It is increasingly common for children to be diagnosed with childhood ADHD, and stimulant medicines such as Ritalin and Adderall are the go-to treatment. But could ADHD be a catch-all diagnosis that masks other underlying problems? And are there other alternatives to treating those symptoms besides medications which carry unwanted side-effects?
The answer to both of those questions appears to be "yes."
As many as 11% of all schoolchildren in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD. Dr. David Saul is a behavioral neurologist who recently told Time that childhood ADHD is an overused diagnosis that may keep physicians from searching deeper for root causes of symptoms. "I've come to believe based on decades of treating patients that ADHD — as currently defined by the DSM [Diagnostic Manual] and as it exists in the public imagination — does not exist."
Dr. Saul says that there are a number of other conditions that can be present, and classic childhood ADHD treatment do not fix those. Things such as "sleep disorders, undiagnosed vision and hearing problems, substance abuse (marijuana and alcohol in particular), iron deficiency, allergies (especially airborne and gluten intolerance), bipolar and major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and even learning disabilities like dyslexia" all may look like ADHD, but they are not ADHD. And they each require a different approach. Stimulant drugs are not the answer in many of those cases.
For many parents, a diagnosis of ADHD can help to put a name on many troubling behaviors of childhood and give them hope for something that will make the frustration go away.
But some experts are warning that that the ADHD medications do not continue to work for long-term use, and that the side effects may not be worth the risk. Common complaints are loss of appetite and sleeplessness. They can be addictive and cause heart problems. Paranoia, hostile behavior, and suicidal thoughts have also been associated with the most commonly prescribed childhood ADHD drugs.
While the debate rages on about whether or not many of the symptoms of ADHD are simply normal childhood behaviors, parents are looking for answers. Many mommy blogs are extolling the benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy to calm their ADHD children without harmful side effects.
The Common Scents Mom recommends vetiver essential oil to help calm overactive children. She cites Dr. Terry Friedman's study which showed a 100% improvement in performance after 30 days of using vetiver oil, 83% with cedarwood, and 53% with lavender therapeutic grade essential oil.
The Meet Penny blog writes about ADD and ADHD and adds to those oils the essential oil blends Peace and Calming, and Brainpower.
Though there are many blogs where various plant-based essential oils are recommended for childhood symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity, the common denominator appears to be vetiver oil due to its calming effect. Parents testify to the huge difference that they are seeing in their children.
The specialists at altMD agree that children with ADHD can benefit greatly from alternative therapies such as essential oils and aromatherapy:
As is often the case in aromatherapy, combinations of essential oils may be used to treat ADHD because their synergistic effects (effects resulting from their being used together), which can sometimes be quite impressive. One commonly used mixture is called Peace & Calming, a name that reflects the effects it has on users. The mixture is a combination of blue tansy (Tanacetum annuum), orange (Citrus sinensis), patchouly (Pogostemon cablin), tangerine (Citrus nobilis), and ylang ylang (Cananga odorata).When a child is diagnosed with ADHD, that may not be the final answer. It may take detective work to uncover the underlying cause. And the most common pharmaceutical treatments are not the only option parents have for addressing the symptoms of childhood ADHD. Further research into alternatives may make a huge difference in a child's life.
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