St. John's Wort Did Not Improve ADHD Symptoms

Health Writer

There are a number of herbal remedies some patients with ADHD use as a treatment for ADHD. St. John's wort, pine bark extract and blue-green algae are some of the herbal treatments commonly used. These are used as an alternative to taking (or giving your children) medication for ADHD, such as Ritalin or Strattera.

But a recent government study has shown no improvement in symptoms of ADHD in children taking St. John's Wort. In the study, some children were given St. John's Wort and some were given placebos. The study included 54 children between the ages of 6 and 17 years old and was randomly assigned either St. John's Wort or the placebo.

The entire study lasted eight weeks and symptoms were measured at the start of the study and four other times during the study. There was no difference noted in symptoms between the group that had taken the St. John's Wort and those that had taken a placebo.

ADHD medications are a common treatment for ADHD. However, some of the side effects of these medications include: nervousness, problems sleeping, and loss of appetite. For this reason, some patients with ADHD choose not to take these medications. For others, the medication may interfere with other illnesses or other medications and not be tolerated. These people sometimes look for other ways to help control the symptoms of ADHD. Herbal remedies are often seen as an option.

Herbal remedies, however, have not been found to be as effective in controlling symptoms of ADHD, and, as this study shows, sometimes they have little, if any affect on the difficulties people with ADHD experience.

In addition, just because something is labeled "natural" does not mean "safe". Herbal remedies can have side -effects. For example, St. John's Wort increases sensitivity to sunlight, can interfere with other medications and can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills.

Some manufacturers of herbal remedies will use testimonials of customers to help sell and market their products, rather than using scientific data to back up their claims.

It is important for consumers to be aware that herbal remedies are not currently regulated by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). Because of this, there is no monitoring of claims stating improvement of symptoms or the safety of supplements.

It is important for consumers to take some steps before using herbal supplements to stay safe:

  • Always talk with your physician before taking any supplements. They can interfere with current medications and cause side effects.
  • Talk with your pharmacist about supplements you are interested in taking. They will be able to tell you, based on the medications you take, if they are safe and if there are certain foods you should avoid while taking the supplement.

Recommended Reading:

Nutritional and Herbal Supplements

Traditional vs. Alternative Treatment


St. John's Wort Fails to Help Kids With ADHD, 2008, June 10, Associated Press