Benefits of Fish Oils
One study suggested that a subgroup of ADD boys are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids compared with those who have no symptoms of the condition.
Another study showed that omega-3s—found in cold-water, fatty fish, such as sardines, tuna, and salmon—tend to break down more readily in the bodies of patients with ADHD than in those without the condition. “ADDers who have low blood levels of omega-3s will show the biggest improvement in mental focus and cognitive function,” says Brown.
>> To purchase: Ned Hallowell recommends supplements from OmegaBrite and Zone Labs. Brown also recommends Nordic Naturals. If your child has trouble swallowing pills, try the Barleans Omega Swirl smoothie.
A combination of the B-vitamin niacin and gamma-aminobutyric acid, picamilon improves blood flow to the brain and has mild stimulative effects, improving alertness and attention. It can also reduce aggressive behavior. “Both adults and children derive benefits from this supplement,” says Brown.
Treating Significant ADHD
“Most children and adults derive moderate benefits from the vitamin-mineral approach,” says Brown. “Those with more significant ADD may need stronger stuff—namely, herbs.”
GINKGO AND GINSENG
“These herbs are cognitive activators,” says Brown. They act like stimulants without the side effects. Typically, adults and children who take ginkgo and ginseng improve on ADHD rating scales, and are less impulsive and distractible. Asian ginseng may overstimulate younger children. If this happens to your child, switch to American ginseng.
>> To purchase: Hsu’s Ginseng is a reliable mail-order source for both versions of the herb. According to Brown, Ginkoba and Gingold are the most effective brands of ginkgo.
An extract made from French maritime pine bark, pycnogenol was found to improve hyperactivity and sharpen attention, concentration, and visual-motor coordination in students after one month, based on standardized measures and teacher and parent ratings.
The herb pycnogenol is also rich in polyphenols, antioxidants that protect brain cells from free radicals. “The first double-blind study on the herb was published in 2006, confirming its benefits,” says Brown. “Larger randomized trials, though, are needed.”
>> To purchase: Pycnogenol is available at Nature’s Best.
Made from a plant of the same name that grows in the Arctic, this herb can improve alertness, attention, and accuracy. It can be too stimulating for young children, and is occasionally beneficial in children ages eight to 12. It is most useful, says Brown, for students in junior high, high school, and college, who have to complete long papers and spend hours reading.
This article appears in the Summer 2009 issue of ADDitude.
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To share alternative therapies that help manage ADHD symptoms with others, visit the ADHD Alternative Treatments support group on ADDConnect.