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ADHD Herbal Remedies: Lemon Balm

Hyperactive and inattentive children have difficulty calming down and staying focused. Pharmacological drugs designed to treat ADHD help them momentarily calm down and focus their attention to get tasks completed. But these drugs often come with serious side effects.  Fortunately, there are many herbs that can provide a calming effect without causing damaging side effects or dulling the brain's mental processes. One of these is lemon balm, a soothing herb from southern Europe and the Mediterranean with a wide variety of contemporary uses.

The English writer John Evelyn once said that lemon balm is "sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory and powerfully chasing away melancholy." Indeed, the herb is renowned among professional herbalists for its ability to sooth common psychological problems and sleep disorders.  As a tincture or essential plant oil, lemon balm is known to relieve common symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, rashes, depression, allergic reactions, respiratory congestion, insomnia, and nervousness.  The herb is also used to lower thyroid hormone levels and other symptoms related to hyperthyroidism.  Together with jojoba or almond oil, lemon balm can treat insect bites, blisters, chest pain, and shingles.  Lemon balm also boosts immune system health. Finally, it helps to lower fever, and eliminate spasms, cramps, and flatulence.

The therapeutic properties of lemon balm come from its active ingredients, which include flavonoids, phenolic acids, citronella, selenium, tannins, citral, and geraniol. The tannins and high selenium content of lemon balm, in particular, are responsible for the herb's antiviral abilities and immune system support. Although lemon balm's precise mechanisms of action have yet to be clearly identified, several clinical trials suggest that lemon balm can help hyperactive children by promoting relaxation, soothing tension, and relieving overactive behavior and anxiety.  Other studies report that lemon balm boosts mental performance, attention span, working memory, and accuracy factors, but only in combination with other calming herbs like valerian.  

Although no studies have been done on lemon balm's specific effects on children with ADHD, this herb can temporarily alleviate symptoms if used with other herbal formulas. Lemon balm is available as dried leaves, tea, capsules, essential oil, and tinctures.  As an essential oil it can be used in an aromatherapy burner or applied to hot baths. As a single herb preparation, the recommended daily dosage depends on the child's weight. The calculation for adult dosages depends on a 70 kg adult; thus, the appropriate dosage of lemon balm for a child weighing 20-25 kg is 1/3 the adult dosage. 

Using herbs to treat chronic disorders and common symptoms is a time-honored approach.  However, the active substances of lemon balm and other herbs may interact with other herbs, food supplements, or medications and cause unexpected side effects or allergic reactions. For these reasons, you should always consult your holistic health care practitioner in the field of botanical medicine and take herbs only under their advice.