Herbal Treatment for ADHD

There have been few good studies that have documented any major benefit from herbal supplements for ADHD. I have recently been exploring this in depth and it turns out that there is a randomized-control study that was done in Israel that shows that an ADHD Herbal supplement product called "Nurture and Clarity" helped children with ADHD control both their hyperactive and their inattentive symptoms.

The study was performed by a Dr. M. Katz and published in the March 2010 edition of the Journal of Attention Disorders. The name of the study A Compound Herbal Preparation (CHP) in the Treatment of Children With ADHD: A Randomized Controlled Trial by Katz M, Levine A.A., Kol-Degani H, Kav-Venaki L.

Let me tell you what is in this product and how the herbs help ADHD, or better said, how they are thought to help ADHD.  The active ADHD herbs in Nurture and Clarity include an herb called Brahmi. Bacopa or Brahmi is a very old, often used, trusted and respected herb in ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India.  It is used in India by families to help their children excel in school and is often taken as a tea before important exams.  It is available on Ebay in a product called Mentat that has been studied extensively in clinical trials in India and found to help with attention.  Studies documenting the effectiveness of Mentat for cognitive function can be found on the Himalayan Herbal Site.

Lemon balm was also part of the ADHD herbal medicine. Lemon balm acts as a relaxing or calming agent. It is available in stores as lemon balm tea. Lemon balm works because it is thought to be a potent inhibitor of GABA transaminase. This GABA transaminase has been found to be elevated in people with hyperactive ADHD.

The herbal ADHD supplement in the study also included Paeoniae Alba, or white peony. This is also available as White Peony tea. According to the study Paeoniae Alba works by improving the information transfer function of the cholinergic neuron synapses, and enhancing cerebral oxygenation.

Nurture and Clarity contains Spirulina, also known as blue-green algae. This substance is rich in essential fatty acids, B vitamins, many other vitamins, zinc, and all the essential amino acids. The researchers of the Nurture and Clarity study reported that, " Preliminary evidence supports the idea that supplementation with these nutrients may help to ameliorate ADHD".   It is available in stores and can be taken in tablet and powder form.

The other herbs for ADHD in Nurture and Clarity included Centella Asiatica or Gotu Kola. This herb in other studies has demonstrated increased neurite elongation, dendritic growth, and improved learning and memory.

The last main ADHD herb in the product is called Wathania somnifera. It is also known as ashwagandha or Indian Ginseng. This herb has been shown to normalize the HPA axis and the neuroendocrine system and to increase acetylcholine receptor capacity and acetyl cholinesterase (AChE) inhibitory activity according to the Nurture and Clarity study. Remember from the earlier post on cortisol that folks with ADHD may have a faulty neuroendocrine response that may be a cause of ADHD symptoms.  It is generally taken in capsules.

The researchers report that children in their study who were hyperactive/impulsive also got additional herbs for this. The Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD herbal preparation included additional Chamomile, and Passiflora Incarnata or passion flower. Both of these herbs are available as a tea.  One product called Relaxing Tea actually has both.

What makes this herbal treatment for ADHD interesting is that the herbs all have a physiological reason to be of use in the treatment of ADHD. If you are interested in trying to treat ADHD symptoms with herbs, please first look at this list of herbs for ADHD and get a sense of what each one of them contributes to ADHD treatment and then, after letting your doctor know, get the herbs at the health food store or on Amazon.   Try to buy U.S. made products as they are a bit more regulated and are considered to be safe of contaminants.

Most of these herbs have not been studied in children but most are considered pretty safe. The exception may by the Gotu Kola. Some studies have warned about potential liver toxicity with this herbal preparation. Do not take Gotu Kola if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking other products that are cleared by the liver such as Tylenol.

There are a few additional herbs that are not in this particular herbal treatment for ADHD that may also be helpful. I will write about them in my next post.

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  1. Thank you for all your research and insite. I am a firm believer in finding alternatives to modern medicine for both myself and my children. Do you give any of these supplements to your children? I know that you are a firm believer in Caffine, but how about the others?

  2. I ordered the Brahmi tea and we have been doing the white peony tea as well and a ginseng with Gingko tea. I will keep you posted on how it goes.

  3. Could you update us on whether the teas have worked? Also, have you looked into the claims made for Rhodiola, a stimulant herb grown in Siberia? It is among the ingredients in a mind focus formula marketed by Dr. Daniel Amen, a CA psychiatrist who's authored many books on ADHD and other brain-related issues, and who maintains the US' (if not the world's) largest library of brain scans. He does not advocate caffein, and in fact advocates against it. His website used to market an attention support product for children & teens (which included pycnogenol, DMAE, phosphatidylserine & other ingredients but no rhodiola), but no longer offers it or any other ADHD or children/teen-specific formula. Have you tried Dr. Ray Sahelian's Mind Power Rx (Tyrosine, L-Carnitine, Vinca Manor & B-complex vitamins along with Bacopa, Rhodiola, ginseng & other herbs in unspecified quantities) or any of the other herbal or nutritional supplements? My 14 yr old dtr was diagnosed 4 yrs ago with Inattentive Type, but does often act hyper, is impatient and can be scarily impulsive. She's nevertheless quite successful socially, but can't focus on anything academic or "boring" (i.e. unstimulating & insufficient interactive).

  4. Thanks for reminding me that I have not updated you on this. I did not notice any improvement with the teas. The white peony did not seem to make any difference and my son refused to try the Bacopa as he said he hated the taste. I have not heard anything on the Rhodiola but thanks for the tip, I will look into it. The amino acids (Tyrosine, L-Carnitine, phosphatidylserine) have been studied extensively. They seem to maybe work for the first few weeks and then stop working. Some scientist believe that you must have the exact amount and combinations of certain vitamins on board for the amino acids to make any difference at all.

    The B vitamins help with depression, Ginseng is an adoptogen which seems to help with stress. Stress seems to worsen all brain related problems so Ginseng cannot hurt with the treatment of ADHD. Pycnogenol has been studied and seems to help somewhat with memory but not necessarily with ADHD.

    There is a product called Nature and Clarity that was developed in Israel that has had positive results. I have posted about that product and the study that was performed using that product.

    I think that Caffeine may not help everyone and may in fact worsen some ADHD. It has helped me though.

    Thanks for your comments! Tess


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