Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition commonly treated with the pharmaceutical drug named Adderall. In 2012 alone, almost 16 million prescriptions were written for this drug and roughly 115,000 were admitted to rehab due to Adderall addiction. It’s a problem, and there are natural alternatives to Adderall that may help some avoid using, use it less frequently, or stop completely.
How Does Adderall Work?
Adderall is the stage name for a compound known as dextroamphetamine. Pay extra attention to the –amphetamine part there—that’s the active ingredient of the street drug known as “speed.” Standard medical treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is to prescribe compounds such as Adderall that stimulate the central nervous system (CNS.)
There are also several non-stimulant compounds that are FDA-approved for the treatment of ADHD, but they are also prescription-only. As many as two-thirds of children diagnosed with ADHD are given pharmaceutical treatments (R). This is a growing trend and the time for investigating safer, more natural alternatives is long overdue.
Natural ADHD Alternatives
Before we dive in, let us stress how important it is to consult with a doctor regarding any changes in medication—stopping or starting. It’s also important to recognize that the FDA doesn’t currently recommend any natural compounds for the treatment of ADHD. Certain dietary supplements, such as Mind Lab Pro, contain compounds renowned for their ability to address symptoms of ADHD. Let’s take a look at some common ingredients found in these types of supplements to better evaluate their potential in ADHD therapies.
The Ginkgo biloba tree is one of the oldest known living tree species in the world. It contains several bioactive compounds renowned for their positive impact on brain health (and overall health for that matter!) Among them are terpenes, ginkgolides, and several organic acids such as ascorbic, benzoic and vanillic. In animal studies, ginkgo has shown significant ability to help regenerate brain tissue (R). Human testing has confirmed that Ginkgo is effective as a complimentary treatment taken in conjunction with traditional ADHD therapies (R).
Bacopa is one of the several natural nootropics renowned for its ability to heighten attention and improve memory and learning. Researchers have identified several natural compounds over the years that help explain this activity. Bacopa contains d-mannitol, monnierin, and triterpene saprons which are all attributed to its positive cognitive properties. In limited human trials, bacopa has shown to alleviate symptoms associated with ADHD in children with little to no reported side effects (R). Significant numbers of those observed reported as much as a 50% reduction in overall symptoms. That’s not too shabby.
L-Theanine is an amino acid attributed to helping stimulate an alpha-wave state in our brains. This state is characterized by a calm-but-alert sensation that’s preferable by many to more comparable states brought about by caffeine. L-Theanine is often recommended as a natural sleep aid and is also naturally found alongside caffeine in some compounds such as Green Tea. These mind-calming effects are associated with the ability to help manage ADHD naturally (R). There isn’t a lot of evidence focused on substantiating this claim but some initial clinical trials have been set in motion to do just that (R).
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the primary compound our brains use to help calm itself. Think of it like gravity; when you jump up in the air gravity is what brings you back down. When your brain starts firing off quick synaptic pulses, such as those attributed to making split-decisions, GABA is what helps calm it back down. Research has shown that circulating GABA levels are much lower in children diagnosed with ADHD (R). Many gut bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are known to help make several neurotransmitters and hormones—GABA included (R). Imbalances in gut bacteria may well play a pivotal role in the development and progression of ADHD. Regardless, research suggests that taking steps to increase GABA is likely to help improve symptoms.
Acetylcholine is another compound that is critical to optimal brain health. It’s responsible for doing things like triggering muscle contractions and is found in significant concentrations in several areas of the brain. It plays an essential roles in helping to regulate the central and parasympathetic nervous systems. Researchers have found that genetic mutations associated with sub-optimal choline utilization may contribute to ADHD symptoms. Those with certain cholinergic-affective genetic mutations are significantly more likely to develop ADHD (R). Of all the choline supplements out there, Alpha GPC is renowned for being able to best cross the blood-brain barrier. For brain matters—it’s the go-to choline in most cases.
ADHD is no laughing matters and the rate of diagnosis continue to surge. It’s characterized by the inability to focus, having obsessive or uncontrollable thoughts, and can be downright debilitating for those suffering with it. Conventional treatments have relied on stimulants such as Amphetamine to help reduce symptoms. These medications aren’t without risk of adverse side effects and the risk of habit-forming dependency is very real. Natural ADHD alternatives like the ones listed here may help complement or replace conventional therapies. If you are considering taking such a natural compound it’s imperative that you first discuss it with your doctor!