Is your child suffering from abnormal hyperactive and disruptive behavior; is he/she not able to concentrate or stay attentive in class, and have trouble focusing or sitting still for long?
What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder/Attention Deficit Disorder?
ADHD/ADD is a type of psychological disorder that is characterized by above than normal hyperactive and disruptive behaviors. Children suffering from ADHD have symptoms of difficulty in concentration, staying attentive and organized, sitting still for long, and trouble focusing and controlling impulses. Medications such as Ritalin are prescribed for ADHD. Though many patients feel well with the medicine; however, there are many adverse effects of these medicines, including dizziness, digestive problems and difficulty in sleeping. In such cases, people often look for alternative options such as herbal supplements.
Herbal remedies for ADHD/ADD in children
There are numerous herbal remedies that may prove to be useful in children suffering from ADHD. Let us discuss some of these herbs.
Herbal Teas: Herbal teas are a safe option for both adults and children. They help the patients relax and promote sleep. You can try herbal teas containing spearmint, chamomile, lemon grass and many other herbs and flowers. They should best be taken at night before sleeping.
Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo biloba has been used very often to improve memory and mental sharpness. According to a study done in the year 2001, participants suffering from ADHD who took a herbal product containing ginkgo biloba as one of the constituent noticed improvement in their symptoms. After four weeks of therapy, improvement in social behavior was noticed in 44% of the patients and the improvement in hyperactivity was noticed in 74% of the patients.
Gotu Kola: Gotu Kola or Centella asiatica is found in South Africa, Asia and the Southern Pacific region. It is rich in nutrients such as Vitamin B1, B2 and B6, all of which are required for a healthy brain. Children suffering from ADD may benefit from Gotu kola. It is found helpful in reducing anxiety levels and enhancing mental clarity. According to a study done in the year 2002, it was found that anxiety levels were reduced in the participants who took Gotu kola. Similarly, it is found to be a brain booster in a study done in the year 1992.
Brahmi: Brahmi is also referred by the name water hyssop. It grows as a wild plant in the marshy lands in India. The leaves and stems of Brahmi plant are used to make the herb and it has been used since ancient times to improve memory and mental function. Currently the herb is very often recommended to patients suffering from ADHD. Studies done in the year 2002 and 2008 demonstrated that participants who took Brahmi had improvements in their mental function.
Green Oats: Unripe oats are known as green oats. The herbal extract, which is also referred to as 'wild oat extract' is obtained from the crop before its maturity. This extract is sold in the markets by the name Avena sativa. It has been used since long to help in calming the nerves and in treating symptoms of anxiety and stress. Studies conducted in the year 2011 demonstrated that participants who took the green oats extract showed improvement in concentration and attention.
Ginseng: Ginseng is a herb that is often used in Chinese medicine. It helps in stimulating functioning of the brain and in increasing energy. Red ginseng is also found to be helpful in improving the symptoms of ADD. In a study done in the year 2011, participants in the age group 6-14 years, who were given 1,000 mg of ginseng for 8 weeks, demonstrated improvement in their symptoms.
Pine Bark (Pycnogenol): The bark of the French maritime pine tree is used to obtain the plant extract, which is known as Pycnogenol. In a study conducted in the year 2006, 61 children suffering from ADHD were given either 1 mg of pycnogenol or placebo for a total of 4 weeks. The results of the study demonstrated improvement in the symptoms of the group that took pycnogenol, while the placebo group showed no improvement in symptoms. Another study conducted in the year 2006 demonstrated that levels of antioxidants were normalized in children suffering from ADHD. A 2007 study demonstrated that the levels of stress hormones were reduced by 26.2% with pycnogenol. Moreover, the levels of neurostimulant dopamine were reduced by around 11% in ADHD patients.
Guarana: Guarana is the extract of seeds of a stimulant plant that is a native of the Amazon forest. Guarana is similar to the conventional stimulant drugs that are used to treat ADHD. The constituents of Guarana are xanthine alkaloids, including theophylline, caffeine, and theobromine. These alkaloids have the capability to boost stamina and energy. They also help in reducing mental fatigue. Dopamine and norepinephrine levels are increased by the caffeine present in this herb, which helps in calming the hyperactivity of the children suffering from ADD. Similarly theophylline helps in the stimulation of central nervous system and in improving mental alertness, whereas, theobromine helps in improving mood.
Rhodiola: The herb Rhodiola rosea is a type of adaptogen that helps in improving both physical and mental stress. Two phytochemicals-rosavin and salidroside are present in the herb. This herb helps in improving both memory and attention span in ADD patients. The release of serotonin, endorphins and norepinephrine are stimulated by this herb. All of these hormones help in improving the symptoms of ADHD.
Other herbs used to treat ADD
Lemon balm: This herb helps in relieving the symptoms of anxiety and stress. It also increases gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels, which is an important neurotransmitter.
Kava kava: It is an anxiolytic that increase levels of GABA.
Skullcap: it is a sedative (daytime) that helps in reducing hyperactivity without causing side effects of drowsiness.
Ashwagandha: It is an adaptogen that helps in improving the symptoms of mental and physical stress.
Eleuthero: It is also an adaptogen that helps in relieving the symptoms of ADD.
Apart from the herbal remedies mentioned above, diet and lifestyle changes are also important in relieving the symptoms of ADD in children. There are special diets that stress on avoiding sugar containing foods, and artificial food additives and colorings. It is advocated to include sources of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Meditation and yoga are also effective in improving the symptoms of ADD.