Natural Remedies for ADHD

The Truth About Lion’s Mane, Psychedelics & Caffeine

People with ADHD increasingly consider unconventional treatment alternatives, such as lion’s mane mushroom, micro-dosing psychedelics, and mega-dosing caffeine, as stimulant medications’ supply shortages continue.

Psilocybin, microdosing, psychedelic

The lingering stimulant medication shortage has prompted some individuals with ADHD to seek alternatives to first-line treatments that are no longer readily available. The shortage has also sparked widespread marketing by companies selling alternative “treatments” to ease the symptoms of ADHD.

Here, we examine the effectiveness of three of these:

Lion’s Mane

Lion’s mane is a mushroom marketed as delivering “brain-boosting benefits.” As with many proposed alternative treatments, it claims to treat many symptoms and conditions, including anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis. Given the vastly different causes of these conditions, it is highly improbable that one intervention could provide universal benefit.

The websites we reviewed, which touted the shaggy white mushroom, acknowledged the dearth of published research studies examining the use of lion’s mane for ADHD. No research shows that it impacts the production or transmission of dopamine, the primary neurotransmitter involved in ADHD. Instead, the product’s marketers cite research done on animals or in test tubes that suggest the potential for general cognitive or health benefits and propose that it could benefit ADHD — without citing any clinical studies on humans for support.

More research is needed on humans to determine if lion’s mane has therapeutic effects.

Micro-Dosing Psychedelics

The use of very low (micro) doses of psychedelics, such as LSD and psilocybin, is gaining renewed interest for treating anxiety and depression. Some experts say these psychedelics might also show promise for treating symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, cluster headaches, and ADHD. These treatments are not without risks, however, at least at higher doses. It is important to know that psychedelics can potentially exacerbate symptoms of bipolar disorder or lead to psychosis. These drugs are illegal unless they are administered in medical or research settings.

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Some studies have examined micro-dosing psychedelics for ADHD, but the results involved self-reported benefits; there was no control group. A clinical trial is underway in Europe using a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled design, the gold standard for medication research. Results are expected in late 2023 and will offer much more helpful conclusions. The use of psychedelics over an extended period of time would also need to be studied, both for ongoing effectiveness (assuming short-term effectiveness is found) and also for safety.

Mega-Dosing Caffeine

Caffeine is the most popular brain-altering chemical that improves alertness, attention, and focus, at least briefly, for many people. Caffeine may improve memory, learning, complex problem-solving, mental stamina, and more. If you are sleep-deprived, mentally fatigued, or experiencing a mid-day dip in energy, caffeine may provide a temporary boost.

But the faster you consume caffeine, and the more concentrated it is, the quicker your blood levels of caffeine rise. Generally, caffeine has a six-hour half-life, meaning half of the blood levels are metabolized every six hours. Drinking more coffee than your system can tolerate may cause irritability, higher heart rate, jitteriness, headaches, anxiety, insomnia, or restless sleep. The combination of caffeine and prescription stimulants can worsen these side effects.

There is no research-supported evidence that caffeine is a valid treatment for ADHD. While it provides general cognitive benefits, caffeine doesn’t activate the parts of the brain that improve executive functioning, as prescription stimulants do.

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Lion’s Mane, Psychedelics, & Caffeine: Next Steps

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