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ADHD Herbal Remedies: Gingko

Given the number of potentially serious side effects associated with the long-term use of Ritalin and other stimulant medication for ADHD, it is not surprising that concerned parents are looking for safer, natural treatments for the disorder.  In general, herbal remedies used for ADHD contain compounds that provide a calming effect, enhance mental clarity, boost brain function, and improve overall well-being.

One promising herb that can be used to manage ADHD is gingko.  Gingko is an extract from the world’s oldest living tree, the gingko balboa. Gingko has been a mainstay in traditional Chinese medicine for over 5,000 years, and is now widely used around the world to treat blood circulatory disorders, memory loss, and degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.   Gingko has many benefits because it contains flavonglycosides bioflavonoids, molecules that have antioxidant properties, as well as the ability to restore nitric-oxide balance, and boost anti-platelet activity.  While there is quite a bit of clinical evidence to support the use of gingko in boosting brain function and improving memory, there are few studies that directly examine gingko’s effects on individuals with ADHD.

One study on the effects of gingko in individuals with ADHD showed promising results:

  • One of the most overlooked symptoms of ADHD is irritability and, often, stimulant medications produce side effects like insomnia, which aggravate this symptom.  Gingko had a calming effect on the participants who experienced irritability.
  • Gingko seemed to have positive effects on oppositional behaviors associated with ADHD.
  • The benefits of gingko are not limited to just combined ADHD types. Gingko can also be used to treat ADHD Inattentive type, because it boosts working memory and improves attention span.  This exciting discovery shows gingko’s versatility across the ADHD spectrum.
  • It is thought that gingko can sometimes induce drowsiness or heavy sedation, but the study found these occurrences to be extremely mild.  In fact, the sedative effect of gingko helped improve the participants’ tolerance for frustration and irritability, to the degree that these behaviors could be measured.

One small study published in May 2009 by researchers from the Regional Hospital of Bolzano in Italy showed that gingko helped reduce hyperactivity and improve inattention in 6 children.

Perhaps the biggest downside to this study is that it was very small – it only measured the behavior of 6 participants.  However, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that corroborates the conclusions of the study. Combined with American ginseng, gingko helps reduce some of the core symptoms of ADHD like inattention, restlessness, and hyperactivity, as I have shown in my article on AD-FX.

Before giving gingko to manage your child’s ADHD, consult a holistic health care practitioner to determine the appropriate dosage. Although gingko is not toxic, it might produce some side effects such as nausea, stomach upset, or headaches in some people.  In rare cases, there have been reports of children being allergic to gingko.