by Stephanie Chambers and Dr Christoph Streicher
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and its hyperactivity variant ADHD, are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder in children. In the USA, at least 11 percent of children (4-17 years of age) have been diagnosed with these disorders. It doesn’t go away with the onset of adulthood, so many adults also suffer from it.
The hallmark symptoms of ADD are a short attention span, distractibility, disorganization, procrastination and poor internal supervision (according to Daniel G. Amen and his book “Healing ADD”). Although not commonly realized, over-focusing can also be a sign of ADD as Dr Amen says there are seven types of ADD: “classic”, “inattentive”, “overfocused”, “temporal lobe”, “limbic”, “ring of fire” and “anxious”.
Obviously these are complex disorders and if you think that you, or your children, may be displaying some of these symptoms, you may like to research it further by reading the above mentioned book and be tested for them by a qualified mental health professional.
Many people think that being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD means that you will need to take stimulant medications such as amphetamines (e.g. Adderall) and methylphenidate (e.g. Ritalin and Concerta). But as many doctors are now realizing, there are many approaches that help with these symptoms and, if these are adopted, only some cases will also need medications. With some types of ADD, the medications themselves can be counterproductive. For example, if you are suffering from the over-focusing type of ADD, taking amphetamines can make you even more focused and also anxious. Thus, it is important to get a correct diagnosis and treatment plan.
What are some of these non-pharmaceutical approaches? Dr Amen recommends multivitamins and mineral supplements as studies have shown these can help people to learn more effectively. He also recommends fish oil supplements. Eliminating caffeine and nicotine and other stimulants can also help as these interfere with sleep and good sleep routine is required to get on top of these conditions. Remember that even children can be consuming quite a lot of caffeine if they are allowed to drink pop. In terms of sleep, you may also like to read our page Essential Oils For Sleep & Insomnia. Research on the Transcendental Meditation technique has also shown it to help people with ADD and ADHD.
Daily exercise (30-45 minutes) is very important, not only for good health, but for its effect on mental functioning. Limiting the time spent listening to TV, playing video games and time on other devices can make a huge difference. As it can be hard to give up such activities, you may like to see our page Essential Oils For Addictions.
Adopting a healthy diet (e.g. fresh fruits and vegetables and adequate protein) is critical. The exact diet recommended depends on the type of ADD. Being supportive instead of yelling really helps as people suffering from these disorders have lower dopamine levels (depending on the type of ADD) and sometimes they can deliberately be annoying as one of their strategies to feel more alert. They can even get addicted to angry situations. Yelling at them only makes it worse.
Up to 60% of children (and adults) suffering from ADD also have learning disabilities, so they should also be tested for these.
Some of the symptoms of disorganization, procrastination and poor internal supervision can be addressed by teaching them study/work skills to help them establish more order and control in their environment and in their work.
Additional natural treatments such as supplements can be given based on the type of ADD. For example, people who have the “classic” type of ADD or who have “inattentive” ADD, might try using natural stimulants such as green tea or ginseng instead of taking stimulating medications like Ritalin.
Being ADD should not be viewed as a curse. There are many strengths that people with ADD exhibit and, when managed properly, they can lead to the development of high levels of intelligence, competence and success. In fact, some professionals believe ADD is an evolutionary advantage if you could learn how to take control of it. For example, if you can learn to be attuned to external stimuli that might have been distracting and at the same time be able to hyperfocus in a productive way, it could be advantageous.
How can essential oils be used to help temporarily alleviate the symptoms associated with ADD? Dr Streicher recommends diffusing the following essential oils as appropriate:
- For short-attention span issues: Mandarin, Tangerine, Orange Essential Oils – as they are soothing, calming, refreshing. Lemon, or Lime Essential Oils – to increase the ability to focus and pay attention. Children often love citrus essential oils such as these.
- For distractibility: Vetiver Essential Oil, Himalayan Cedar Essential Oil and Cedar Atlas Essential Oil – for their grounding effects.
- For anxiety issues: Lavender – to reduce anxiety such as that experienced by those suffering from Anxious ADD. You may also like to see our page Essential Oils For Anxiety and Stress.
- For anger issues: Ylang Ylang Essential Oil – to calm the emotions (but Rose Geranium Oil would be a better choice for children).
- For mental fatigue: Holy Basil – to help with any lack of energy, laziness, mental fatigue, physical fatigue or low self-esteem. You may also like to see our page Increasing Energy & Vitality Using Essential Oils.
- For physical tensions: Roman Chamomile Essential Oil – to help soothe any physical tensions. It can be diffused or diluted up to 5-10% in Jojoba or Hazelnut oil (25-50 drops per tablespoon) and applied wherever the tension is felt.
As ADD as a diagnosis has only been around for the last hundred years, it is not clearly referred to in the classical aromatherapy and Ayurvedic texts, so aromatherapists are still in the process of testing what works and researching the effects. We would appreciate it if you could share any experiences you have had in using essential oils for these disorders using the comments section below, so that we can all benefit.
Disclaimer: The statements made in this blog have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. If a condition persists, please contact your physician or healthcare provider. The information provided is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider, and should not be construed as medical advice.