There are a host of different ADHD supplements that can be taken with traditional ADHD medications to potentially help improve mood, memory, cognition, and attentiveness in children and adults who have ADHD.
These supplements include vitamins, minerals, and herbs that can be found naturally in the foods we eat or over the counter in most pharmacies and grocery stores or on the internet. Because they can be obtained without a prescription does not mean they are always safe.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “dietary supplements are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or alleviate the effects of diseases.”
In addition, the FDA does not review or approve the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements, so make sure you consult with your child’s doctor before incorporating any new ADHD supplements into your child’s treatment regimen.
If you have any questions or concerns about any supplement, you can contact the manufacturer of that product.
Research has shown that children diagnosed with ADHD commonly have deficiencies in several important vitamins and minerals.
However, there is no definitive evidence that these deficiencies are a direct cause of ADHD. In fact, some ADHD medications can actually lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies through appetite suppression.
If a patient does not have an appetite, he or she won’t eat. Therefore, the intake of nutrients is diminished, resulting in vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Now, let’s discuss the different vitamins and minerals believed to be beneficial in improving the symptoms of ADHD in children.
The Best ADHD Supplements
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most thoroughly researched ADHD supplements for ADHD symptom relief, especially hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity, as reported by two meta-analyses.
According to a 2016 review in the Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, patients with ADHD tend to have an omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid imbalance (a higher omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio) rather than an essential fatty acid deficiency.
Taking care of this imbalance takes priority over simply just increasing the intake of essential fatty acids.
How do omega-3 fatty acids work? There are two important neurotransmitters for normal brain function, emotions, and stress: serotonin and dopamine.
Omega-3 fatty acids help protect brain tissue and facilitate the movement and communication of these neurotransmitters in the frontal cortex of the brain.
Where can omega-3 fatty acids be found? Omega-3 fatty acids are found abundantly in fatty fish:
If your child is unable to obtain enough omega-3 fatty acids from food, you may consider omega-3 fatty acids as ADHD supplements.
There are two omega-3 fatty acids that are important for brain health: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA can be found listed on the labels of the omega-3 fatty acid product bottles.
Make sure you consult with your child’s doctor before incorporating omega-3 fatty acids as ADHD supplements into your child’s ADHD treatment regimen.
Zinc is a very important mineral for brain function and brain health that may improve ADHD symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, and social behaviors. It can be found in foods such as:
- dairy products
- fortified cereals
- red meat
- whole grains
You can also find zinc supplements at most pharmacies and grocery stores or on the internet.
Although it has not been researched as much as omega-3 fatty acids and iron, “zinc supplementation may be a reasonable treatment option in areas where zinc deficiencies are common, in patients with demonstrated (or at high risk) for zinc deficiency,” according to a review.
In the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Clinics of North America, another study showed that the co-administration of zinc and a stimulant led to almost a 40 percent reduction in the amount of stimulant needed for optimal function.
However, there are still questions remaining about whether zinc has any beneficial effect on ADHD symptoms in patients who do not have a deficiency in zinc.
Keep in mind that too much zinc in the body can be dangerous, so consult with your child’s doctor to incorporate it into your child’s ADHD treatment regimen.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for the normal development and function of the brain. Many people suffer from vitamin D deficiencies, and recent research has found that children diagnosed with ADHD have lower levels of vitamin D compared to children without ADHD.
A study from 2018 found that vitamin D deficiencies were significantly more common in children with ADHD compared to children without ADHD. This study also found that the group who took vitamin D as ADHD supplements showed improvements in hyperactivity, impulsivity, opposition, and inattention.
Another study found that children born from women with vitamin D deficiencies have a higher risk of developing ADHD. It is recommended to get vitamin D levels checked and supplement with vitamin D if they are low.
Make sure you consult with your child’s doctor before incorporating vitamin D as ADHD supplements into your child’s regimen.
Iron is an important mineral for making dopamine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters responsible for brain function, emotions, and stress. Iron deficiencies can pose potentially significant problems in children diagnosed with ADHD.
Studies have found that iron is essential for proper brain function and that iron supplementation can improve symptoms of ADHD. However, further research is needed.
Iron levels should be checked before starting any iron intake as ADHD supplements. The doctor will check hemoglobin and hematocrit levels which will determine how much iron is in the red blood cells. These levels are often within the normal range in children with ADHD.
It is also recommended to also check ferritin levels since they tend to be low in children with ADHD. If the ferritin level is low, supplementation with chelated iron is beneficial. Chelated iron is often preferred because constipation or stomach upset is usually not a problem with this type of iron formulation.
Taking too much iron can be dangerous, so make sure you consult with your child’s doctor before incorporating iron as ADHD supplements into your child’s ADHD treatment regimen.
5. Multivitamins and Minerals Combination
So far in this article, we have learned that obtaining optimal amounts of several essential vitamins and minerals can be important in children who have ADHD.
Research suggests that a multivitamin/multimineral combination supplement is beneficial. A study was conducted on the effectiveness of Hardy Nutritional’s Daily Essential Nutrients on ADHD. The results of this study concluded that the micronutrients in this supplement improved inattention, aggression, and emotional regulation while decreasing cognitive impairment.
However, this formulation did not improve the symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity. This formulation does have some cons: it is pricey, and children have to take 6 pills a day. There may be other multivitamins that are just as effective, but there has not been any thorough research conducted yet.
Always consult with your child’s doctor before incorporating multivitamins and minerals into your child’s ADHD treatment regimen.
Magnesium is essential for the health of the brain and can help people relax. Low magnesium levels can cause an array of unpleasant symptoms such as confusion, irritability, and inattention.
Although there have not been many studies conducted regarding the effects that magnesium has on the symptoms of ADHD, there are doctors who have found that it is beneficial in children with low magnesium levels who experience a “rebound effect” from the wearing off of their ADHD stimulant medication.
Where is magnesium found? Magnesium is richly found in:
- dairy products
- leafy greens
- whole grains
Magnesium supplements are also available in several different forms: glycinate, citrate, and chelate. It is important to note that magnesium citrate often causes loose stools.
Because magnesium can be dangerous at high doses, make sure you consult with your child’s doctor before incorporating magnesium as ADHD supplements into your child’s ADHD treatment regimen.
7. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for many processes in the body, from development to immunity. It can also be beneficial in ADHD due to its function as a modulator of dopamine, an important chemical for proper brain function, at the brain synapses.
It is important to wait and take vitamin C at least one hour before or after ADHD stimulant medication. Vitamin C is acidic, whereas ADHD stimulants are alkaline.
So, if vitamin C and stimulants are taken closely together, the stimulants cannot effectively be absorbed into the bloodstream and will not be able to work optimally.
Make sure you consult with your child’s doctor before incorporating vitamin C into your child’s ADHD treatment regimen.
Inositol is produced in the body and can be found in trace amounts in many different foods. In high doses, it can help improve agitation and anxiety.
Make sure you consult with your child’s doctor before incorporating inositol as ADHD supplements into your child’s regimen.
Sleep is often a problem reported in patients with ADHD, and in most cases, a side effect of stimulant ADHD medications. Even though melatonin is not used to improve ADHD symptoms directly, it can certainly help promote sleep.
A study that focused on the effect of melatonin on sleep, behavior, and cognition in medication-free children with ADHD discovered that melatonin improved total sleep time and improved circadian rhythms of sleep-wake.
Another study conducted in 2019 on the effects of melatonin in 74 children with ADHD who have sleep disturbances after treatment with methylphenidate found that melatonin may be an effective treatment, improving sleep in 60.8% of participants.
It is important to note that although melatonin helps to improve sleep, it can cause difficulty waking up or daytime sleepiness.
Make sure you consult with your child’s doctor before incorporating melatonin into your child’s ADHD treatment regimen.
Now that we have discussed all the different vitamins and minerals that may play a role in improving symptoms of ADHD in children let’s discuss some herbs and their potential effects on ADHD symptoms.
Herbs for ADHD
1. Bacopa and Gotu Kola
As a part of traditional Indian medicine known as Ayurvedic medicine, bacopa and gotu kola have been used to treat symptoms of ADHD. However, there has not been a lot of research conducted by western medicine.
Make sure you consult with your child’s doctor before incorporating bacopa or gotu kola into your child’s ADHD treatment regimen.
2. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba, a natural herb from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree, has been used for thousands of years to help improve cognition.
Ginkgo biloba has terpene trilactones, chemicals that have been found to help protect the brain from cell damage and to increase the level of dopamine in the brain.
Although there have been some small studies that have shown that it may help improve symptoms of ADHD in children, there are also studies that have concluded insufficient evidence to recommend it for ADHD symptom treatment.
A recent double-blind, randomized study investigated the effects of ginkgo Biloba in children with ADHD after adding it to a stimulant that the children were already taking.
This study found that the children who were treated with the ginkgo Biloba saw a 35 percent improvement in attention; however, it did not affect the symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity.
Side effects of ginkgo Biloba include:
- allergic reactions
- stomach upset
It can also increase the risk of bleeding, so make sure you consult with your child’s doctor before incorporating ginkgo Biloba into your child’s regimen.
3. Korean Red Ginseng
An observational study on the clinical effects of Korean red ginseng in children diagnosed with ADHD was conducted. Results after eight weeks concluded that Korean red ginseng might help improve inattention.
However, more research needs to be completed because it is still questionable whether or not Korean red ginseng improves other symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and behavior in children with ADHD.
Make sure you consult with your child’s doctor before incorporating Korean Red Ginseng into your child’s ADHD treatment regimen.
4. Valerian root and Lemon Balm
A study published in Phytomedicine looked at treatment with valerian root and lemon balm for 7 weeks in primary school children with hyperactivity and difficulty concentrating on determining if they help those symptoms.
After the seven weeks of treatment, the results showed that concentration difficulties decreased from 75 percent to 14 percent, hyperactivity decreased from 61 percent to 13 percent, and impulsivity decreased from 59 percent to 22 percent.
Social behavior, sleep, and symptoms were also shown to be significantly improved.
Make sure you consult your child’s doctor before incorporating valerian root or lemon balm into your child’s ADHD treatment regimen.
5. St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort is commonly used to treat ADHD, but evidence shows that it is no more effective than a placebo in improving symptoms of ADHD.
Make sure you consult your child’s doctor before incorporating St. John’s Wort into your child’s ADHD treatment regimen.
6. French Maritime Pine Bark
Compounds called proanthocyanidins are found in pine bark extract. A 2016 review regarding a small number of randomized controlled trials showed that pine bark extract might help improve symptoms of ADHD.
Make sure you consult your child’s doctor before incorporating French maritime pine bark into your child’s ADHD treatment regimen.
Frequently Asked Questions About ADHD Supplements
Now that we have discussed the many vitamins, minerals, and herbs believed to have some efficacy in improving symptoms of ADHD in children, let’s answer some of the questions that still remain about ADHD supplementation.
1. So, how exactly do all these ADHD supplements potentially improve symptoms of ADHD in like inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity?
First of all, it is important to understand how these ADHD supplements are studied. Most often, either the supplement that is being studied or a placebo is given to a child in these studies.
And after some time has passed, the researchers determine whether or not that child’s ADHD symptoms have improved. They determine this by reviewing ADHD surveys that parents or teachers filled out.
Most of the research has shown improvements in ADHD symptoms such as inattention, impulsivity, hyperactivity, or all three. However, it is not easy to predict how any single supplement will affect the child’s ADHD symptoms.
2. Will ADHD supplements improve symptoms of ADHD just as much as prescription ADHD medications.
The general answer is no. Some ADHD supplements can certainly be helpful, but they do not immediately or strongly improve ADHD symptoms compared to prescription ADHD medication.
Notably, however, ADHD supplements generally have fewer and less severe side effects than prescription ADHD medications.
ADHD supplements are generally found to be useful when taken with ADHD prescription medications. And remember, always consult with your child’s doctor before incorporating any new ADHD supplements or herbs into your child’s ADHD treatment regimen.
3. How long it will take to start seeing results after taking a supplement.
Of course, the times are different with each supplement and child. Some children see an improvement within just a few days; some children don’t see any improvements until a month later.
Therefore, it is suggested to wait a few months before deciding whether or not the ADHD supplements actually work.
4. Do ADHD supplements have side effects?
Some ADHD supplements do have side effects, but they are generally less severe and less common than the side effects seen with ADHD stimulant medications.
For example, magnesium may cause loose stools, and iron may cause constipation. If you notice that your child is experiencing side effects or the side effects get worse, be sure to speak with your child’s doctor.
And remember to talk to your child’s doctor before incorporating any new ADHD supplements into your child’s ADHD treatment regimen.
5. Are ADHD Supplements Effective?
After discussing the different vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other natural remedies and their potential effects on treating ADHD symptoms in children, many of them show promise as adjunctive treatments for ADHD symptoms.
That being said, further research still needs to be conducted. More clinical trials with more participants are needed to gain a better understanding and shed more light on the safety profiles of these supplements and how these ADHD supplements affect ADHD symptoms.
Some important points to remember:
- ADHD supplements should not replace traditional ADHD medications for the treatment of ADHD.
- Further research is needed to determine the efficacy and safety of ADHD supplements in treating ADHD.
- Always consult with your child’s doctor before adding any new ADHD supplements to your child’s ADHD treatment regimen.
But, with the right combination of ADHD supplements, you may be able to help your child manage their ADHD symptoms. However, it’s important to remember that not all children with ADHD will respond well or need supplementation. If you’re concerned about your child’s behavior and would like more information on how they can get started taking our free-only consultation for ADHD. We have put together this quiz to help make sense of what might work best for you or your loved one.