of Illinois, when seventeen children diagnosed with ADHD took 20-minute guided walks in the city park, they were able to concentrate much better than when they took a step in urban settings (2). Further studies have also shown that children with ADHD who play in green play areas have milder symptoms than children who play in build outdoor and indoor settings.
3. Try EEG neurofeedback
EEG biofeedback is a type of neuropathy that measures brain waves. During this session, the professional records brainwaves using specialist equipment. The results show how different activities affect a person and how to adapt their behaviors accordingly. According to a study published in the Journal of Neural Transmission, EEG is a promising treatment for ADHD (3).
4. Show affection
Children with ADHD need reassurance that they are not wrong. Compliment them and be positive, as adverse reactions trigger harmful behavior.
According to research, sleep deprivation and disturbance in circadian rhythms can intensify the symptoms of ADHD. If your child usually wakes up in the middle of the night or struggles to go to sleep, you must consider interventions such as relaxation techniques, light therapy, and melatonin.
Omega-3 supplements are anti-inflammatory and are critical for brain function. Research shows that people with ADHD have lower levels of omega-3 compared to people who do not have ADHD. Taking omega-3 supplements can increase attention, memory, and focus.
A deficiency in B vitamins, especially B6, can cause irritability and fatigue in people with ADHD. B vitamins help in the formation of serotonin and can increase alertness and decrease anxiety-like symptoms.
8. Zinc and magnesium
Probiotics are an effective treatment for ADHD. Probiotics feed good gut flora and crowd out the bad (8).
Ginseng is known to stimulate brain function and increase energy. Red ginseng also helps to calm the symptoms of ADHD. During one study, when 18 children with ADHD were given Korean red ginseng for eight weeks. The results showed that ginseng might be useful in improving inattentiveness in ADHD children (9).
Brahmi (Water hyssop) is a marsh plant that grows in India. These leaves and stems of this plant have been used for centuries for improving g and brain function. Brahmi is also recommended as an alternative treatment for ADHD.
12. Pine bark
Pine bark (pycnogenol) is extracted from the bark of the French Maritime pine tree. According to a 2006 study, when 61 children with ADHD took 1 mg pycnogenol for four weeks, it caused a significant reduction in hyperactivity, improved attention, and visual-motoric coordination and concentration in children (10).
13. Green oats
Green oats extract (Avena sativa) helps to calm nerves and treat anxiety. Studies have also shown that they boost concentration and attention. According to a 2011 study from Germany, green oats herb extract has a positive impact on cognitive performance (11).
14. Lavender oil
Lavender oil helps to reduce anxiety and calm down people in stressful situations. It can also help ease stress in people with ADHD.
15. Frankincense oil
Frankincense oil can help people with ADHD to focus better. It also helps to reduce negative emotions.
16. Vetiver oil
Vetiver oil improves alertness and brain function. It is an effective remedy for ADHD as it improves alertness and reduces mental fatigue. According to a study published in the Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology, vetiver oil increases attention levels (12).
17. Cedarwood oil
Cedarwood essential oil has calming and relaxing properties. It promotes the release of serotonin, which is then converted to melatonin in the brain. This process has a calming influence on children with ADHD.
Rosemary oil helps to keep the mind sharp. According to a 2012 study, 1,8 cineole, one of the main compounds in rosemary essential oil, improves concentration, and improves cognitive performance (13).
Some foods are better at keeping a person’s energy and blood sugar levels stable and improving concentration. These include –
Proteins play an essential role in improving the health of the brain. High protein food also helps prevent spikes in blood glucose levels, which can lead to hyperactivity. High protein foods include –
- Beans and lentils
20. Complex carbs
Eating complex carbohydrates keeps you fuller for longer, which helps to avoid snacking on sugar-laden snacks. Eating complex carbs at night also encourages better sleep. The foods that contain complex carbs include –
- Whole grains
- Brown rice
- Beans and lentils
21. Foods rich in omega-3 fats
Consuming more omega-3 fats can help reduce ADHD symptoms. The foods that contain omega-3 are –
- Fatty fish
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
22. Vitamins and minerals
Low levels of vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B, and vitamin D can lead to ADHD. Include foods that contain these nutrients to prevent ADHD. These include –
- B vitamins – egg, fish, peanuts
- Vitamin D – fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolk
- Magnesium – peanuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds
- Iron – beef, tofu, kidney beans
- Zinc – shellfish, meat, nuts
Foods to avoid
Certain foods can make ADHD symptoms worse. Avoid these in your diet.
- Simple sugars and artificial sweeteners
- Synthetic food dyes and preservatives
- Conventional dairy
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder impacts 8% of adults and 11% of children in the US. The most common treatment for ADHD is medication. Unfortunately, these drugs can also cause some side effects, including fast heartbeat, headaches, irritability, anxiety, and loss of appetite, stomach upset, tremors, and insomnia. Opt for the natural remedies given above like lifestyle changes, dietary changes, natural supplements, herbs, and essential oils to treat and manage the symptoms of ADHD.