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Other Therapies for ADHD

Scott Olson, ND

Ginkgo and Ginseng

anxious girlA combination of Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) and American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) showed some promise in a trial of children with ADHD. Ginkgo is known to improve memory, anxiety, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, and other symptoms of dementia in older adults. Noticeable improvement in attention and distractibility occurred after 4 weeks of using a supplemental Ginkgo/Ginseng combination in children and adolescents with ADHD. The dose of the formula in this study contained 200 mg American Ginseng and 50 mg Ginkgo.

Both Ginseng and Ginkgo have the potential to interfere with other medications and should not be started without consulting a health-care practitioner, especially in children. The side-effects of Ginseng and Ginkgo are generally mild (such as upset stomach or diarrhea, or the occasional rash). The participants in the previously mentioned study, who ranged in ages from 2-18 years old, handled the medications with only mild side effects.

Serotonin Precursors

Serotonin precursors are compounds used in the production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, brain chemicals responsible for mood. A subset of people with ADHD may respond to serotonin precursor treatment, but this intervention is still considered experimental. S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe, pronounced “Sammy”) is a serontonin precursor that can be used in the treatment of ADHD.

SAMe is a compound produced by the liver which is used throughout the body in a chemical process called methylation. Methylation, essential to many chemical reactions in the body, is one of the last steps in the production of the brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine (which regulate mood).

Because there are no foods that have high SAMe levels, our bodies must make this substance. Our liver usually creates SAMe from the amino acid (protein) methionine, which is found in many foods. Interestingly, supplementing with methionine does not work as well as supplementing with SAMe, because creating SAMe takes multiple steps and requires many co-factors (other nutrients, such as vitamin B12, folate and others) to ensure that the process is successful.

Six out of eight people with ADHD in one study responded well to SAMe treatment; however, this study is obviously small and should be considered preliminary. Typical dosing for SAMe is between 800mg/day and 1600mg/day. SAMe is very safe at recommended dosages and has no real side effects other than gastrointestinal upset.

SAMe can cause mania in people with bipolar disorder (manic depression), although this is a rare side effect. Also, SAMe should not be used with any antidepressant medications. Supplementing with SAMe should not be undertaken without the support of your health care provider.

B- Vitamins

The results of ADHD treatment studies using a B-Complex vitamin (mixture of B vitamins) or using mega-doses (very large doses) of B-vitamins have been mixed (sometimes this treatment was helpful and other times not helpful).

Treating ADHD with high doses of Vitamin B-6 (20mg a day) has been helpful for some people, but should not be attempted without the aid of a health care professional. High doses of Vitamin B-6 have the potential to cause nerve damage.

The B-vitamins are water-soluble (dissolvable in water) and are easily excreted in the urine. They are generally considered safe at normal doses, with little to no side-effects.