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ADHD Herbal Remedies: Ayurvedic Herbs

The human brain is the most sophisticated organ of the human body, and Western medicine has yet to find natural and effective answers to the puzzling disorders that plague it.  Although medical practices beyond the West do not use the same standards for clinical trials, they are far older and may hold the key to a treasure chest of natural cures that can help alleviate many neurological conditions.

Ayurveda is a 6,000-year-old healing tradition from India that focuses on the way energy affects the functions and processes of the human body.  Among its therapeutic modalities is the use of herbal remedies to restore balance of dosha, the underlying energies that run throughout our body.  There are many different herbs that can calm the hyperactive and inattentive mind, but brahmi (bacopa), mandukaparni, and ashwagandha are three specific Ayurvedic herbs that have been used to treat cognitive problems and mood disorders for hundreds of years with promising results.

Brahmi/bacopa

Brahmi, or bacopa, grows in the marshy areas of India and has leaves that contain saponins and bacosides, the two ingredients that confer its therapeutic properties.  When purified bacosides and bacopa extracts were tested on animals, they were both shown to enhance several aspects of learning ability and mental function. Brain scans revealed that brahmi enhances the effects the neurotransmitters serotonin, GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), and acetylocholine. This explains why it reduces anxiety and depression.  Brahmi also has antioxidant properties that protect brain cells from damage. 

Traditional texts recommend 5 – 10 mg of the powdered herb daily, but scientific, double-blind studies on humans often use 300 to 450 mg of an extract with 55% bacosides.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha actually belongs to the pepper family, but, unlike the pepper we use in our kitchen, the roots of the ashwagandha plant are used rather than the fruit. Ashwagandha has a traditional reputation of being an adaptogen – a potent herb with multiple, non-specific actions that generally promote well-being while counteracting the effects of stress.  Compounds called withanolides have been shown to be responsible for the curative properties of the herbs.  Studies revealed that withanolides have a molecular structure similar to that of the active ingredients of Asian ginseng.  

Mandukaparni

Mandukaparni can be found in marshy areas around the world, and is used from root to leaf.  This powerful brain food is well-known for its ability to enhance mental functions, including memory (dhriti), comprehension (dhi), and recollection (smriti).  Ayurvedic practitioners believe that these three aspects coordinate to develop the mind's full potential.  Besides its mind-enhancing capabilities, mandukaparni is also known to nourish the mind-body connection, while stimulating the production of collagen, and enhancing the psychoneuroimmunological response. 

Brahmi, ashwagandha, and mandukaparni are the three primary ingredients in a commercially prepared Ayurvedic formula called Mentat, which has been specially formulated to help people with ADHD.  Several placebo-controlled, double-blind studies in India provide early evidence for the efficacy of Mentat among children with ADHD. The latest study involved 100 children with learning disabilities. Children in the Mentat group showed significant improvements in attention and concentration after 6 months of daily administration.

Although Ayurvedic herbs are safe, non-toxic, and non-addictive, it is always best to consult your holistic health care provider or a specialist in Ayurvedic medicine before giving herbal remedies to your child.