Sunday, May 3, 2009

Can ADHD be Treated with Ginseng?

The Theory Behind Ginseng as an ADHD Treatment Option:

Ginseng is well-regarded for its memory boosting, sleep improving, and brain-saving longevity benefits. In a general sense, it appears that it would be a good potential treatment method for ADHD and related disorders. Although successful clinical study publications on the specific use of ginseng for ADHD are relatively scarce, it appears that on at least a theoretical basis, this popular herb could work for treating ADHD and related disorders. I would like to highlight some of the biochemical and physiological reasons supporting its use as an alternative treatment for ADHD:

  1. Compound diversity in ginseng: Ginseng is not simply one isolated compound, such as an individual drug, but rather a mixture of substances of potential pharmaceutical benefit. Among these are a family of compounds called ginsenosides. One of the underlying benefits this (and herbal treatments in general), is that many of these related compounds can work together in a synergistic fashion, nature's own alternative to drug cocktails. Given the fact that absorption, metabolism and utilization of biochemical agents for the treatment of disorders is rarely due to one isolated substance of pharmaceutical value, this multi-compound treatment method certainly has potential advantages over a single-drug treatment method for ADHD or related disorders.

  2. Ginseng, dopaminergic activity, and ADHD: It has been demonstrated that herbal extracts of ginseng can exhibit activities that target the dopaminergic (dopamine-related) pathway and can exhibit neuro-protective benefits for these pathways. This is important, because ADHD is often chemically characterized by deficits in this pathway, which typically include reduced dopamine levels in the regions between neuronal cells throughout various key regions of the brain (ones that, among other things, are responsible for attention span, screening out irrelevant stimuli, and impulse control). There are even implications that ginseng compounds can accelerate the neurodevelopment process from stem cells.

  3. Boosting of "synaptic plasticity": During the learning process, a certain amount of "agility" is necessary in the regions in between the cells as the brain begins to rewire itself to conform to the newly learned material. The ability of neurons to form new connections is referred to as synaptic plasticity. It appears that ginseng contains several key elements which helps maintain this "pliable" learning-friendly state. Essentially, compounds isolated from ginseng can moderate long-term potentiation, (long term potentiation refers to a learning and memory process in which communication between two neuronal cells is improved or made more efficient by stimulating both cells at the same time. This plays an important role in the development and maintenance of long-term memories). Given the fact that learning disabilities are frequently seen in ADHD (often more on the inattentive side of the ADHD spectrum), it stands to reason that ginseng may be useful in some of these comorbid learning-related deficits as well.

  4. Ginseng boosts aerobic glucose metabolism in the ADHD brain: The ADHD brain typically contains deficits of glucose and oxygen (as determined by multiple imaging and brain scanning studies) in many of the key brain regions which modulate attentional control, impulsivity, and concentration. It is even postulated that ADHD may be an "energy deficient syndrome". Brain metabolic studies indicate that aerobic glucose metabolism is typically improved in the presence of ginseng isolates. Not only does this reduce some of the potentially brain waste products associated with oxygen-deprived brain activity, but this enhanced aerobic form of glucose metabolism in the brain is a more efficient process.

  5. Ginseng may boost dopamine and norepinephrine levels: As mentioned previously, individuals with ADHD are typically deficient of the important neuro-signaling agent dopamine in key regions of the brain. However, a deficiency in another important neuro-signaling agent called norepinephrine is also frequently seen in the ADHD brain. Imbalances of both dopamine and norepinephrine are seen in ADHD patients, and can lead to disruptions in physiological processes such as attention span, complex cognitive processes, auditory processing delays, and motor behavioral dysfunctions. It is believed that the ginsenoside compounds (see point #1) may help alleviate some of these ADHD-related symptoms by boosting levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in these key brain regions, several of which are affiliated with ADHD.

    Interestingly, many stimulant meds for ADHD work by boosting levels of these same two compounds, meaning the effects of ginseng may approximate those of a stimulant medication used to treat ADHD. We will see in the next post how another natural brain supplement, Ginkgo biloba, may better approximate the action of non-stimulant ADHD medications. It is also worth noting that isolates of ginseng and ginkgo may work in tandem to boost memory and other related functions.

    On a side note, fatty extracts of the ginseng plant have been used to alleviate the dopamine-dependent "high" of cocaine, which supports the use of ginseng as a potential treatment agent for cocaine addictions. Similar results support the use of ginseng for treating nicotine addiction as well. This further validates the dopamine-dependent regulatory benefits of ginseng and its ability to stabilize fluctuations in neuro-signaling agents of relevance to ADHD.

  6. Ginseng may protect against brain damage from excess iron: I have personally advocated the use of iron for treating ADHD in several other posts. It can counteract toxic effects of lead and other metals, improve the synthesis of dopamine from the dietary amino acid tyrosine, and improve sleep quality in ADHD children. However, there are several dangers associated with excessive iron supplementation, one of which is neuronal death and neuro-degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's. However, there is some evidence that ginseng can counteract this iron-related neuronal damage by regulating specific iron-transporting proteins in the brain. If these findings hold true, then ginseng might be of use as some type of "insurance measure" against potential damage from excessive amounts of iron supplementation designed to treat ADHD.

  7. Promote nerve growth in brain regions typically under-developed in ADHD: We have reported earlier on some of the delays in maturation and development of specific brain regions in ADHD. Some research suggests that ginseng compounds may promote neuronal growth and development in the early stages of life. While currently a bit of a stretch, findings such as this may lead to the use of ginseng compounds to offset ADHD-associated neurodevelopmental delays somewhere down the road.

  8. Neuroprotective effects of ginseng for the aging ADHD brain: This may be especially relevant to adults with ADHD as they age. In addition to its ability to help with neuronal cell development in the early stages of life (mentioned in the previous point), evidence suggests that the active ginsenoside "Rd" compound in ginseng can alleviate inflammatory damage and death to neuronal cells. Given the fact that early neurodegenerative effects are often present in ADHD-like mammalian systems, these results at least suggest that ginseng may be a potential life-long treatment option for individuals diagnosed with ADHD.

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42 comments:

eva said...

very interesting- i'm not on any medication for my adhd, and who knows when i'll get it, so i'm trying to find other ways to cope than ritalin. maybe i can avoid ritalin altogether?
i've been taking rhodiola rosea for a while for extra brain energy. they say it's sort of like ginseng, but next time i'll get ginseng instead.

The ADHD Treatment Guide said...

Hi eva,
Just wondering, does the rhodiola rosea work well for you?

Most of these supporting reasons for ginseng are still largely theoretical at the moment, I'd love to hear what actual people have to say about it.

If you give it a try, please fill me in. Personal testimonies don't carry the same scientific "weight" as published studies, but I personally find them to be much more real, useful, and practical.

As far as I know, there aren't too many negative side effects to worry about with ginseng, but if I dig up any, I'll make sure to let you know. Thanks eva!

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Benny Paul said...

I didn't know that ginseng is used to treat cocaine addiction.
It definitely helped me to break my caffeine addiction, and I recommend it to anyone else who is trying to quit caffeine.
However, I have not noticed much of a difference in my ability to focus when I take ginseng.
So far, gingko seems to have a much stronger effect on the way I think. Do you think that's normal?

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monkeyDluffy said...

Great article. In the hustle of running a practice, I hadnt given thought or consideration to this therapy (still taking off here in australia).
Thanks for the insight,

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adult adhd physicians Connecticut said...

I just wish that ginseng can really treat ADHD. We have been looking for a treatment for ADHD for so long. I can't wait to read more proof that a ginseng is the treatment for ADHD.

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Anonymous said...

Ok let me tell you that ginseng is amazing, I use this really strong extract of 6000mg of 6 to 9 year old red panax ginseng that is in these little tiny vials and it works wonder for mood, energy, focus, irritability. I was diagonosed with ADD since I was in 6th grade and I absolutely love it. If you search ginseng on amazon you will find these vials that I speak on... I am telling you they work wonders. I am sure if you were rich you could buy really expensive, high qaulity aged ginseng and you would have even more pronounced effects unfortunately im not rich :D

Anonymous said...

I'm using Ginseng now for my severe ADHD. I take 1 capsule 2 x daily with meals. I feel much more relaxed and have less "nervous energy". I've also been vaporizing tobacco instead of smoking/burning it. These 2 together seem to really help. Now I'm reading books in my spare time. I never thought I would say that, EVER!!! LOL I'm interested in trying Ginseng with Ginkgo.

Dunamis007 said...

I just found out that i have ADHD and it made me so worried that i was willing to risk taking ritalin or any drug. But i'll rather take herbal medication because its safer.

Caleb said...

I gave my son Korean red ginseng tonic designed for kids. I noticed that he was much more focused and engaged, sharp and quick. However, I also noticed that he was much more 'hyper' or the level of movement increased. Hyper but focused and engaged whereas before when he would be lost and making eye contact with him would be difficult. His teacher said he answered questions quickly and correctly but had a tendency to want to climb and do stuff all the time. I think red ginseng helps the inattentivity/focus issue in ADHD but not the hyperactivity, at least not in my case

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Anonymous said...

i dont have an account here so i have to leave a comment as anonymous, but for anyone who wants to reply, my usual online name is Summer.

anyways today i am going to go get some Ginseng tea and Ginko Biloba tea, preferably in tea bags. i hear a lot about how these boos memory and focus and those symptoms of ADHD, but i can't find much on how it affects ADHD primarily inattentive type. when i look up how these teas boost energy, it gives me a bunch of sources saying it boosts energy, but when i look up its affects on ADHD the sources always focus on how it calms you down and has a sedative affect. problem is i have no energy or motivation, i have ADD without hyperactivity and actually i am hypoactive. its gotten worse lately with irritability and depression (i think its unrelated to my adhd, it may be situational) its gotten so bad i can't even do the things i enjoy, doing simple chores is so hard.

what im saying is, do these teas boos energy or are they sedative? currently i can't get medication for financial reasons (and no one in my family actually believes in adhd so no one would be willing to get me any help for this) so i have been looking for a way to treat it on my own, and if thats not possible then i am just out of luck until i get a job and go to a doctor myself, which is probably what I'll end up having to do anyways but i need something to get me through until then.

Anonymous said...

Are there any recommendations as to what kind of ginseng is best? Are there any studies to back this up? I'm assuming that there is more than one form of ginseng. Is this true?

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Helen said...

why are you trying home remedies, when ADHD medications are available in online pharmacies at a very cheap price?

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Charlotte A-A O-A said...

hi everyone.
i am curently new to this adhd information and spent the last year and a half researching and making sure my diagnosis isnt wrong. I have seen a doctor about it but i am not able to frequently go for session because the time conflicts with school work. The more i wait, the more i feel like im going crazy. My academics are the most worrying aspects for me because i never start assignments on time, never able to hold focus in class and always procrasinate.
I dont know if medication is safe because of the tendency to sorta get addicted to them so i do not want that option. i need help and i think i need it fast. I am an architecture student and i cant risk not doing my assignments on time. I need something that will work for me and work fast. What should i do??

help...??

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Charlotte A-A O-A said...

Thanks. .but is it a pill or herb? And how would it help?

Álvaro Contreras Riquelme said...

Korean ginseng is the best for ADHD inattentive since it helps with motivation and energy. American variety has a more calming effect. You can say the last one is the yin side and the first is the yang side. And inattentive ADHD people have low yang energy. Try rhodiola rosea and schisandra chinensis too for Inattentive, they can work sinergically with ginseng. Best wishes.

Charlotte A-A O-A said...

Thanks guys!

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Barry Flynt said...

i've been using ginseng on and off for ADHD for nearly 30 years now. along with regular exercise and nutrition, i've never really needed anything else to be honest. the only time i 'need' medication is when i haven't been disciplined for a while. I'll be honest, I get bored of doing the same things day in day out, so sometimes i resent the fact I have to have this regimen and therefore blow it off for a few days/ weeks at a time. and guess what? I have trouble focusing and finishing things!

though it's worth people knowing there's different kinds of ginseng. this is very important. I can only explain this in the way I discovered it, so don't shoot the messenger….

In asian medicine, people are either yin or yang. Korean Ginseng is very yang, and is not good for people who're also 'yang'. (think fiery people…..) I am a fiery person and when i 1st started taking ginseng years ago I was taking the korean variety, and it made me feel a bit nauseous. a bit 'speedy' if you will.

But then 5 years ago I discovered Siberian Ginseng, which is very 'yin' apparently, and now I have no problems whatsoever. Have perfect focus and mental clarity….

So, if at first one variety of ginseng doesn't succeed, try the other one... :)


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Barry Flynt said...

I discovered something else a month after writing my comment. I started adding L-tyrosine to the ginseng I take every morning. 1000mg in the morning with ginseng on empty stomach so there's no competition between proteins. After 42 years I finally feel like the person I'm supposed to be. I now have perfect energy levels and motivation, and have woken up before my alarm every single day since I started taking it. Instead of having random moments of limitlessness, I now feel totally in control of it.

I also had a test period of 2weeks not taking anything to see what difference was and it was huge.

I'm no expert but after the last few months, I'm strongly inclined to believe that ADHD is the symptoms of dopamine depression....

Anonymous said...

Because those meds often come with adverse side effects, such as anxiety, irritability, mood swings and weight loss. For my teen, the benefits didn't outweigh the risks.

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Anonymous said...

Good sharing. Ginseng is used in traditional and herbal medicine to improve energy levels and concentration. Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer is one of the most well-studied species of ginseng with more than 70 published papers citing its various health promoting benefits. Read more at:
http://kidbuxblog.com/live-your-life-to-the-fullest/

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