6 Healing Herbs for Combatting ADHD and Enhancing Productivity

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With all the constant distractions in our daily lives, it’s not surprising that many of us struggle with focused productivity. Stress, mood swings, and the never-ending demand for multitasking at work have all been shown to contribute to our general lack of meaningful concentration.

Reaching for a prescription is often the average American’s initial reaction when diagnosed with concentration issues like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Perhaps the most alarming part is that the average age for receiving an ADHD diagnosis is 7 years old. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11% of Americans ages 4 to 17 have an attention disorder — that’s 6.4 million children in America alone. Taking harsh pharmaceuticals, especially at such a developmental age, can set you up for a lifetime of wrestling with attention, focus, and memory. The listed “mild” side effects of common ADHD prescriptions, such as Ritalin and Adderall, include insomnia, vision problems, nausea, headaches, and numbness.

If you are one of the many people who suffer from ADHD or a general lack of focus, there may be a simple solution sitting in your cabinet. Trading in harsh pharmaceuticals for herbs can be healthier for your body and mind, plus, it releases you from the grip “Big Pharma” has on so many Americans.

Why are you still taking Ibuprofen?

Why are you still taking Ibuprofen?

Below are six of the most effective herbs that can be used to treat mental fatigue, lack of focus, memory loss, intellectual fogginess, and of course, ADHD.

Everyone’s body reacts differently to herbs, and as you’ll read, many of these herbs work best in conjunction with each other — I recommend starting a herbal journal to document your experiments and find what works best for your specific situation.

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Rhodiola rosea

(“Golden Root” “Rose Root” or “Arctic Root”)

A perennial flowering plant with bright yellow blooms, rhodiola rosea has long been used to increase overall productivity and endurance. Golden root is an adaptogenic herb when means its effects are gentle on the body, helping to reduce stress and anxiety while also promoting intellectual clarity. This resourceful flower is also used to treat fatigue, depression, and nervous system imbalances (e.g. back pain, convulsions, and weakness).

In one study, 27 students, physicians, and scientists were given Rhodiola extract once or twice daily for two to three weeks. In all cases, researchers found that the plant extract prevented mental fatigue and improved the amount and quality of work completed. Another study proved a one-time dose of Rhodiola significantly decreased the percentage of errors made during proofreading exercises — particularly over long stretches of 8 hours or more. This potent root is widely used in Russia to make workers more productive and increase overall attention span.

Rhodiola rosea can be consumed in tincture (extract) form or capsule form. Herbal expert, Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., recommends beginning with 100 mg a day for one week, then increase the dosage by 100 mg every week, up to 400 mg a day if needed.

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Ginkgo Biloba

While Ginkgo biloba has an incredible ability to improve memory and cognitive function, it is actually most widely known as an effective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Gingko is believed to be one of the oldest trees on earth with fossils found dating back 270 million years.

Ginkgo leaf extract is known to improve oxygen utilization and blood circulation to the brain, which is why it’s believed to boost alertness and memory. Studies have shown that ginkgo provides short-term concentration, improving performance on sustained attention and memory tasks.

Gingko is one of the few known neuroprotective CAM treatments for dementia, memory impairment, concentration, and cerebral-vascular insufficiency. It is often used as a natural remedy for ADHD; a 2014 study showed children who took 240 mg of Ginkgo biloba extract daily for three to five weeks showed a reduction in ADHD symptoms with little to no negative side effects.

Fun fact: Ginkgo has also been shown to reverse antidepressant-caused sexual dysfunction in men and women. One study showed that over 80% of participants who used ginkgo regained natural sexual ability.

Recommended dosage of Ginkgo biloba is 120-240 mg, one to four hours before intense intellectual activity. It can be taken in capsule or extract form alongside a meal.

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Lemon Balm

(Melissa officinalis)

A safe and natural remedy for ADHD, lemon balm is known to improve attention span, memory, and mental performance, particularly in children. This lemon-scented member of the mint family is an anxiolytic, which means it works to relieve anxiety by inhibiting an enzyme called GABA transaminase.

Lemon balm activates the nicotinic and muscarinic receptors in the brain that are integral to memory capacity and formation, logical analysis, and mental clarity. A 2003 study showed individuals given lemon balm improved in their concentration, memory, and alertness.

On top of aiding in focusing and productivity, lemon balm is also used to treat cold and flu symptoms, indigestion, and insomnia.

Lemon balm can be consumed in teas, capsules, ointments, or tinctures. The recommended dose for adults is 300-500 mg of dried leaf in capsule form, 1.5 – 4.5 grams of dried herb in tea form, or 60 drops of lemon balm extract.

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White Tea

(Camellia sinensis)

The ritual of tea drinking is said to have positive effects on concentration and focus, however, the chemical makeup of white tea, in particular, makes it one of the go-to herbal supplements for mental precision. A 2009 study showed that white tea’s abundant source of the amino acid L-theanine is responsible for the increase in cognition, alertness, memory, and attentiveness. When this L-theanine is combined with the light caffeine found in white tea, it provides even more concentration and alertness. This unique amino acid has the incredible ability to sharpen concentration while also helping the body relax — a very useful characteristic for those who are vulnerable to bouts of anxiety.

White tea is typically the least processed of all the teas, so it remains a very potent antioxidant. In fact, in 2000, Oregon State University found that white tea has significant cancer-fighting potential. These powerful, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities also have a positive effect on diabetes, heart disease, obesity, infertility, Crohn’s, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and osteoporosis.

The recommended dose for white tea is a strongly steeped cup consumed once or twice a day.

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Yerba Mate

(Ilex Paraguariensis)

Recently breaking into the mainstream market, yerba mate is a powerful herbal tea that stimulates the mind and body. Yerba mate contains three naturally-occurring stimulants (theobromine, theophylline, and caffeine) all of which are under the stimulant family Xanthines.

Daily consumption of Yerba mate improves concentration, memory, and creative flow. When Yerba mate is consumed, it stimulates the production of dopamine which makes you more motivated and productive.

Theobromine, which is also found in dark chocolate and provides similar euphoric effects, stimulates the mind while also reducing stress and depression. The reduction of stress leads to even more cognitive benefits, making your mind sharper and more focused. Yerba mate’s subtle touch of caffeine improves mental clarity and attentiveness without the tension or jitters, and is slowly replacing coffee in some American’s daily routine.

Not only is yerba mate great brain food, it also contains almost all the macronutrients and micronutrients necessary for survival — meaning theoretically, one could live off of yerba mate alone!

Yerba mate is traditionally consumed as a tea, however, more and more people are experimenting with the extract in tincture form. Yerba mate can be brewed just like coffee or you can find it pre-brewed at a gas station or grocery store.

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Bacopa

(Bacopa monnieri)

A staple in Ayurvedic medicine, this unique herb has been used for thousands of years as a brain tonic to enhance memory, concentration, and information retention. Used by seniors and children alike, bacopa works by balancing our brain’s complex network of neurotransmitters and hormones.

Research shows that using bacopa for three months naturally improves memory functions and retention of knowledge. A study conducted in 2008 showed that senior participants who consumed 300 mg of bacopa daily showed significant improvement in mental functions compared to a placebo group. The tests found that the ability to learn via verbal/auditory information showed the most improvement.

Bacopa boosts energy, focus, and mood by activating the neurotransmitters serotonin and acetylcholine. Bacopa is often used as a natural remedy for ADHD in children and adults because the bacosides within the plant sharpen cognitive function by improving transmission of nerve impulses — its side effects are much less damaging than many of the current pharmaceuticals treatments on the market.

Bacopa can be consumed in tea, syrup, capsule, or powder form. The recommended daily dosage is 200-400 mg daily.

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Cannabis

(Cannabis sativa)

Last but certainly not least, the most controversial medicinal herb of them all — cannabis. From the use of an Indica-dominant edible as a sleep aid to vaporizing up a Sativa-dominant strain as a focusing tool, cannabis can be utilized to benefit your given situation. Since we’re talking about focus today, strains that lean toward the Sativa spectrum (sour, citrus, skunky smells) are best used to combat mental fatigue by boosting energy, concentration, and creativity.

If you suffer from ADHD and are prescribed a pharmaceutical, it’s likely you can relate to the side effects of struggling to fall asleep, working up an appetite, or avoiding the feeling of nausea. When I was prescribed Vyvanse for my ADHD, I lost 30 lbs in 3 months, I could barely eat or sleep — but damn was I productive! While those drugs work for focus, they were not sustainable for my body over a long period of time. Cannabis, however, can act as a stimulant without those nasty side effects which is why many people who suffer from ADHD are naturally drawn to the herb.

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Substance Use & Misuse found that many people attempt to self-medicate with cannabis to help manage their ADHD symptoms such as hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. Mallory Loflin, a Ph.D student from the University at Albany’s Department of Psychology, confirms this study aligns with her research on rodents and marijuana, “There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that cannabinoids actually work on the area of the brain that’s responsible for self-regulating behaviors.” Furthermore, a German study published in 2015 investigated the effects of cannabis on 30 patients who didn’t respond to Adderall or Ritalin. After treatment, the majority of subjects experienced “improved concentration and sleep, and reduced impulsivity.”

Depending on your experience with cannabis, the dosages can vary. To begin, a dose of 2.5-5mg is recommended. This can be consumed in capsule form, tincture, an edible, or by vaporizing flower.

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Diffusing essential oils is my personal favorite way to take advantage of the potent terpenes locked within healing herbs. I struggle with remembering to take capsules daily but keeping a diffuser on my desk is an easy way for me to stimulate and focus my mind while working. Try out some of my favorite essential oils for mental clarity and concentration:

Rosemary – Increases concentration and uplifts spirits upon first inhale, this essential oil treats mental fatigue like no other.

Basil – A refreshing and calming scent that also induces focus. When used regularly, it is said to aid in mental fortitude.

Peppermint – This invigorating essential oil helps concentration and productivity.

Vetiver – Focuses the mind and aids in concentration.

Juniper Berry – This detoxifying oil provides a boost of energy and focus.

Pine – Stimulates the mind and body, increases metabolism, and provides energy.

Grapefruit –  Particularly great for staying concentrated while driving, it’s a very cleansing and balancing oil.

Lemon – Calms stress, boosts the immune system, and increases concentration and alertness.

About Author

Allie is a NW-based content curator for Marijuana.com and an organic farmer at TKO Reserve. She has been a professional in the marijuana industry since she was 18 years old, spending the first five years of her career working for Dope Magazine as lead photographer. Allie has worked on mainstream projects such as Idiot's Guide: Growing Marijuana, Branding Bud: The Consumerization of Cannabis and her own self-published book, As The Grass Grows.

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