ADHD - Pouring oil on troubled waters

The use of essential oils may be one of the most effective approaches to treating ADHD without drugs, according to a study reported in 2001.

The study, which was carried out over two years, from 1999-2001, compared 20 children aged six to 12 years who had a confirmed diagnosis of ADD/ADHD with 20 children of similar age who had not been diagnosed with the condition.

The oils used were pure essential oils of vetiver, cedarwood and lavender - not to be confused with the 'aromatherapy oils' commonly found in many stores.

Aromatherapy products may contain oils that have been poorly pressed, contaminated or even combined with solvents and other ingredients that can adversely affect their medicinal value.

Vetiver was the oil found to be the most effective in improving focus and learning in children with ADD and ADHD, according to observations and brain wave scans - showing improvements in 100% of subjects. Cedarwood essential oil was 83% effective, and lavender 60%.

Using the oils

Vetiver - This not-very-well-known oil can effectively calm over-energised children and help them to connect and relate to others in more patient and agreeable ways. It is especially helpful for those ADD adults and teens who also suffer from depression. Vetiver can be applied to the shoulders and neck of teenagers and adults, and small children may only need to smell it.

Cedarwood - High in sesquiterpenes, the chemical compounds that stimulate brain function and mental synergy, this oil can be applied on the forehead and neck, massaged into the base of the skull, or inhaled.

Lavender - Known as the 'universal oil', this has a sedative action and will calm both mind and body. Rubbing a few drops on a child’s feet, shoulders, or chest can help them relax and sleep more easily. But be aware that labels on lavender can be particularly misleading, as this is one of the most commonly adulterated oils and difficult to find in its pure form.

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Click here for more research reports on treatments for ADHD

First published in June 2007

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