St. John’s Wort May Not Ease ADHD
Study Shows Herb Not 'Significant' Treatment for ADHD Symptoms in Children, Teens
June 10, 2008 -- Many parents believe that herbal medicines can help
children with ADHD focus better and ease other symptoms.
However, a new study shows that in children and teens diagnosed with ADHD,
taking St. John’s wort was no better than taking a placebo pill.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder affects 3% to 12% of children in
the U.S. An article accompanying the study reports that 30% of young people
with ADHD do not respond well to prescription drugs.
St. John’s wort is among the most common herbal treatments used for ADHD.
There have been plenty of studies (with mixed results) exploring whether St.
John’s wort helps lift moderate depression in adults.
Study authors say this is the first placebo-controlled trial to look at
whether the popular herbal supplement can help kids with ADHD.
Researcher Wendy Weber, ND, PhD, MPH and colleagues at Bastyr University in
Kenmore, Wash., looked at 54 children aged 6 to 17. All were healthy, not
taking any other medications (St. John’s wort can interact with other
medications) including ADHD prescriptions, and were not diagnosed with severe
depression or bipolar disorder.
Half of the participants were randomly assigned to take one capsule
containing 300 milligrams of St. John’s wort three times a day for eight
The other participants received the same orders, but were given placebo
The researchers were not aware of which participants were taking the placebo
or the St. John’s wort.
St. John's Wort Results
- No significant difference in symptom scores and hyperactivity and
inattentiveness scores were found in the group taking St. John’s wort when
compared to the placebo group.
- No significant differences were found between both groups when it came to
participants who had side effects, like rashes, headaches, sunburn, or
- The two groups experienced no significant difference in weight gain or
New, Improved St. John’s Wort?
The kind of St. John’s wort used in this trial was not “high hyperforin,”
which is now on store shelves. Hyperforin is an ingredient in St. John’s wort.
Newer supplements contain 3% to 5% hyperforin. The hyperforin content used in
this study was 0.14%.
Study authors also write that St. John’s wort may work with other herbals,
vitamins, minerals, or supplements.
The researchers call for further study, acknowledging some limitations. The
study was small, with 54 participants; and relatively short at eight weeks from
start to finish.
In an editorial that appears alongside the study, Eugenia Chan, MD, with
Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard, writes “randomizing participants may be
difficult or impossible when the therapy to be evaluated relies on
participants’ belief in the treatment or relationship with the
The findings appear in the June 11 edition of The Journal of the American