October 2, 2008

Natural Remedies for ADHD (Alternatives to Ritalin & Adderall), via Herbalist Brigitte Mars.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~ Albert Einstein


Funny thing is, A.D.H.D., or A.D.D. as it used to be known, didn’t “exist” 20 years ago. It’s as if a group of drug manufacturers gather around a conference table every once in a while and choose a different unlikable part of the human condition (Depression! Sleeplessness! Anxiety! Stress!), then manufacture and market drugs to match. But drugs, all too often, have their own side effects—and rarely get at the root of whatever issue they’re designed to address.

Now, A.D.H.D. is real enough. Create a society without gaps in activities: “Walking half a block? Waiting for a bus? Check text or call someone on your phone!,” where we often eat bad food on the go or even standing up…a society without meditation in the morning or prayer on Sundays…and you’re going to create individuals who have a hard time focusing, relaxing—whose attention is split into a million little pieces. ~ Waylon Lewis, ed.

Contributing factors to Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (A.D.H.D.) include birth trauma, brain injury, environmental toxins (molds, heavy metals and chemicals), genetics, loud music, fluorescent lighting and stress. Those with A.D.H.D. may have had digestive, respiratory and ear disorders early in life—all signals of food allergies.

The easiest factor to change is…diet. Blood sugar imbalance, nutritional deficiency, sugar, caffeine (while in the womb and being nursed) and food allergies can make one prone to A.D.H.D. Wheat, dairy, eggs, tomatoes, corn, soy, sugar, peanuts, shellfish, citrus, peanuts, yeast and chocolate can be allergenic. Keep a food journal to determine what foods have an effect.

Hydrogenated oils, artificial colorings, chemical sweeteners (including possibly-carcinogenic aspartame, found in “sugar free” foods and drinks such as Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi) and meats treated with nitrates can cause problems. Better to eat a piece of fruit than drink fruit juice (which elevates blood sugar). Refined grains like bread, cereals, and potatoes are high glycemic—opt for whole grains, brown rice and sweet potatoes instead. Avoid heated oils, including margarine and peanut butter.

Changing a child’s diet works best when the whole family improves theirs. Encourage peaceful mealtimes: before sitting down to eat turn off phones, say whatever blessing is appropriate to your family. During the meal, try to speak calmly and eat slowly, paying attention to taste. Green vegetables, including celery and cucumbers are cooling to an overly heated condition. Sea vegetables provide trace minerals and brain nourishing D.H.A. (an essential omega-3 fatty acid). Wild salmon or sardines provide beneficial essential fatty acids (raw tahini is a good vegan source). Organic foods and pure water minimize and eliminate toxins. Pack lunch rather than purchase one.

Sleepytime: create a mellow, loving environment. Encourage deep breathing. Strive for regular meals and bedtimes. Get rid of clutter. Provide soft, natural lighting. Clean the house of smoke, molds and chemical fumes. Protect children’s developing nervous systems by keeping beds away from sources of electromagnetic pollution (radios, cell phones, TVs). Play relaxing music. A little waterfall can have a serene effect.

Spend time in nature—gardening, hiking and yard work. Yoga aligns the chakras, helping to streamline tangled energy. Martial arts and exercise focus and use up excessive energy. Find an activity you or your child enjoys and is good at. Encourage followthrough and completion. I find knitting, drawing, sewing and crochet to be grounding.

Breaking tasks into small portions helps avoid overwhelm. Give specific praise for positive behavior. Be consistent, and patient. Avoid loud, crowded places and chaotic situations.

Spend one-on-one time daily. Physical contact like hugging and massage can stimulate endorphins (a good thing). Cranial sacral work can relieve pressure upon the brain stem. Neurofeedback (or biofeedback) helps train the brain’s ability to function normally.

Spend more time reading and playing games. Minimize T.V. and video games. Many T.V., websurfing and video games keep one indoors and promote frantic messages, constant visual changes, violence and hyper chatter. (However, games like wilddivine.com can encourage serenity and mental abilities.) Watch favorite programs together and only after chores and homework.

Encourage hands-on learning. Don’t spend long periods of time near distractions such as pencil sharpeners and areas of traffic. Consider tutoring, alternative schooling, smaller classes.

Herbal tinctures can help A.D.H.D. Look for tinctures in vegetable glycerin rather than alcohol. Herbs that improve A.D.H.D. include calming and intelligence-enhancing Bacopa, Catnip, Lemon balm, Passionflower and Saint John’s wort.

Herbal baths can provide relaxation. Beneficial aromas include orange, lavender, peppermint and rosemary. They can be used as inhalations with three drops placed on a handkerchief and ten deep inhalations taken. Five drops can be added to baths.

Natural possibilities can always be tried before resorting to drugs. Calcium and magnesium have muscle relaxing properties and aid sleep. A yeast-free B-complex vitamin has a calming effect, improves neurotransmission and appetite. G.T.F. chromium keeps blood sugar levels stable and decreases cravings. D.H.A. made from fish oils or algaes improve focus and intelligence. Digestive enzymes bromelain and papain reduce inflammation and help to calm uneven moods. G.A.B.A. (gamma amino butyric acid) helps protect the brain from excitatory/anxiety-related messages.

Brigitte Mars—author of Rawsome! & Beauty by Nature and member of The American Herbalist—teaches at Naropa University and the Boulder College of Massage Therapy. For workshops & more: brigittemars.com
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