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Vitamins and Supplements for ADHD

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St. John's Wort: No Help for ADHD

St. John's wort is a common herbal supplement. It's used for treating depressionanxiety, and sleep disorders. This herbal treatment is thought to affect brain chemicals, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, as well as adenosine, GABA(A), GABA(B), and glutamate receptors.

Recent scientific studies do not support the use of St. John's wort to treat ADHD. In fact, recent findings conclude that St. John's wort has no effect on the symptoms of ADHD.

One study involved a group of children and adolescents with ADHD ranging in age from 6 to17. Each child and adolescent was given either a placebo or St. John's wort supplement three times a day for 8 weeks. They were then evaluated for changes in their hyperactivity and inattentiveness. The results showed no difference between the two groups.

Other Natural Supplements for ADHD

There is some preliminary evidence that some natural supplements may benefit people with ADHD. For example, in one study, a combination of American ginseng and Ginkgo leaf improved ADHD symptoms in children ages 3 to 17. But researchers conclude that more scientific studies are needed to confirm this finding.

Some research also shows that the natural hormone melatonin may offer some benefit for children with ADHD who take stimulant medications. Researchers noted that it improved sleep problems in these children. Melatonin, though, has not been found effective in decreasing ADHD symptoms.

Natural supplements such as GABA and inositol are sometimes used to treat ADHD and ease mood symptoms. Neither one of these natural products is proven to be effective, though. Also, there is still insufficient evidence about the safety of either product.

Can Nutritional Supplements Help with ADHD by Filling Dietary Gaps?

Some proponents of nutritional supplements believe that ADHD symptoms occur or may be worsened because of a lack in the diet. They also believe that supplements are needed to fill that dietary gap. The scientific jury is still out on whether any nutritional supplements actually can cause or affect ADHD symptoms, but some preliminary studies lend support to this theory. 

For instance, there are some studies on using iron supplements to treat ADHD. Findings from these studies suggest that children with ADHD may have iron deficiencies. The hypothesis is that supplementing with iron may improve ADHD symptoms, although this has not been conclusively proven.

It's important, though, to use caution when giving your child any supplement. Taking too much iron, for instance, can be toxic -- even deadly. It's important to check with your child's doctor if you believe your child may be iron deficient.

In addition, always talk to your doctor before using any natural supplements. That includes megadoses of vitamins or minerals. That's because there's always a chance of toxicity or of interaction with medication.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on August 08, 2014
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