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.

Advertisements

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:

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!

Naturopathic treatments for spring allergies

If you or someone you know suffers from seasonal allergies, check out my article in the April/May 2012 edition of Healthy Directions Magazine.  The article is on page 24 and outlines naturopathic treatments for seasonal allergies including essential nutrients, probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, botanical medicines, acupuncture and homeopathy.

Here’s the link: Healthy Directions April/May 2012: Natural treatments for spring allergies

If you would like a print version feel free to stop by my clinic to pick one up:

Alta Vista Chiropractic and Massage Clinic

1690 Bank Street

Ottawa, ON, K1V 7Y6

613-731-5775

Happy reading!

Berries for the heart

In keeping with February’s heart health themed posts, I thought I’d write a little about the benefits of my favourite fruits: BERRIES! Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries and strawberries are well known for their rich colours that provide anti-oxidants and phytochemicals which protect against cell damage.  They are also good sources of nutrients such as vitamin C and fibre.  Another berry which is used traditionally by herbalists is called the hawthorn berry.

Hawthorn Berries: The latin name of this herb is Crataegus oxycanthus and the berries have been used traditionally as a heart tonic.  Hawthorn berries are nourishing to the heart because they are high in anti-oxidants called procyanadins.  Procyanadins have 3 key actions:

1. They specifically target tissues of the heart and blood vessels to strengthen them and reduce plaque build-up which can lead to a heart attack.

2. They mildly dilate the blood vessels making them larger and therefore helping to reduce blood pressure.

3. They also increases circulation to the coronary arteries which are the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle itself.

Hawthorn berries are a great heart tonic and are widely available as a powdered extract or herbal tincture.  However, like all natural remedies Hawthorn is not safe in all circumstances and is highly contraindicated if you are already taking beta-blockers (atenolol, propanolol and metoprolol are common for abnormal heart rhythm), calcium channel blockers (verapamil, nifedipine and diltiazem are common for high blood pressure), digoxin, nitrates (nitroglycerin for angina), and phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors (viagra for erectile dysfunction).

Therefore it is very important to consult a medical practitioner prior to starting any new herbal therapy.

My favourite berry smoothie recipe:

1/2 cup frozen mixed berries

1/2 a banana or honey to sweeten

1 cup vanilla almond milk

1 tsp cinnamon

Blend all ingredients together for a quick, easy and delicious breakfast or snack! Other ingredients I add in for extra benefit are:

1 tsp fish oil (it just blends right in and gives you omega-3 fatty acids)

1 tsp ground flaxseed (for added omega-3 fatty acids as well as fibre)

1 scoop of protein powder (whey, soy and rice protein powders are widely available. Adding protein makes you feel full for longer and provides the building blocks to help your muscles recover after a workout)