Substitute for Ritalin in Attention Deficit Disorder?
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: George
Posted on: September 1, 1998

Are you familiar with subbing a natural herb for the medicine Ritalin for AD/HD kids

Nutrition is a major factor in Attention Deficit with or without hyperactivity (ADD & ADHD), since diet can either bring the required nutrients to the brain, or deplete the body of the required nutrients. Sweetened and refined foods should be eliminated from the diet, and replaced with fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains. Sweet and refined foods deplete the B vitamins, which are necessary for nerve cell function. Food additives, colouring and sweeteners can be toxic to a child’s system. A good breakfast that includes fresh fruit, fruit juice and oatmeal in the form of porridge and a good (i.e. not sugar laden) granola or muesli will give the child a good start to the day. Oats are a good nervous restorative. Fresh fruit and vegetables provide the vitamins necessary to eliminate toxins from the body. Snacks can include fresh fruit, wholemeal bread, fresh raw vegetables such as carrot sticks and broccoli, nuts such as almonds (peanuts may cause allergies) and seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin. Nuts and seeds provide zinc which is necessary for brain function. White flour and sugar products deplete the body’s supply of zinc.

Studies have shown that iron deficiency can cause attentions deficits. Some iron sources are green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, egg yolks and oatmeal.

Food allergies are often implicated in ADD. To test your child for possible allergies, you can keep a diet diary of food and note any changes in your child’s mood, attention span and level of activity. This can lead you to try eliminating any foods that appear to cause an increase in hyperactivity or decrease in attention span. Some of the most common allergens are dairy products, eggs, wheat and oranges.

Daily exercise is important therapy. Exercise improves the circulation so that toxins are eliminated more efficiently and the blood flow is improved to peripheral areas such as the brain.

Herbs that will help to calm a child’s nerves while the diet detoxification process is taking place are calming teas of Lemon Balm, Chamomile or St. John’s Wort. The dosage for a child of 5 to 12 years would be one half teaspoon of one of these herbs (or a mixture of the three) steeped in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes; take half a cup, three times a day. Over 12 years of age, the adult dosage of one teaspoon per cup may be used.

Clinical studies on the herb Ginkgo biloba show that it increases the blood flow (with its nutrients) to the brain, improving concentration, intellectual ability, alertness, sociability and memory. ( Ginkgo: Elixir of Youth, by Christopher Hobbs, available at Richters) Evening Primrose Oil is a commonly used supplement for ADD.

For support and help in developing a diet specific to the patient’s needs, a good naturopath who practices nutritional medicine can point to underlying causes that need attention and specific deficiencies that may require supplementation.

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