Herbal supplements to treat ADHD

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
June 10, 2008 5:05:53 PM PDT
There is new information about using herbal remedies to treat Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

Up to 30 percent of sufferers do not respond to prescription medication or may experience an adverse reaction to certain drugs. Herbal supplements are often considered by some parents looking for a way to help their children. One of the most popular is St. John's Wort. But a new study finds it does not improve ADHD symptoms.

Adriana Arjona has had difficulty concentrating and staying still.

At age 6, she was diagnosed with ADHD.

"It's difficult, because I can't concentrate as well as everyone else," she said.

Adriana continues to struggle with symptoms. And because her mom is worried about side effects of prescription medications, she instead chose to give her daughter herbal supplements.

One of the mostly commonly used supplements for ADHD is St. John's Wort, a weed that is now commonly sold and has been used for medical purposes for years.

"I think the real concern with St. John's Wort is that, one, we found that it didn't work for ADHD," said Dr. Wendy Weber, of Bastyr University in Washington State..

The study looked at 54 children, ages 6 to 17, with ADHD. Half were given 900 milligrams a day of St. John's Wort for eight weeks, while the others received a placebo.

"We found that the individuals who took St. John's Wort did no better than the children who took the placebo," Dr. Weber said. "So we saw no beneficial effect of St. John's Wort in our trial."

Researchers looked at ADHD symptoms of restlessness, hyperactivity and lack of concentration, which persisted.

"Even though it's a natural product, it does not necessarily mean that it's safe," Dr. Weber said. "And so you always want to talk to your healthcare provider about using those natural treatments and keep them informed, because there can be interactions."

For Adriana, ADHD has become a way of life. Coping with the symptoms are part of her ongoing struggle to carry on.

"I guess it's a lifestyle," she said. "There's nothing that's going to make it go away. So i understand that this is just something I have to work on."

Sometimes, St. John's Wort is included in other supplements being used to treat ADHD. Parents should always discuss all medications, especially those bought over the counter, with their child's doctors. Sometimes these herbs can have interactions with other medications or can change the way things work.