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Balanced Living, Family Time

ADHD: A Natural Approach

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by Dr. Terry Vanderheyden, ND, RH

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition marked by symptoms ranging from learning problems, restlessness, and distractibility to hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Check for food sensitives

A common basis for these problems is food sensitivities. Food sensitivity/allergy elimination has been confirmed to be helpful for controlling ADHD symptoms.[1]I suggest conducting a food elimination diet to determine what foods might be aggravating. Very commonly I find that food additives also underlie the condition[2], with food colouring agents topping the list, followed by MSG and preservatives. A basic and simple solution to the additives issue is to cook from scratch and not from a can or box.

One should also rule out anemia, as this can mimic ADHD. These individuals are typically listless and have learning issues, with inattention predominating.

A Dad Helping his kids work on school on a table

Herbal medicines

Secondary to diet, herbal medicines can be very helpful. I’ve seen significant improvements with my herbal approach. The primary products I use are two: a calmative formula for restlessness, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity; and, depending on the presentation (predominantly inattentive or predominantly hyperactive-impulsive), I combine this with a nootropic[3]formula for aiding with memory, learning, and concentration. 

The herbs in the calmative formula that I use include: lemon balm[4], catnip, chamomile[5], and linden, each in their own way reinforcing the restlessness-easing effects.

Meanwhile, the companion nootropic formula on which I rely to aid with concentration, memory, and learning contains ginkgo[1], ginseng[2], bacopa[3], and rosemary[4].

I find the combination of both these formulas to be remarkably effective. On school days, I typically suggest 1 tsp of each in a little water or juice in the morning before setting out.

In addition, some supplements can be very helpful, chief of which are those with essential fatty acids derived from cod liver or fish oils[5]. The therapeutic goal is ~500 mg DHA (from fish oil) per day. I typically recommend that this be given on school days as well.





[1]Stevens LJ, Kuczek T, Burgess JR, et al. “Dietary sensitivities and ADHD symptoms: Thirty-five years of research.” Clin Pediatr2011;50:279–293. 

[2]Schab D, Trinh NT. “Do artificial food colors promote hyperactivity in children with hyperactive syndromes? A meta-analysis of double-blind placebo-controlled trials.” Dev Behav Ped2004;25:423–434. 

[3]Nootropics are products that aid with memory, concentration and cognition.

[4]Gromball J, Beschorner F, Wantzen C, et al. “Hyperactivity, concentration difficulties and impulsiveness improve during seven weeks’ treatment with valerian root and lemon balm extracts in primary school children.” Phytomedicine2014;21:1098–1103. 

[5]Niederhofer H. “Observational study: Matricaria chamomilla may improve some symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.”Phytomedicine2009;16:284–286. 

[6]Shakibaei F, Radmanesh M, Salari E, Mahaki B. “Ginkgo biloba in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial.” Complement Ther Clin Pract2015;21:61–67. 

[7]Ko HJ, Kim I, Kim JB, et al. “Effects of Korean Red ginseng extract on behavior in children with symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity: A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial.” J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol2014;24:501–508. 

[8]Dave UP, Dingankar SR, Saxena VS, et al. “An open-label study to elucidate the effects of standardized Bacopa monnieri extract in the management of symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.” Adv Mind Body Med2013;28:10–15. 

[9]Mazhar H, Harkin EF, Foster BC, Harris CS. “Complementary and alternative medicine use in pediatric attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Reviewing the safety and efficacy of herbal medicines.” Curr Dev Disord Rep2016;3:15. 

[10]Milte CM, Parletta N, Buckley JD, Coates AM, Young RM, Howe PR. “Eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids, cognition, and behavior in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a randomized controlled trial.” Nutrition. 2012 Jun;28(6):670-7.

ADHD is indeed treatable by natural means. I urge sufferers to give this alternative approach a try!

Headshot of Dr. Terry Vanderheyden, ND, RH
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Author: Dr. Terry Vanderheyden, ND, RH

Terry Vanderheyden is a naturopathic doctor and registered herbalist with a practice in Barry’s Bay, ON and works as a medical consultant and formulator for St. Francis Herb Farm, Inc.


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