This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has become an excruciating problem for the young generation (and their educators) over the last decades and while the Pharma industry and psychologists struggle to find solutions, more and more people are finding the answers in plain sight…
It is hard to believe, but ADHD is one of the most frequently diagnosed disorders in young children and teenagers. Millions of children in the world are reported to be treated for ADHD; some schools even signal that as high as 30% of their students are suffering from this illness. And the numbers are increasing daily…..6,4 million diagnosed in 2011 / 2012 alone in the United States.
What is alarming : Children are diagnosed with ADHD already at the age of six. It is the young ones until age 12 who are the most touched. The symptoms usually include Inattention – Impulsivity – Hyperactivity. Although not always the case, numerous children may also have signs of other problems such as Depression – Anxiety – Sleep problems.
The usual “chemical response” is not a way out
According to the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) and the CDC, the first-line of treatment recommended should be behaviour therapy. However, most of the children diagnosed with ADHD are being treated by medication only. (Mercola 2017) It is a sad state of affairs on multiple fronts. Firstly, because misdiagnosis is common, which means that many children may be taking medications unnecessarily. Secondly, because ADHD drugs can be extremely dangerous.
The common treatment are methylphenidates, such as the drug Ritalin, or certain amphetamines such as the drug Dexedrine. Moreover, up to 30% of children with ADHD either do not respond to, or do not tolerate, treatment with stimulants. Even for children who do respond to medication, often the effect is modest. In addition, in some patients drug treatments result in disruptions in sleep and appetite and increases in apathy and depression, which significantly affect physiological, cognitive,and behavioural functioning. (Mind and Brain Journal of Psychiatry 2011: 73) Side effects can also cause increased heart rate, addiction, nervousness including agitation, anxiety and irritability, headaches, stomach aches, nausea, dizziness, heart palpitations, slowing of growth and even seizures. (Drug Enquirer 2017)
The effectiveness of these drugs is questionable but the risks can be very high, which is why alternative treatment options are urgently needed.
Aromatherapy – a pleasant and profound alternative
Fortunately, our natural allies, the essential oils, can be used as a very effective alternative and non harmful treatment for ADHD. This includes physiological and psychological applications mainly via transdermal absorption, inhalation and olfaction with their specific effects on the limbic system. Also oral intake is possible with a number of chosen essential oils.
The skin is an important route for the application of essential oils. A common way to apply essential oils to the skin is through massage, where the essential oil of choice is diluted with a carrier oil. Some essential oils can also be applied undiluted. Most essential oil constitutions are able to cross the skin barrier to the epidermis or reach the dermis from where they can enter the blood stream.
Inhalation and Olfaction
The small molecules of essential oils can penetrate our body also easily through inhalation via the respiratory tract from where they are transported into the blood stream. They easily pass the blood-brain barrier without being broken down by the liver.
Absorption can also take place just by smelling. Our nose being located close to the brain there is an immediate impact of olfaction on our brain cells making it possible for certain essential oils to directly influence the production of endorphins and noradrenaline. This can play a vital role in social interaction, emotional responses, learning and memory.
Changing the brain waves with essential oils
In the case of ADHD, brain wave patterns of the young patients show the dominance of Theta waves which means that the brain is in a kind of sleep or daydreaming. With the use of certain essential oils it has been observed that these waves can change into Beta waves, which are normally produced in state of wakeful alertness during the performance of a task.
Dr. Terry S. Friedmann, a physician who believes in treating the body, mind and spirit as one, demonstrated that essential oils are highly beneficial for children with ADHD. He first measured the brainwaves of children with ADHD who produced a higher amount of Theta waves compared to Beta waves indicating lack of focus on the tasks at hand. The essential oils chosen for the case study were Lavender, Vetiver and Cedarwood.
A group of children with ADHD were split into 3 groups. Six subjects were given Cedarwood oil, chosen because of its high concentration of a special group of bio-chemical compounds called “sesquiterpenes” which are known to improve oxygenation of the brain cells. Six other children were given Vetiver oil, whose action calms and balances the nervous system and at the same time stimulates the circulatory system. And finally six children were given Lavender oil known for its sedating quality and at the same time for being able to stimulate the limbic region of the brain.
The subjects were asked to inhale the oil three times a day. The essential oil was inhaled daily for a period of thirty days. At the end of thirty days the subjects had their Beta-Theta ratios recorded again. The results revealed that the essential oil of Vetiver increased Beta waves by 32%, improved the brain activity and reduced the symptoms of ADHD. Similar results were found with the essential oil of Cedarwood. The Lavender group showed no signs of increased Beta waves but was noted for its relaxing and sedative responses.
The children treated by this process showd improvements not only in their brain wave patterns, but also in their behaviour and results at school. In addition to these results, Dr. Friedmann also received a number of letters from the parents of the children with ADHD, stating that their behaviour had improved at home considerably. (Friedman 2001)
Re. Lavender oil : Studies that were done for OSHADHI at the University of Tokyo a while ago showed that Lavender oil increased Alpha-waves, showing its capacity to enhance a state of restful alertness.
Some essential oils for treating ADHD
Rosemary has been linked to cognition and memory for many hundreds of years. Students wore crowns of rosemary in ancient Greece to improve their mental performance when taking exams. The Tudors in the 16th century, believed that Rosemary had powers to enhance memory. In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, Ophelia says to Hamlet “There’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance”.
Researchers at Northumbria University found that by simply being in a rosemary scented room, one could significantly improve their memory. (Northumbria University 2016) This is particularly owed to the fact that there are so called oxyde and also mono-terpene compounds in rosemary oil which seem to “refresh” our brain activity. One of these compounds is called 1,8-cineole (Eucalyptol) which may act in the same way as the drugs licensed to treat dementia, causing an increase in a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. (BBC news 2015)
Therefore, Rosemary could be a good choice of oil to stimulate focus and a good ally for intellectual work for any child or adult with symptoms of ADHD.
Like Rosemary oil, Peppermint oil also has shown to improve memory and cognitive function. In a study published by the International Journal of Neuroscience, Peppermint oil was found to enhance memory (producing a significant improvement in overall quality of memory) , increase alertness, enhance performance on a range of physical exercise tasks, proving to have stimulating effects. (International Journal of Neuroscience 2008)
Another study published in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine explored the effects of Peppermint essential oil on exercise performance. The results revealed significant improvement when the subjects had been exposed to the oil. The results support the theory of the stimulating effect of Peppermint on the brain. (Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine 2014)
Ylang Ylang, known for its hypotensive and skin healing benefits, has also been proved to increase calmness. Research published in the International Journal of Neuroscience supported this, demonstrating an increase in “calmness” in subjects whom were exposed to the essential oil in a controlled environment. (International Journal of Neuroscience 2008)
and again : Lavender
Lavender like Ylang Ylang, is a good oil to use for its calming effects. As well as aiding relaxation, studies show it can also help our cognitive abilities. In a 1999 University of Miami study, three minutes of aromatherapy were administered to 40 healthy adults. They found that subjects exposed to the aroma of Lavender oil were not only less depressed but also scored higher on mathematical tests, performing faster and more accurately. The subjects also experienced lower anxiety levels. (International Journal of Neuroscience 1998)
Cilantro (Coriander leaf)
The Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Romania performed a study whereby subjects inhaled Coriander leaf oil. (Physiology and Behaviour Journal 2014). Their results suggested that multiple exposures to this oil can be useful as a means to counteract anxiety, depression and oxidative stress. Evidently, this oil could prove useful in alleviating some of the emotional symptoms of ADHD.
Nature knows best
Particularly in the case of children and teenagers, whose brains are still developing, Nature’s medicine is a safer and more respectful choice which can help the young generation to deal with ADHD. Aromatherapy brings that help in a very peaceful without causing any negative side effects. Through the richness of the aromatic molecules concentrated in these healing “liquid jewels”, aromatherapy can help to bring healing in many different forms.
And here some Testimonials and experiences
“I purchased Ylang Ylang in hope of increasing the focus and calmness of my students. Individually, these students were wonderful – as a class, they were much like a match and oil. After two weeks, I started to notice that our lesson length was increasing (from 20 minutes to 45 minutes)… After purchasing a new jar, my class returned to their focused and calm state… I also receive comments on how fresh my classroom smells. Last June, I purchased jars of Ylang Ylang for my partner teachers so we all could share in the peace of fresh-smelling rooms full of focused students.” – C. Wilson
“Ylang Ylang has changed the whole atmosphere of my classroom from chaos to comfort. It generates calm, productive activity where there was once indifference and disrespect.” – Sharon Stewart
“My son is 5 and under assessment for spd and adhd (2 years now!) He’s a complete fire cracker….I recently purchased a Vetiver sample and mixed it with aloe vera gel…he loves it even with the strong smell and happily puts a drop on his big toes and at the back of his neck! The difference is almost immediate, I can see him calming down and can tell when it’s wearing off too, we only do morning and night – it helps him sleep ! That was unexpected !! I am going to try lavender, frankincense and ylang-ylang mix with the vetiver and see if the results change but as of now I’m ecstatic. It’s lovely to see the boy under the behaviours at last.” Sara http://essentialoilbenefits.com/how-to-treat-adhd-using-essential-oils/
“I have been using a Rosemary blend in a nasal inhaler for the past 4 months to help improve my short term memory… I can honestly say it has helped to improve my ability to concentrate, focus on the task at hand and remember tasks that need doing in the future. It is especially helpful to me when I haven’t been able to get a good restful nights sleep, which also decreases my ability to concentrate.” Robin Buerk
“…….what really caught my attention was the Ylang for concentration. Over the years my concentration ability has slowly decreased and in my decision-making engineering position it was essential that I have that ability. When I opened the Ylang in my office the first thing in the morning I took a few whiffs before settling down to read some documents. After 30 minutes I got up to go out of the office. Reaching to remove my reading glasses I realized I had been reading these documents without my glasses on!! Not only had it improved my concentration, but it had improved my eyesight as well!”- Ed P.
“My son….tends to have trouble focusing and staying on task in class! I have used oils for a few months then came upon a blend…that my son has been using for about 5 weeks now and loves it! I use Cedarwood lavender and Vetiver and add coconut oil to my bottle…I started this combo on a Tuesday and informed his teacher as well….she is an oil user herself and was onboard for me helping my son…on Wednesday she emailed me back and told me that he was very happy and he didn’t complete all his work but what he did was great! We gave been having trouble since 1st grade with him not doing work and not liking school….so I should have started the oils sooner!! I am on the fence about putting him on medicine and since oils are all natural it was worth a shot!! I only wish I would have started sooner!!” http://benandme.com/2014/07/using-essential-oils-for-adhd.html
“Every single day I was getting messages from teachers saying that he (11 years old son) wouldn’t stay on task. He wouldn’t stay focused. He wouldn’t stay in his seat. He’s talking. He’s up and running around. He just could not stay focused. After starting him on aromatherapy using essential oils, she said his grades improved considerably. Now, the student is in advanced classes and described as a “calm child.” She applies essential oils to several body areas each morning and he also wears an essential oil bracelet. Tina Sweet (WPTV.com)
Describing the use of essential oils as “life-changing”, Tina also credits her son’s ability to cut back on his ADHD medications to the use of essential oils.
Meditation helps against ADHD
Another healthy way of treating ADHD naturally is with meditation. Various research studies have been carried out to observe the effects for example of Transcendental Meditation (TM) on ADHD. Some of these include:
- Improvement in attention
- Improvement in behaviour regulation
- Improvement in emotional control
- Improvement in memory
- Improvement in organisational skills
- Reduction in stress and anxiety
The TM technique allows the mind to easily settle inward, through quieter levels of thought, until one experiences the most silent and peaceful level of one’s own awareness — pure consciousness. This is known as automatic self-transcending.
A study published in the Mind and Brain Journal of Psychiatry, investigated the effects of TM on task performance and brain functioning in children with ADHD, aged 11- 14 years. The study found that all students significantly improved on their ADHD symptoms over the six months of the study. The practice of the TM technique resulted in significant decreases in Theta / Beta wave ratios, significant increases in Theta coherence, and trends for increases in Beta coherence during tasks. These brain measures were supported by significant increases in “Letter Fluency” and significant increases in positive behaviour reported by the parents.
At the end of the research, the parents completed a questionnaire to assess their perceptions of changes in five ADHD-related symptoms in the their children from the beginning to the end of the study. On this instrument, there were positive and statistically significant improvements in the five areas measured: (a) ability to focus on schoolwork, (b) organisational abilities, (c) ability to work independently, (d) happiness, and (e) quality of sleep as reported in the parent’s survey.
Moreover, when the children were asked to fill out a questionnaire asking how they felt about their TM practice, all students stated that it was an enjoyable experience and an easy to do. (Mind and Brain Journal of Psychiatry 2011)
Another study followed a group of middle school students diagnosed with ADHD who meditated twice a day in school. After 3 months, researchers found over 50% reductions in stress, anxiety, and ADHD symptoms. The children also showed improvements in attention, working memory, organisation, and behaviour regulation. Teachers also reported that they were able to teach more, and students were able to learn more because they were less stressed and anxious.(Eureka Alert 2008)
Last not least to mention the striking experiences with thousands of kids and young adolescents in the over 50 Rehabilitation Centers of the Catholic priest Padre Gabriel Mejia in Columbia (Centers Hogares Claret) showing amazing results in overall performances and behavioral patterns via TM. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p_P6625P_4
AYUS Germany with its OSHADHI brand has started recently to introduce Aromatherapy into these Centers in Columbia – with very convincing results – in collaboration with the beautiful team of Carla Vescovi and her Aromatherapy school in Campinas (Brazil)
It is clear : Aromatherapy and meditation could help alleviate the symptoms of AHDH in a much safer, more peaceful and more harmonious way than the chemical drugs that are currently being prescribed to young children and adolescents.
Our modern time puts immense challenges of stress on the souls of the young generation. The general noise and excitation levels together with the hectic lifestyle altogether are already not easy to cope with for adults – what to say about the responses of a developing nervous system of kids and adolescents ! If we add the problems of our dietary habits with food often depleted of basic nutritional values together with the high levels of over-stimulation all day long, air pollution etc, it is no wonder that many sensitive children, overexposed to too many challenges at once, may not cope with these and develop ADHD symptoms. It is simply clear that the human psycho-physiological system, specially when still very young, is not made for the modern highly stressful life style…..
What is also clear is that we have lost our connection with Nature – meaning also : our connection with our own nature, our own roots. We are neglecting the most essential elements which bestows peace and tranquility to the nervous system – the inner transcendence and the connection with the healing hand of Nature. Both go hand in hand. Aromatherapy with its amazing liquid jewels, the essential oils, and meditation, both together are most powerful tools to help our young generation (and ourselves as well) in its struggle through the often seemingly “dead-ends” of existence. They are powerful tools to help create an uprise of trust, creativity and – in the final end – open our eyes to the secrets of true human evolution. Rediscovering this, our modern world can go beyond its own despair, its own distress resulting from our lack of spiritual understanding – otherwise we are just “turning around” in a carousel way and delaying the imminent need for transformation and true awakening of collective consciousness.
Essential oils and other natural approaches as we have seen can bring our children back to that realm inside ourselves which is the birthright of every human being on Earth : a happy and creative existence where life’s challenges are shouldered with ease and optimism and where the joy of inner and outer growth can express itself endlessly.