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!

Spring cleaning for your body: 3 herbal teas for detoxification

Spring is just about here which means it is time for spring cleaning and detoxifying our bodies! Herbs like dandelion, stinging nettle and  milk thistle are a great way to support your body’s ability to eliminate toxins.  Try them on their own with a little lemon or honey for taste, or combine them with your favourite herbal teas for some added medicinal properties!

1. Dandelion tea: dandelions appear in the spring and assist the earth by detoxifying the soil.  Why not try a cup to assist your liver and kidneys to detoxify your body?  Check out my post ‘3 things you didn’t know about dandelions‘ for more fun facts about this weed!

2. Stinging nettle: beware of stinging nettle the next time you go for a walk in the woods, topical exposure to this herb can cause a red, stinging rash! But internally, it is useful at decreasing inflammation in your intestines as well as promoting the function of your kidneys because it is a mild diuretic.

3. Milk thistle: this herb is an excellent liver tonic because it helps your liver cells regrow and replenish new cells.  It is not contraindicated with pharmaceutical drug use and can be beneficial for protecting the liver from harmful effects of these drugs.  It has virtually no flavour and can easily be added to other herbal teas.  Or you can be adventurous and add this tea to your homemade ice tea and popsicles for a sweet treat!

Take a moment out of your busy day to enjoy a wonderful cup of tea!

Spice up your holiday drinks with healthy herbs

Last week I was holiday shopping and while waiting in line one of the employees was asking the customers what their favourite holiday drinks were.  I mentioned that I liked mixing hot chocolate and a peppermint tea bag and the lady next to me got really excited and immediately punched it into her cell phone so she wouldn’t forget it.  I thought, if she is so excited about that combination she had to put it in her phone, maybe others would also be interested in my favourite holiday drinks and their herbal medicinal properties.

Here’s my top 3:

#1 Peppermint hot chocolate

Ingredients: Hot chocolate mix and peppermint tea

Instructions: Dissolve your hot chocolate mix as the directions recommend into your mug and add the peppermint tea bag.

Healthy herb info: Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is great for assisting the digestive process, especially when it comes to relieving gas.  Therefore, this drink is great following your large holiday meal!

#2 Apple chai cider

Ingredients: Apple cider and chai tea

Instructions: Heat your desired amount of apple cider by boiling it in a pot.  Either add the chai teabag to the pot or place a chai teabag in each individual mug.

Healthy herb info: Chai tea contains a variety of herbs, the most common being ginger, fennel, clove and cinnamon.  Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) like peppermint are useful in aiding your digestion.  They assist in relieving gas, bloating and nausea, also common symptoms experienced after large, fatty holiday meals.

#3 Cinnamon eggnog

Ingredients: Egg nog and ground cinnamon

Instructions: Sprinkle as much cinnamon as you like into your mug of eggnog and enjoy!

Healthy herb info: Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) also aids in digestion and has the added health benefits of lowering cholesterol and regulating blood sugar.

Please share you favourite holiday drinks! Happy holidays!

3 things you didn’t know about dandelions

Dandelions are usually considered a pesky, unwanted and dreaded weed, forever cluttering up our lawns.  It seems the more we pull them up the faster they sprout from the ground!

And even though we know we shouldn’t do it, who can resist blowing at one of those little puff balls and assisting their spread to your neighbours’ lawns?

I sure can't!

Thanks to my friend and fellow naturopathic doctor Sylvi Martin for taking this photo.

However much you might HATE dandelions, you may actually need their ASSISTANCE at some point of your life!

Here’s 3 things you didn’t know about dandelions:

1. You can drink them as a tea!

Dandelion leaves are packed full of good vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, magnesium, and zinc

Here’s everything you need to know about dandelion tea and recipes to make your own dandelion tea!

2. Dandelions can help you stay regular.

Phytochemicals found in dandelion support digestive tract function and have a mild laxative effect which keeps your bowel movements on track.  Going to the bathroom at least once a day is ideal, if you are going less than that you are considered constipated 😦

3. Dandelions are considered the earth’s ultimate detoxifier, and they can also help YOUR body to eliminate toxins.

The leaves support the function of the kidneys which filter your blood, pull out toxins and waste products and eliminates them from your body in the urine.

Dandelion leaves and roots support your liver which eliminates toxins and bodily waste products, makes bile (a substance that helps you absorb fats and nutrients from your food) and makes a healthy balance of hormones.

Next time you’re in the garden weeding out the dandelions, stop and say hello to them because you may need them in the future to help you stay healthy.

FUN FACT: If you can pronounce the latin name for dandelion: Taraxacum officinalis then you are on your way to being a herbalist! To learn more about the taraxacum officinalis species and its medicinal properties visit this great site: http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/d/dandel08.html