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ADD & ADHD Center

Herbal Supplements for Attention Deficit Disorder

author image Virginia Van Vynckt
From 1978 until 1995, Virginia Van Vynckt worked as a writer and editor at The Chicago Sun-Times. She has written extensively about food and nutrition, having co-authored seven cookbooks. She also published "Our Own," a book about older-child adoption. Van Vynckt holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Indiana University.
Herbal Supplements for Attention Deficit Disorder
Some people with ADHD take chamomile to help calm hyperactivity. Photo Credit: graletta/iStock/Getty Images

Some people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) take herbal supplements, alone or along with medications such as Ritalin, to treat the symptoms of inattentiveness, impulsivity and/or hyperactivity. Although some have reported good results using herbs, scientific evidence for the effectiveness of herbal ADHD remedies is scanty. Consult your doctor before taking herbal supplements and especially before giving them to your child. Some could cause stomach upset, react with medications or even be harmful.

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Gingko Biloba

Gingko biloba, one of the more popular herbs used as an ADHD remedy, increases circulation to the brain, according to the American Botanical Council (ABC). Most research on gingko has focused on dementia, and on memory and cognitive functions in healthy adults. Herbal remedies for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder sometimes pair gingko with ginseng.


Ginseng--both the Asian and American varieties--might enhance mental functions when you’re under stress, reports the ABC. A study reported in the May 2001 issue of “Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience” showed that a supplement combining ginseng and Gingko biloba improved ADHD symptoms in 36 children, and the Canadian researchers encouraged further study.

St. John's Wort

A Bastyr University study of 54 children with ADHD reported in the June 2008 issue of the “Journal of the American Medical Association,” found that St. John’s Wort, often used to treat depression and other mental ailments, worked no better than a placebo at reducing inattentiveness and hyperactivity.


Traditionally used in the Ayurvedic medicine of India, Bacopa monnieri is growing more popular in Western countries, and some parents give it to children with ADHD. According to the ABC, preliminary studies show promise for Bacopa as a memory and learning aid. It has not been widely tested for ADHD.


Some research, including a Slovakian study of 56 children reported in the October 2009 issue of “Biomedecine & Pharmocotherapie,” has shown good results for Pycnogenol, an extract made from the bark of the French maritime pine tree. However, the evidence is mixed, according to the National Institutes of Health.

"Calming" Herbs

To ease hyperactivity or restlessness, you could try herbs that traditionally have been used to calm people. Calming herbs recommended for those with ADHD include Valerian, passionflower, lemon balm and chamomile, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, but there's little scientific evidence to back the effectiveness.

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