Essential oils have long been hailed as treatments for a range of physical and emotional conditions. One such condition is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a condition which makes it difficult for an individual to pay attention and control their impulses. It may seem like the person is always active and they can’t sit still.
ADHD usually presents symptoms in childhood but it is not only a childhood disease. Symptoms can continue through adolescence and into adulthood. Even though the condition usually improves, the individual may still be somewhat inattentive, impulsive and disorganized.
Typical Treatments for ADHD
ADHD is typically treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Medication usually brings immediate relief, but therapy is necessary to help them learn the long-term skills they need to with their condition. Stimulants like Ritalin (methylphenidate) or Adderall (an amphetamine) are usually prescribed. However, many parents of children with ADHD and adults with ADHD look for natural alternatives to medication to help relieve symptoms.
There are many reasons for this. While some people tolerate the medications well, others experience side effects like irritability, jittery feelings, psychosis, and elevated blood pressure. In addition, stimulants are not always effective. About ten percent of children don’t improve when they take stimulants and other medications like antidepressants are prescribed. Some non-stimulant medications like Strattera and Vyvanse may also be used.
It should be noted that medication doesn’t cure ADHD. It only works on the day it’s taken. Most children continue to take medication as teenagers and more than half of them continue as adults.
Can Essential Oils be Used to Treat ADHD?
Some people suggest essential oils can help to relieve symptoms and improve focus. Essential oils are compounds obtained from the roots, leaves, flowers, stems or fruits of plants. They are obtained through distillation, expression, or other methods. Essential oils have been used for centuries for a range of purposes either through inhalation or application to the skin.
There are many health claims associated with these compounds and lots of anecdotal evidence about their effectiveness. However, there aren’t many scientific studies confirming their ability to treat health problems. Some of the effects reported may be a placebo effect.
Not enough medical and scientific research has been done on essential oils and ADHD. However, many people would prefer to get off medication. If you are contemplating using essential oils to treat ADHD, check with your doctor to ensure it won’t interact with the drugs you or your child are taking. Though natural and plant-based, essential oils can have adverse effects if misused or overused.
It is believed that essential oils help to treat ADHD when used along with behavioral therapy. The oils which are usually recommended include lavender, orange, and chamomile which are known to have a relaxing effect. This calming effect may help people with ADHD to change their behavior. Essential oils likely work on the central nervous system and endocrine system.
Essential oils can be used in several ways. They may be applied to the skin after being mixed with a carrier oil, placed in a diffuser, inhaled from a handkerchief or added to bath water. They should never be taken by mouth since some are toxic if ingested.
Popular Oils for Treating ADHD
- Cedarwood – may improve oxygen flow to the brain and have a calming effect
- Lavender – known to reduce anxiety and improve sleep
- Chamomile and ylang-ylang – said to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression experienced by some people with ADHD
- Vetiver – believed to have a calming effect and help stimulate circulation
- Orange – said to calm people in stressful situations
- Sandalwood – believed to improve mental clarity in individuals with ADHD and help calm them
- Rosemary – may improve concentration and cognition
- Peppermint – may reduce restlessness
The general calming effects of these oils may help people with ADHD to reduce their anxiety and therefore focus better. Despite the lack of evidence about how and if they really work, there is no harm in trying them. However, it is important to remember to dilute them before placing them directly on the skin. You need to be especially careful with children whose skin is more delicate and sensitive. Allergic reactions are possible so you should also watch out for rashes, itching or irritation.