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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Herbal Remedies and ADHD Treatment

09/13/2000

Question:

As a school nurse, I found this site to be very informative. I am seeing more and more kids that parents are trying herbal remedies (generally can`t tell me exactly what they are taking). What can you tell me about herbal remedies in the treatment of ADHD?

Answer:

There are two that I am aware of but for neither do I have information regarding controlled trials studying the effectiveness of the substances. The first is pycnogenol which has been used by some centers, physicians, and patients on their own as a treatment or as an adjunct to pharmaceutical treatment for ADD. Of course, results vary greatly and without controlled studies, there is no way to tell the subjective (placebo) from the pharmacological effects. The other, I think rarer, herbal-type treatment would be blue green algae. I have heard of this being used less often and, indeed, am suspicious about whether it produces any effect at all. However, I have encountered people who swear by it. I know there are many other herbal formulations that are advertised as cognitive enhancing and as effective with ADD. However, generally, there is little research with these substances. Another nonherbal but supplement-type approach would be increasing omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. This is being studied systematically for mood disorders and there is suggestive evidence but not definitive trials regarding ADD. We do not know whether this last approach would improve ADD symptoms, although it certainly would be good for general health and would not be harmful. In general, though, I would be wary of unresearched herbal interventions.

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Response by:

Robert Krikorian, PhD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati