3 herbs to help with ADHD

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak to a group of parents at an awesome activity facility here in Ottawa called NUTS about 3 herbs to help with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The kids got to participate in the fun obstacle racing and trivia activities at NUTS while I sat down with the parents to discuss the topics of herbal medicine. This was my second talk on ADHD at NUTS. If you’d like more info on nutrition for ADHD see my blog post: Back to School with ADHD: Natural tips to help with the transition.

Here is a summary of the 3 herbs we discussed to help with ADHD:

  1. Chamomile: This herb is easily found as a tea and is very calming to the nervous system. The calming effects can help with anxiety and insomnia. Chamomile also supports digestion and calms a nervous stomach. The digestive tract is commonly known as the ‘Second Brain’ since it contains a large amount of nerves and is connected directly to the brain by the vagus nerve. This communication between the brain and the gut goes both ways. So the way you think can affect your digestion and what is going on in your digestive tract can influence your mood and mental state. Chamomile is also a great herb to brew and add to your child’s bathwater because it is anti-inflammatory and soothing for nervous skin irritations like eczema.
  2. Lavender: This herb is also calming for the nervous system and can help with anxiety and insomnia. The essential oil is often used to promote the relaxation response and shift the nervous system from a state of ‘fight or flight’ to a state of calmness. You can add the essential oil, lavender flowers or brewed lavender tea to your child’s bathwater for a calming effect. The essential oil can be added to a diffuser or humidifier in your child’s bedroom to promote sleep. Putting lavender essential oil onto a tissue and helping your child practice alternate nostril breathing is a great method for self-relaxation. Finally, new research is showing lavender can be just as effective at calming anxiety as low dose pharmaceutical medication. Check out this research summary for more info.
  3. Licorice:  This herb in tea form is quite sweet so kids tend to like it! Licorice has adaptogenic properties which means it helps your body regulate cortisol (the stress hormone) and adapt to stressful situations. Adrenaline is the common name for the hormone cortisol, and I’m sure we have all experienced the feeling of running on adrenaline! The body pumps out adrenaline to keep us alert during stressful periods, however if it is constantly in a state of high adrenaline this can lead to burnout. Ideally we want to balance periods of high adrenaline with periods of relaxation, and licorice root helps support your body’s ability to adapt to stressful situations. Finally, as an added benefit, licorice helps heal the mucous membranes lining the digestive tract and can help heal food sensitivity reaction associated with ADHD.

For more information on herbal medicine and how to administer herbal remedies to your child, check out my post from yesterday: Herbal Medicine for your child: Tips and tricks for administering herbs.

Herbal Medicine for your child: Tips and tricks for administering herbs

Herbal medicine for children can be very helpful for a variety of conditions. Commone reasons parents turn towards herbal options include the treatment of cold/flu symptoms, digestive complaints, as well as supporting mood and sleep difficulties.

While using herbal options can provide a natural alternative, it is important to remember that just because a product is natural, does not mean it is safe.  Always consult your primary health care provider and read the warning labels prior to starting a new product. For herbs, it is especially important to be aware of potential allergies if you or your child have seasonal allergies. Click HERE to read my post on supplement safety.

Herbal remedies come in different forms such as teas, tinctures and capsules.


Teas tend to be made up of raw parts of a plant including the roots, leaves and flowers. When teas are steeped in boiling water, the heat releases the phytochemicals from the plant and provides a low-dose herbal effect.

Tips for giving your child a tea:

  1. Make an iced tea: Brew a batch of tea, let it cool, add a little juice for flavour or fresh fruit and store it in the fridge.
  2. Make a tea popsicle: Brew a batch of tea, blend it with fruit and freeze it using popsicle molds.
  3. Make a tea smoothie: Brew a batch of tea, let it cool and use it as a smoothie base instead of plain water or milk.
  4. Add tea to the bathwater: Brew a batch of tea, let it cool and add it to your child’s bath water so it can be absorbed through the skin!

Herbal tinctures:

A herbal tincture is more concentrated than a tea. Raw parts of a plant including the root, leaves and flowers are soaked in alcohol to further pull out the medicinal ingredients of the plants.

Herbal tinctures are stronger than teas, and often come in dropper bottles so they are great for adjusting dosages to meet your child’s individual needs and weight. This is also great for the sensitive child because you can start at a super low dose and work your way up to a higher therapeutic dose as needed.

Tips for giving your child an herbal tincture:

  1. Take a juice shot: Mix the herbal tincture into a shot glass with some juice (grape, blueberry and cranberry work great to mask the flavour) and have your child ‘shoot it’ followed by a glass of water. This method allows your child to only take 1 sip of the ‘yucky flavour’ versus diluting it in water and taking multiple sips of the ‘yucky flavour’.
  2. Blend it in a smoothie: Add the herbal tincture to a smoothie. Your child may not even notice it is there…but if they do it can ruin the flavour of the entire smoothie! try different combinations of flavours until you find one that works.
  3. Add it to a fruity tea: Add the herbal tincture to a cup of hot fruity tea. The hot water will evaporate the alcohol and hopefully the fruity tea flavour will mask the flavour of the tincture. Then follow the tips for administering teas above.

Herbal capsules/tablets:

Herbal capsules/tablets tend to be the most concentrated form of herbal medicine. This method is great for older children who are able to easily swallow pills and it bypasses any flavour issues.

Tips for giving your child a capsule/tablet:

  1. Mix capsule contents into food: Some capsules can be opened and the contents mixed with food like mashed banana, mashed potato, apple sauce, yogurt or blended in a smoothie to mask the flavour. If your child needs more flexible dosing or cannot swallow pills easily, consider a tincture or tea over a capsule.
  2. Crush the tablet: Some tablets can be crushed with a pill cutter (available at the pharmacy). Just double check that the herbal tablet is not formulated as a timed-release formula as these cannot be cut because it will alter the dose delivered.

Please share your tips and tricks for herbal medicine!

Trick or treat! 3 healthy alternatives to handing out candy for Halloween

With all the hype about childhood obesity in the news, parents often ask, “What can I give out instead of candy for Halloween?”.  Here are 3 healthy alternatives to candy for your little trick-or-treater:

1. Stickers! Kids love stickers, and there is no shortage of pumpkins, ghosts and zombie stickers to handout.  Stickers don’t cost a lot and you can put together a awesome sticker bag complete with eerie glow in the dark stickers for your trick-or-treaters.

2. Halloween themed school supplies such as pencils, erasers, clips and notepads are fun and useful for kids.

3. Jewelry: Eyeball necklaces, spider rings, pumpkin scrunchies, and glow in the dark bracelets are a great alternative to candy and can be reused next Halloween.

Happy Halloween!

3 tips for preventing ear infections

I am pleased to announce that I am now the official natural medicine expert for the Ottawa Mommy Club! This blog post is the first of a series of articles on children’s health which will be published on the Ottawa Mommy Club website.  Enjoy!

 Children are at an increased risk for developing an ear infection compared to adults because of the structure of their Eustachian tubes.  The Eustachian tube connects the nose to the throat and allows fluid to drain from the middle ear.

 In children, the Eustachian tube is situated horizontally, resulting in a decreased ability to drain.  As your child grows, their face structure changes so the Eustachian tube becomes more vertical, allowing for improved fluid drainage from the middle ear.

The naturopathic perspective to preventing ear infections is to ensure the environment in the middle ear does not promote the growth of bacteria.  Since there is less drainage from the Eustacian tube, fluid and mucus can build up creating a warm, dark and moist environment in which bacteria thrive.  This kind of middle ear environment makes your child more likely to develop an infection.

The following 3 tips create an optimal middle ear environment and prevent ear infections from occurring in your child.

Tip #1 – Optimize fluid drainage from the middle ear

Ensure your child’s head is elevated above a 30 degree angle while bottle feeding.  In an older child, you can position their head above 30 degrees with a pillow while they sleep.  The elevation allows gravity to assist in draining fluid from the Eustachian tube.

Tip #2 – Avoid allergens which cause an allergic response leading to inflammation and increased mucus and fluid production in the middle ear

Cigarette smoke, pets, dust, laundry detergent, carpets, new paint, scented body lotions and bath products, artificial flavours and food colouring, as well as certain foods are common allergens.  Reducing your child’s exposure to these allergens can help decrease inflammation and thus increased fluid in the middle ear.

Tip #3 – Strengthen your child’s immune system so they are able to prevent and successfully fight an ear infection

Eat foods containing nutrients that support your child’s immune system.  Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins A and C which support immune system function.  Vitamin D is also a necessary vitamin and many foods are now fortified with it. Zinc is a mineral which helps the immune system and can be found in chicken, turkey, nuts and seeds.  Omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation in the middle ear and are found in fish, flaxseed and nuts.

Avoid foods that depress your child’s immune system.  Foods high in sugar, artificial colours and flavours impair immune system function.  Foods high in these ingredients include: pop, certain juices, candy, chocolate bars, packaged foods like cookies and baked goods.

If your child is exclusively breastfeeding, adding or removing the above foods from the mother’s diet can help.

Have a question or interested in learning more? Feel free to e-mail Dr. Simone at info@drellensimone.com or book a FREE ‘Meet the Doctor’ appointment with her at the Alta Vista Chiropractic and Massage Clinic, 1690 Bank Street, 613-731-5775.

It’s back to school time: 5 tips for packing a healthy lunch

It’s back to school time, and whether you are a pro at packing school lunches or you are new and looking for ideas, the following 5 guidelines will ensure you pack a fun and healthy lunch everyday!

1. Choose a rainbow of colour for fruits and vegetable snacks to ensure your child receives a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables are also excellent sources of fibre.

2. Pack a protein source such as chicken, fish, tofu, beans and nuts.  Eating protein with a meal will provide energy to build strong muscles and bones for your growing child.

3. Water is needed for your child’s body to function optimally and can help improve concentration in the classroom. Ensure your child is well hydrated, especially when they are active outside in the sun.

4. Invite your child to be involved in the process of packing a lunch by asking them what their favourite fruits and vegetables are.  Choice increases the likelihood that fruits and vegetables will be eaten.

5. Make lunch fun! Write a note, allow your child to decorate their lunch bag, pack some stickers, etc.

Feel free to share your healthy lunch ideas in the comments section below!