How to Support ADHD Naturally

    Written by: Mary Ernsberger /
    Jul 8, 2016 7:30:00 AM

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    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) is the most commonly diagnosed “disorder” among school-aged children.[1]

    In the diagnosis process, about 80% of the evaluations incorporate information from an adult outside of the immediate family, and 90% are diagnosed using behavior-rating scales.[2] In many cases, the non-family adult is the child’s teacher, and he or she is the one completing the behavior-rating scale. Approximately 77% of the time, that same recommendation results in a diagnosis of ADHD.[3]

    I’ve been there personally. My youngest son was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of five after a 15-minute interview with a physician and was immediately prescribed the psychotropic drug Adderall. With the prescription in hand, I left the office feeling totally baffled as to how a child so young needed this type of medication.

    I resisted medicating my son until he was halfway through the second grade. After pressure from school officials, I eventually caved. For two-and-a-half years, I could no longer recognize my happy, healthy child. At the end of fourth grade, I took him off the medications. I was determined to find another way.

    The Scary Truth

    The FDA requires pharmaceutical companies to include a “black box” warning label in these stimulant medications prescribed for ADHD/ADD. The warning states that long-term use can slow a child’s growth, can impair vision or reactions, and it cautions against driving while on the medication.[4] Doesn’t achieving success in school require a child to be awake and alert?

    The warning label also states that the use of these medications may cause heart attack, stroke, or sudden death. They may lead to suicide, violent, aggressive, or psychotic behaviors (Boorady, 2016). The full 15-page warning is available at http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/011522s040lbl.pdf. With these risks in mind, I needed to find alternative options to help my son.

    My Holistic Protocols for ADD/ADHD

    I bought capsules of ginkgo Ginkgo biloba (L.), gotu kola Centella asiatica (L.), and lecithin. I’d discovered that both ginkgo and gotu kola could possibly improve focus and concentration, while lecithin was reported to act like a little “roto-rooter,” clearing out any blockages or toxins in the arteries and veins, especially in the brain.

    I also made my son an essential oil inhaler, just a little glass bottle filled with rock salt and oils. I used organic essential oils of:

    • rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis (L.)
    • elemi Canarium luzonicum (Miq.)
    • palmarosa Cymbopogon martinii (Roxb.) Wats.
    • ylang ylang Cananga odorata (Lam.) var. genuina
    • vetiver Vetiveria zizanioides (L.) Nash
    • bergamot Citrus aurantium bergamia (Risso)

    It took some arguing with the school, but they finally agreed to let him keep his inhaler with him in school. When he was feeling distracted or upset, he would open the bottle and breathe deeply. He felt more focused and attentive within seconds.

    His teachers even commented on how much better he was doing in class. When he had trouble falling asleep, I would spray the room and his bedding with another essential oil blend in a lemon balm hydrosol and filtered water base. He would sleep soundly and wake in a good mood.  

    The essential oils were:

    • bay Laurus nobilis (L.)
    • clary sage Salvia sclarea (L.)
    • rosemary R. officinalis
    • combava petitgrain Citrus hystrix (D.C.)
    • lavender Lavandula angustifolia (Mill.)
    • lemon Citrus limonum (L.)

    These were the first alternatives I chose, but what I discovered was the potential causes behind the behaviors used to diagnosis this disorder. I learned how nutrition excesses and/or deficiencies or a lack of physical movement, along with alternative therapy options, are able to provide equal or better results with little to no side effects compared to their pharmaceutical counterparts.[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10]

    I started observing how my son reacted after meals or when he had something to drink. I discovered that he was excessively hyper after drinking anything that was ‘red.’ After reading the labels, I identified one common artificial ingredient: Red Dye #40. I eliminated drinks and foods with Red #40, but then I had to figure out what to give him instead so he wouldn’t feel left out.

    I created an herbal drink with:

    • hibiscus flower Hibiscus sabdariffa (L.)
    • hawthorn berry Crataegus laevigata (Poir.) DC.
    • rosehips Rosa spp.
    • licorice root Glycyrrhiza glabra (L.)
    • anise seed Pimpinella anisum (L.)
    • lemon balm Melissa officinalis (L.)
    • rosemary R. officinalis
    • spearmint Mentha spicata (L.) 

    He called it his ‘herbal Kool-Aid’ and I called it “Cool Harmony.” It had that iconic red color without any artificial ingredients, plus a fresh, fruity flavor with a hint of mint.

    A trusted CAM practitioner may offer suggestions on lifestyle changes, including nutritional evaluations, herbal remedies, essential oil massage blends, flower essences for emotional upset, as well as support for the parents and other family members.

    While there may only be one member of a family diagnosed with this disorder, the diagnosis will affect the entire family. Though I failed to realize it at the time, how I responded to this disorder affected my other two children as much as it affected my son.

    My hope is to share more of our experiences and what I have learned through years of education on how both children and adults can come together to identify the triggers of these behaviors and to utilize drug-free alternatives to support personal and family health and wellness.

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    I am a graduate of and guest blogger for American College of Healthcare Sciences, the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are our own. If this blog contains affiliate links, they will be marked with an asterisk. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  

    This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine. 

    [1] http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-disorder-among-children.shtml

    [2] New report finds 43 percent increase in ADHD diagnosis for US school children. (2015). Retrieved from the Science Daily website at https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151208150630.htm

    [3] Liesveld, J. (2007). Teachers' knowledge, beliefs, and values about children with ADHD. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304840696?accountid=158302

    [4] Adderall (2016). Retrieved from the WebMD website at http://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-63163/adderall-oral/details#precautions

    [5] ADHD; fatty acid seems to improve symptoms in ADHD kids and dyslexics. (2002). Pain & Central Nervous System Week, 10. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/208448563?accountid=158302 

    [6] Arnold, L. E., Lofthouse, N., & Hurt, E. (2012). Artificial food colors and attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity symptoms: Conclusions to dye for. Neurotherapeutics, 9(3), 599-609. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13311-012-0133-x

    [7] Childhood hyperactive behaviors exacerbated by food additives and artificial colorings. (2007). Pediatric Health, 1(1), 09-11. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.2217/17455111.1.1.9 Drug Scheduling (n.d.). Retrieved from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) website at https://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml

    [8] Stevenson, J. (2006). Dietary influences on cognitive development and behaviour in children. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 65(4), 361-365. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0029665106005118

    [9] Weiss, B. (2012). Synthetic food colors and neurobehavioral hazards: The view from environmental health research. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(1), 1-5. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/919707925?accountid=158302 

    [10] Western diet linked to ADHD. (2011). Chiropractic Journal, 25(4), 32. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/846994350?accountid=158302

    Authored by Mary Ernsberger

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