|Nutritional and Herbal Recommendations for Attention Deficit Disorder
The prevalence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis
has been increasing over the last 15 years. This may be due to an absolute
increase in the number of children with this disorder, an increase in screening,
or changes in the social tolerance of certain childhood behaviors. Many
educators, researchers, and health practitioners question the prevalence of the
diagnosis and the symptoms of the disorder, suggesting that often social, rather
than medical, factors may lead a child to be labeled ADHD. ADHD is 3 to 10 times
more common in males than females and affects 3-10% of all school-age boys.
Nonetheless, there are children who exhibit behavioral and attention disorders
that may seriously hinder intellectual, social, and emotional development, since
these children often suffer from an inability to complete tasks, sustain their
attention for tasks or play activities, and organize their homework; are easily
distracted; and frequently experience significant anxiety and depression. The
current article reviews treatment options for behavioral and attention disorders
using diet, and nutritional and herbal medicines.
The Feingold Diet, which consists of removing all food additives, including
artificial flavorings, dyes, and preservatives may reduce symptoms of
overactivity by 50%. A whole foods diet, which emphasizes a healthy mix of
unrefined, unprocessed foods "might be the best approach, even better than
the Feingold diet, for ensuring healthy, well-balanced children," concludes
the author. Even with a balanced diet, however, nutritional supplementation can
help provide additional nutrients to assist the child's biochemistry.
Phosphotidylserine, L-glutamine, chromium polynicotinate, octacosanol,
acetyl-tyrosine, taurine, GABA, essential fatty acids, and B vitamins are all
discussed by the author as possible supplements. Dosage recommendations based on
the weight of the child are also provided.
The author suggests that there are many herbs that may help children with ADHD.
Several herbs recommended contain salicylates, which are "anti-inflammatory
and relaxing to the central nervous system." These include willow (Salix
spp.), birch (Betula spp.), poplar (Populus spp.), peppermint (Mentha x piperita),
cramp bark (Viburnum opulus), black haw (Viburnum prunifolium), and meadowsweet
(Filipendula ulmaria). Other herbs may contain salicylates and are listed in the
article. Children who are on medications for ADHD may experience adverse
reactions to some herbs and caution is advised. Stimulating drugs should not be
combined with stimulating herbs. Use of herbs in combination with drugs may best
be initiated under close supervision of a qualified health care professional.
ADHD can be worsened by allergies, anemia, anxiety, and depression. For
allergies, the author suggests astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), nettles (Urtica
dioica), elder (Sambucus spp.); ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), plantain (Plantago
major), among others. In addition to helping with allergies, nettle may also
help in cases of anemia. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), lemon balm (Melissa
officinalis), valerian (Valeriana spp.), wood betony (Stachys officinalis),
skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), and other herbs are suggested for anxiety.
Balancing hormonal fluctuations during adolescence is also discussed. For all of
these contributory factors, the author provides detailed recipes for herbal
teas, tinctures, and capsules.
Many options other than drug therapy exist for the treatment of ADHD.
Identifying the underlying causes of the disorder will allow parents of children
with ADHD to better decide on appropriate treatments. Diet, nutritional and
botanical supplements may all be used to provide significant relief from ADHD.
John Neustadt, ND4