Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Essential Oils

What is ADHD?

The NHS defines ADHD as a condition that affects people's behaviour. People with ADHD can seem restless, may have trouble concentrating and may act on impulse. Most cases are diagnosed when children are 6 to 12 years old. As ADHD is a developmental disorder, it is believed it cannot develop in adults without it first appearing during childhood. The symptoms of ADHD include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

ADHD essential oils

Scale of ADHD

Millions of children and adults around the world have been diagnosed with ADHD. According to the ADHD Action, about 1.5 million adults in the UK have the condition, but only 120,000 are formally diagnosed. The first line of treatment is typically behaviour therapy. However, children diagnosed with ADHD are also being treated with medications whereby some of the drugs can be psychoactive and dangerous with various side effects.

Can essential oils be beneficial for ADHD? How can essential oils and aromatherapy help with ADHD?

Research has shown that there is an alternative natural remedy to medication for ADHD. Aromatherapy can be beneficial non-harmful alternative treatment to ADHD. The small molecules of essential oils can penetrate our body through inhalation and olfaction via the respiratory tract from where they are transported to the blood stream. Essential oils easily pass the blood-brain barrier without being broken down by the liver.

Brain waves

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 state. 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.

A study by Dr T. Friedmann measured the brainwaves of children with ADHD before and after the regular use of essential oils. Essential oils chosen for the Study were Lavender, Vetiver and Cedarwood. The group of children were split into three and each group were asked to inhale a certain essential oil three times a day for the period of 30 days. At the end of the 30 days the subjects had their Beta-Theta waves recorded. The results showed that Vetiver increased Beta waves by over 30%, improved brain activity and reduced ADHD symptoms. Similar results were recorded with Cedarwood essential oil. Lavender was also noted for the increased improvements in brain wave patterns as well as for its relaxing and sedative effects on the subjects.

5 Essential oils for ADHD

Here are some other essential oils that are considered beneficial for ADHD.

  1. Vetiver

Vetiver is known as the Oil of Tranquillity due to its grounding and calming effects. Vetiver is beneficial for anyone who needs to be brought into close contact with the earth, to ground and centre their energies. By deeply grounding the psyche, vetiver helps alleviate symptoms of ADHD.

  1. Lavender

Lavender has long been a staple in the aromatherapist’s apothecary cabinet and indeed, it is probably the most used and loved essential oil. Lavender has a soothing, caring and nurturing profile. Lavender calms the mind and nerves and encourages us to be present. It is considered beneficial both in adults and children.

  1. Cedarwood

The sacred Cedars of Lebanon in the Atlas Mountains are large imposing trees that can live up to thousands of years. As a symbol of protection and power, the cedars are highly prized. Their tree bark is a source of thick amber essential oil with a sweet, mild and balsamic undertone. Cedarwood essential oil has an impressive range of benefits, including balancing and mood-boosting properties. Its uplifting aroma makes it a perfect pick-me-up, helping to release tension and lift feelings of lethargy. 

  1. Rosemary

Rosemary has been linked to cognition and memory for hundreds of years. Students wore crowns of Rosemary in ancient Greece to improve their mental performance when taking exams. One compound of Rosemary called 1,8-cineole may act in the same way as the drugs licensed to treat dementia causing an increase in a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. 

  1. Peppermint

 Like Rosemary, Peppermint oil 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, increase alertness and enhance performance.


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