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Are There Alternative Medicines for Adult ADHD?

I prefer natural remedies. Are there alternative medicines for adult ADHD?

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Many alternative medicines, including herbs and other supplements, have been proposed to improve symptoms of adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Often, no or very little research has been done to see if they are truly helpful.


Sometimes, only a few case reports in which one person reports an improvement have been used to claim that a certain supplement works. Some supplements can also have serious side effects, so be cautious when choosing supplements, and let your healthcare provider know if you are using any alternative or over-the-counter (OTC) supplements.


Some research has suggested that a few natural products or supplements may be helpful for certain people with ADHD. However, long-term studies have not been done to examine how safe or effective they are after being used for several years.


SAM-e (S-adenosyl-L-methionine) is sometimes used to treat depression and osteoarthritis. A small amount of research suggests it might improve attention, restlessness, impulsivity, and self-control in adults with ADHD, although it has not been shown to be useful for treating this condition in children.


Essential fatty acids are often used for ADHD in children. Children with this condition sometimes have a lower amount of essential fatty acids. Eating more fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, and trout) or taking fish oil supplements might help improve behavior and thought processes in some children with ADHD. It is unclear if fatty acids have a role in treating adult ADHD, though.


Similarly, children with ADHD sometimes have lower serum zinc levels than children without. For children with low zinc levels, zinc supplements -- whether taken alone or added to treatment with stimulants -- may improve symptoms. It is unknown if zinc could be helpful for adult ADHD. 


Multivitamin supplements are considered safe (although not necessary) for most adults. However, vitamins and minerals in high doses above the recommended daily allowances can cause side effects such as nausea and diarrhea, and can even be toxic. High doses should be avoided. There is no evidence that supplementing with individual vitamins or minerals improves adult ADHD symptoms in those who do not have a vitamin or mineral deficiency.


Some people use calming herbal teas (such as chamomile or passion flower) for adult ADHD. While these products may produce a sedative-type effect, they have not been shown to decrease symptoms.


Some supplements that have not been shown to be effective and may be dangerous include kava, amino acids (for example, tryptophan), and blue-green algae.


Good research on supplements is scarce, and no supplement has shown a significant and reliable effect on adult ADHD symptoms for most people. For best results, work with your healthcare provider to find a treatment plan that works for you.
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