Herbs and Supplements
The main objective of The Med Free with ADD program is to optimize the ADHD brain. That doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating ADHD symptoms; instead the goal is to give the ADHD brain a chance to work as it was intended to.
People with Attention Deficit Disorder may not be honor roll students, but in terms of achievement in adult life, they shine. They are highly intelligent, creative thinkers who dream of possibilities that others can’t even imagine.
All of the ideas that we’ve talked about so far have been designed with that goal in mind. This chapter on supplements is no different.
I was first introduced to herbal remedies and supplements several years ago when I was working with a nutritionist. She helped me find a different way of living, one that I embrace to this day.
I find the idea of using natural ingredients, like herbs, as a way to manage minor health concerns to be very appealing. It feels much better (and healthier) to me to, for instance, brew a cup of lemon balm tea to help me sleep rather than taking a sleeping pill.
There are a number of supplements and herbs that you can use to help with ADHD symptoms or to optimize brain function. Keep a couple of things in mind when using herbs and/or supplements:
If you are taking any kind of medication at all, check with your doctor or pharmacist first before adding any herbs or supplements. Also, don’t discontinue using any medications you are currently on without checking first.
Herbs are gentler on your system, and therefore slower to take effect. The changes you experience will most likely be subtle at first. The same is true of supplements, but to a lesser degree.
Quality is extremely important when it comes to buying herbs. You want to purchase from a source that you can trust to provide you with a high quality product. I have listed some in the appendix that I have used personally and trust, but you may find some locally that will work just as well. Growing your own may be an option, too, depending on the herb.
Once you find a brand you like, try to stick with it. These are basically plant materials you are dealing with, and you want to try and maintain consistency throughout in terms of strength and effectiveness.
Keep an eye on expiration dates, and always use the freshest herbs and supplements that you can.
Depending on the herb, it may be available as fresh or dried, in capsule form, or as a tincture. Fresh or dried herbs can be brewed into a tea, capsules can be taken as is, and you will find a tincture in small, dark, glass bottle with a rubber dropper. It is the essence of the herb preserved in alcohol, usually brandy or vodka. A few drops in a glass of water is usually all that’s needed, but the taste may not be appealing.
You may find combinations of herbs sold together in a single bottle. There’s nothing wrong with using these, as long as the herbs contained in the mixture will serve your purpose.
Use the guidelines on the bottle to determine dosage.
Because more than one herb might be used for the same purpose, I have listed them by symptom rather than by herb:
Chamomile – very mild, available in tea form as well as capsules
Lemon balm – a little more effective than chamomile, especially when the leaves from the plant are used. You can control its effectiveness by brewing a tea and
adding more or less leaves. Pleasant lemony flavor. A member of the mint family, extremely easy to grow.
Horehound, borage, lavender, and red clover are all gentle calming agents.
Mug wort, St. Johns Wort, mother wort, skullcap, and vervain are slightly stronger calming agents. These are usually available as tinctures.
Valerian and passion flower are very strong calming agents. I usually use these when I need help sleeping. Be warned that Valerian has a very nasty smell. I hold my nose when I take it.
Note: extreme hyperactivity may require more than the use of an herb or two. As the child gets older, they can learn to control themselves more. Meditation can also help.
Attention and focus
Ginkgo to help both short and long term memory, as well as neural transmitters.
Goto Kola is another choice for memory and brain function.
Reishi Mushroom is an herb that has been suggested especially for ADHD, and the way that the ADD mind works. It may be a little difficult to find.
Kava kava really belongs in both the attention and calming categories. Kava kava calms internal thoughts and worries and allows the brain to do what it needs. It would be very useful, for instance, for someone who has test anxiety.
In addition to using herbs for help with Attention Deficit Disorder, there are certain supplements that you should add in order to maximize brain function. Here are some suggestions:
Omega 3 fish oil, in addition to supporting heart health, also works to support your brain and central nervous system. There are lots of choices out there; choose a high quality product and take it at night before you go to bed. (There’s less chance of tasting fish all day that way.)
L-Glutamine and L-Glycine both support neural transmission in the brain.
Vitamin B-12 maintains the nervous system. All of the B vitamins are important for nerve function and brain health as well as protein synthesis.
Zinc is responsible for cellular metabolism, which includes helping your body absorb and make better use of protein and certain vitamins. Our body does not store zinc, so it is important to take a zinc supplement every day. Decreased levels of zinc can cause problems in growth and development, perception, and brain function. An adequate supply of zinc will also aid vitamin A absorption.
According to the National Institute of Health, magnesium is “…essential to good health.” Magnesium is important for nerve function as well as protein synthesis. Lowered levels of magnesium can cause many of the same symptoms of ADHD, including hyperactivity and distractibility.
New studies are linking vitamin D with cognitive functioning and brain development.
Vitamin E is important for neurological health. Most Americans, while not vitamin E deficient, are only getting marginally enough vitamin E.
N-acetyl cysteine is a metabolite of an amino acid called Cysteine. It can help counteract the effects of too much glutamate in the body, help the body de-toxify, and improve immune function. A high protein diet contains Cysteine; the body naturally produces N-acetyl cysteine. Supplements are available if you feel the need to add them.
Be sure to buy good quality vitamins – check the labels to see how much of your RDA they supply.
There are other options out there that I have not mentioned here, mostly because I am either unaware of them or have no experience with them. My best advice is to do some research on your own, and then find a store or a person you trust to advise you.
Beware of formulas developed especially for Attention Deficit Disorder; most of them contain a great deal of calming agents and nothing more. Check the label before you buy. Those formulas that are available strictly online are very expensive, and I’m not convinced that they are effective.
If you have questions, email me. I’ll try to answer them. And if you find a formula that really works for you, let me know that too. I’ll be more than happy to pass it on.