How to Naturally Treat ADHD

Seven Methods:Getting a DiagnosisGetting OrganizedMaking Dietary ChangesFinding SupportMaking Lifestyle ChangesTrying Natural SupplementsWhen Should You Try This?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder that impacts a person’s ability to focus and concentrate. Some individuals suffer from hyperactivity and other symptoms. Once you receive a diagnosis, you may seek medical treatment. However, you may be able to reduce your symptoms with natural remedies.

See When Should You Try This? to learn more about when natural remedies for ADHD may be worth consideration.

Method 1
Getting a Diagnosis

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    Determine if you have inattentive symptoms of ADHD. In order to qualify for a diagnosis, you must exhibit at least five symptoms (for an adult) or six symptoms (for a child 16 and under) in more than one setting, for at least six months. Symptoms must be inappropriate for the person’s developmental level and be seen as interrupting normal functioning on the job or in social or school settings. Symptoms for ADHD (inattentive presentation) include: [1]
    • Makes careless mistakes, is inattentive to detail
    • Has trouble paying attention (tasks, playing)
    • Doesn’t seem to be paying attention when someone is talking to him
    • Doesn’t follow through (homework, chores, jobs); easily sidetracked
    • Is organizationally challenged
    • Avoids tasks requiring sustained focus (like schoolwork)
    • Can’t keep track of or often loses keys, glasses, papers, tools, etc.
    • Is easily distracted
    • Is forgetful
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    Determine if you have hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms of ADHD. Some symptoms must be at the level of “disruptive” for them to count in a diagnosis. Track if you have at least five symptoms (for an adult) or six symptoms (for a child 16 and under) in more than one setting, for at least six months: [2]
    • Fidgety, squirmy; taps hands or feet
    • Feels restless
    • Struggles to play quietly/do quiet activities
    • “On the go” as if “driven by a motor”
    • Excessive talking
    • Blurts out even before questions are asked
    • Struggles to wait for his turn
    • Interrupts others, inserts self into others’ discussions/games
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    Assess if you have Combined ADHD. Some people with ADHD present symptoms from both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive criteria. If you have five symptoms (for adults) or six symptoms (for children 16 and under) from either category, you may have Combined presentation of ADHD. [3]
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    Get diagnosed by a mental health professional. As you determine your level of ADHD, seek the guidance of a mental health professional to make an official diagnosis.
    • This person will also be able to determine whether your symptoms can be better explained by or attributable to another psychiatric disorder.
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    Ask your mental health professional about other disorders. As if having an ADHD diagnosis isn’t challenging enough, one out of every five with ADHD is diagnosed with another serious disorder (depression and bipolar disorder are common partners). One-third of children with ADHD also have a behavioral disorder (conduct disorder, oppositional defiance disorder). [4] ADHD tends to pair up with learning disabilities and anxiety, too.[5]

Method 2
Getting Organized

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    Use a daily planner. Organization and consistent routines will help you stay on top of your daily activities and projects. Buy a planner that has plenty of space to write daily notes.[6]
    • Before you go to bed, look at your calendar for the next day. Then you will know what to anticipate and what you need to get done.
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    Break up large projects into smaller ones. Thinking about the overall picture can be overwhelming. Break down a large project into small manageable pieces that can be accomplished readily.[7]
    • Make a to-do list for each project. Then write down the steps that will accomplish the full project. Cross them off as you finish each one.
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    Get rid of clutter. Clutter can contribute to feeling overwhelmed and distracted. Reduce the amount of material sitting around on counters and shelves. [8]
    • Throw out junk mail right away, and get yourself removed from mailing lists for catalogs and credit card offers.[9]
    • Get online bank statements instead of paper copies.
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    Have designated places for important items. You may find yourself getting overwhelmed if you constantly have to look for your keys and wallet. Choose a spot where you will always put your keys, such as on a key hook by the door.

Method 3
Making Dietary Changes

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    Eat complex carbohydrates to boost serotonin levels. Persons with ADHD tend to have lower serotonin and dopamine levels. Many people experiment with changes in their diet in order to counter-effect these deficiencies to some extent. Experts recommend a complex-carb diet to boost serotonin for improved mood, sleep, and appetite. [10]
    • Skip simple carbs (sugars, honey, jelly, candy, soda, etc.) [11]) that cause a temporary serotonin spike. [12] Instead, choose complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, green vegetables, starchy vegetables, and beans. [13] These all act as an energy “time-release.” [14]
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    Improve your focus by eating more protein. Eat a protein-rich diet that includes several proteins over the course of the day to keep dopamine levels high.[15] This will help you improve your focus.
    • Proteins include meat, fish, and nuts, as well as several foods that double as complex carbs: legumes and beans. [16]
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    Choose omega-3 fats. ADHD experts recommend avoiding “bad fats” such as those found in trans-fats and fried foods, burgers and pizzas. Instead, choose omega-3 fats from salmon, walnuts, avocados and more. These help promote a healthy brain, and some studies suggest that they may be helpful in reducing negative symptoms of ADHD.[17] These foods may help lower hyperactivity while improving organizational skills.
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    Experiment with eliminating certain foods. Some studies have suggested that eliminating wheat and dairy, as well as processed foods, sugars, additives and dyes (especially red food coloring), can have a positive impact on behavior in children with ADHD. [18] While not everyone will be willing or able to go to that length, some experimentation may produce improvements that make a difference. [19]
    • Although it is a common belief that sugar and food dyes are linked to negative effects in people with ADHD, numerous rigorous studies have not demonstrated a link between these substances and problems with ADHD.[20] However, sugar is a source of empty calories and food dyes are often present in heavily processed foods, so reducing or eliminating these substances will likely improve your overall health.
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    Talk to your doctor about dietary changes. Be certain to run any major changes in diet by your doctor. This includes changes related to vitamins and supplements. Ask your doctor about any conflicts that could negatively impact your ADHD medication.[21]
    • Your doctor can also suggest recommended dosages of various supplements and warn of possible side effects.[22] For instance, melatonin may improve sleep in persons with ADHD, but it might also induce vivid dreaming which may be unpleasant.

Method 4
Finding Support

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    See a mental health therapist. Adults with ADHD generally benefit from psychotherapy.[23] This treatment helps individuals accept who they are, while at the same time helps them seek improvements to their situation.
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy directly geared toward treating ADHD has been useful for many patients. This type of therapy addresses some of the core problems caused by ADHD, such as time management and organizational issues.[24]
    • You may also suggest to family members to visit a therapist. Therapy can also provide a safe place for family members to vent their frustrations in a healthy way and work out issues with professional guidance.
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    Join a support group. Numerous organizations provide individual support as well as networking amongst members who can get together online or in person to share problems and solutions. Search online for a support group in your area.
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    Find online resources. There are numerous online resources that provide information, advocacy and support for individuals with ADHD and their families. Some resources include:
    • Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) distributes information via its website, through webinars, and via newsletters. It also provides electronic support, one-on-one live support, and conferences for adults with ADHD.
    • Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) was founded in 1987 and now has over 12,000 members. It provides information, training, and advocacy for persons with ADHD and those who care about them.
    • ADDitude Magazine is a free online resource that provides information, strategies, and support for adults with ADHD, children with ADHD, and parents of persons with ADHD.
    • ADHD & You provides resources for adults with ADHD, parents of children with ADHD, teachers and healthcare providers who serve persons with ADHD. It includes a section of online videos for teachers and guidelines for school staff to work more successfully with students who have ADHD.
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    Assemble a support network. Persons with ADHD need to understand how to recognize and reduce stress and frustration before they get out of control and lead to anxiety, depression, or even substance abuse. Have a list of people who you can call to help you through difficult situations.

Method 5
Making Lifestyle Changes

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    Spend more time in nature. According to experts, there is a link between spending time outside in nature and reducing the effects of ADHD.[25] When a person is trying to focus on something or a long time, this person starts depleting his neurotransmitters in his brain’s prefrontal cortex. Getting a break from paying attention can help replenish these neurotransmitters, and spending time outside where a person is forced to stop paying attention to tasks seems to help the most.
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    Get plenty of sleep. Poor sleep habits can heighten ADHD symptoms, whereas a good night’s sleep has the potential to do the opposite.[26] Make an effort to have a regular sleep pattern. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time in the morning. Aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep for adults or 10 to 11 hours of sleep for children every night.
    • Turn off screens (laptops, tablets, phones, etc.) at least 15 to 20 minutes before bed. These screens stimulate your brain’s cognitive functions and help keep you awake.
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    Start the morning with exercise. Low serotonin levels are responsible for intensifying some of the symptoms of ADHD. When you exercise, you may be able to boost your serotonin levels.[27][28]
    • Try a morning jog, ride your bike to work or school, or walk your dog around the block.
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    Limit screen time. ADHD brain chemicals are produced by activity and by internal stimulation. If you spend a lot of time in front of a screen, then you are not doing the activities that you should in order to continue producing necessary brain chemicals.[29]
    • Limit your screen time to one hour per day, which includes television, video games, smart phones, internet, tablets, etc. Instead, make sure this time will be spent reading, doing homework, playing outside, talking with other friends or family, and so on.

Method 6
Trying Natural Supplements

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    Consult with your doctor first. You should speak with your doctor before trying any herbal supplements for ADHD, as even herbal and natural treatments can interfere with other medical conditions or prescription medications. If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, consider some of the following remedies.
    • You should always consult with your pediatrician before giving any herbal remedies to children. Many are not safe for children's use, or should be used only under close supervision by your doctor.
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    Drink herbal teas. There are several herbs that can help calm and relax you. Some have been proven effective at reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. You can find the following herbs widely in tea form.[30]
    • Roman chamomile. This herb is well known for its relaxing effects. It can be taken as a tea. However, it may cause an allergic reaction if you are allergic to ragweed. People with certain hormone-related conditions, such as some cancers, should always consult a doctor before using chamomile.[31]
    • Valerian. This herb can help reduce anxiety and restlessness. You can prepare it as a tea or take it as a supplement or tincture. Valerian may interact with sedatives or other medications.[32]
    • Lemon balm. Lemon balm is another calming herb. It can help reduce feelings of anxiety. You can take it as a tea or as a capsule. It may interact with sedative or HIV medications.[33]
    • Passionflower. Passionflower is often helpful to calm feelings of anxiety. You can take it as a tea, extract, or tincture. You should not use passionflower if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It may also interact with some medications, including MAOIs and anticoagulants.[34]
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    Increase your intake of zinc. Seafoods, poultry, fortified cereals and other foods with a high zinc content or taking zinc supplements are linked to lower levels of hyperactivity and impulsivity in some studies.[35]
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    Take ginseng and gingko to improve attentiveness. Some studies suggest that ginseng and gingko may help people with ADHD by improving their ability to pay attention and focus.[36] These herbs activate cognitive functions in the brain.
    • Do not give Asian or American ginseng to children without consulting your pediatrician first. You should not use ginseng in children without your doctor's supervision.[37][38]
    • Do not give ginkgo to children without consulting your pediatrician first, as it is usually not recommend for use in children. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take ginkgo. People with diabetes should consult with their doctor first.[39]
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    Try pycnogenol to reduce hyperactivity. Pycnogenol is an extract from French maritime pine bark. Taken as capsules, this extract may help improve focus, reduce hyperactivity, and stimulate visual-motor coordination.[40]
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    Try a green oats herbal remedy. Also known as wild oat extract, green oats are thought to produce improved outcomes in staying on task, reducing anxiety and calming nerves.[41][42] This remedy can be purchased as capsules in a natural foods store.
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    Skip St. John’s wort. St. John’s wort is a natural supplement that is often used to naturally treat disorders such as anxiety and depression. There is limited scientific evidence that this supplement may slightly improve the symptoms of ADHD.[43] But many other studies have not reported measurable impact of this supplement to be helpful.[44][45]
    • St. John's wort may actually worsen symptoms of ADD/ADHD in some people. It can also make major depression or bipolar disorder worse.[46]

Method 7
When Should You Try This?

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    Try natural remedies after consulting with your doctor. Even if you or your child exhibit symptoms of ADHD, you should get an official diagnosis from your doctor before attempting self-treatment. Effective ADHD treatment usually involves a combination of behavioral therapy and medication; ideally, natural remedies should supplement this treatment instead of replacing it.
    • Your doctor will verify the diagnosis and help you determine which natural treatments are right for you and your specific health needs.
    • Checking with your doctor is especially important when treating ADHD in children and teenagers since many supplements may not be safe for adolescents.
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    Opt for lifestyle and diet changes over herbal remedies. While many herbal remedies and other natural supplements are safe for most adults (and for many adolescents, in some cases), the safest natural treatment course will rely on lifestyle changes and mild to moderate dietary improvements since herbal supplements come with a greater risk of negative side effects or interactions.
    • Try making lifestyle and diet changes before considering supplements. If you do not notice any improvement after several weeks, consider herbal remedies.
    • Work on getting organized, improving your sleep habits, and limiting screen time. Increasing the amount of exercise you get and improving your diet should also help, but you may wish to consult your doctor before making any dramatic changes.
    • Social support also has tremendous value. While a mental health therapist can offer professional help, formal support groups and personal support networks can also improve your symptoms.
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    Research possible drug interactions before taking supplements. If you’re currently on any medications or may begin medicated treatment in the near future, talk to your doctor or do some thorough research to determine if a particular herbal remedy or supplement may have a negative interaction with that medication. If you are not on medication or if a certain herbal remedy should not interact with your medication, that remedy could be worth considering.
    • Some medications that may negatively interact with herbal supplements include stimulants, blood thinning drugs, anti-seizure drugs, insomnia medications, antidepressants, blood pressure medications, diabetes medications, statins, birth control pills, antifungal drugs, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, antihistamines, anesthesia, medications broken down by the liver, thyroid medications, HIV medications, aspirin, calcium channel blockers, immuno-suppressants, and diuretics.[47][48][49]
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    Use caution if you have other health concerns. If you are otherwise healthy beyond your ADHD, most natural supplements are probably safe. On the other hand, if you have another medical condition or other health concern, like pregnancy, you should make sure that a specific supplement won’t worsen your condition before taking it.
    • If you are currently pregnant, may become pregnant, or are currently breastfeeding, talk to your doctor before taking any herbal or natural supplement.
    • Roman chamomile is generally safe, but it may worsen asthma. You may also have an allergic reaction to chamomile if you're allergic to asters, daisies, mums, or ragweed.[50]
    • If you have high blood pressure, bipolar disorder, autoimmune disease, or a history of breast cancer, avoid ginseng.[51][52]
    • Avoid gingko if you have epilepsy or diabetes.[53]
    • Pycnogenol could be unsafe if you have an auto-immune disorder, bleeding condition, or diabetes.[54]
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    Take herbal remedies in moderation. Even when an herbal remedy is safe to use, you should follow the recommended dosing instructions carefully to reduce the risk of experiencing digestive upset, drowsiness, or other possible side effects. Furthermore, some natural supplements should only be taken for a limited period unless your doctor recommends otherwise.
    • Drinking highly concentrated chamomile tea could cause vomiting.[55]
    • Only take valerian for one month[56] or passionflower for two months[57]. Pycnogenol is usually considered safe for up to one year when doses between 50 and 450 mg are taken daily by mouth.[58]

Sources and Citations

  1. Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Symptoms and Diagnosis found at
  2. Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Symptoms and Diagnosis found at
  3. Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Symptoms and Diagnosis found at
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Categories: Attention and Developmental Disorders