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ADD & ADHD Center

Natural Supplements for ADHD in Children

author image Cindy Ell
Cindy Ell began writing professionally in 1990. A former medical librarian, she has written materials for hospitals, medical associations, the "Nashville Scene" and "Coping Magazine." She received her Bachelor of Arts in linguistics from the University of Massachusetts and her Master of Library and Information Science from Pratt Institute. She is currently a full-time freelance medical writer.
Natural Supplements for ADHD in Children
Japanese gingko leaves. Photo Credit KittyBear/iStock/Getty Images

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, abbreviated as ADHD, is a neurobehavioral disorder that interferes with a person's ability to stay on task and exhibit self-control. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, it affects 3 percent to 5 percent of all children. Some natural supplements may help ease symptoms. If you suspect your child has ADHD, consult a qualified health-care provider for treatment advice.

Herbal Supplements

Several herbal supplements may be helpful in improving ADHD symptoms, writes nutritional consultant Phyllis Balch in "Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Chamomile, passionflower, hops and skullcap are mild sedatives that may help with behavioral symptoms. Ginkgo biloba is used to boost attention, while ginseng or mullein oil may be useful for improving memory. Talk to a physician before giving your child herbal supplements. The doses suggested on their labels may need to be modified based on your child's age.

Mineral Supplements

Zinc, iron and magnesium all play important roles in normal brain functioning. Deficiencies in these minerals may correlate with ADHD symptoms, according to a 2008 review by Natalie Sinn of the University of South Australia's Nutritional Physiology Research Center. Sinn describes studies in which scientists measured the levels of zinc, iron and magnesium in the bloodstreams of children with and without ADHD symptoms. The children with ADHD had significantly lower levels of these minerals in their systems. Stand-alone mineral supplements are not usually necessary. Adequate amounts of zinc, iron and magnesium can be obtained by eating varied, healthy foods. A good children's multivitamin with added minerals can help to fill in the gaps for children who do not always eat a nutritious diet. Ask a qualified health care professional which supplements are right for your child.

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Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and nervous system, and are necessary for normal health and development. Sinn states that ADHD patients who were given fish oil supplements in randomized controlled trials showed significant improvements in ratings of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity when compared with controls. Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be manufactured in the body, so they must be obtained through dietary means. Oily fish is an abundant source, but non-fish eaters can get omega-3s by taking fish oil supplements. Use fish oil supplements under the supervision of a qualified health-care professional.

When to Use Natural Supplements for ADHD in Children

Children with ADHD symptoms are better candidates for natural supplements than children with ADHD symptoms that are severe and disruptive. Natural supplements generally have a slower and gentler rate of onset than prescription pharmaceuticals, according to the book "Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide." The action of pharmaceutical medications is typically more intense and thus may bring quicker relief. Poorly addressed ADHD symptoms can lead to severe consequences at school, home and in your child's personal relationships. Ask your child's pediatrician whether supplements are the right choice.

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