Health Topics

ADHD – Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

adhd classroom

Health Description

ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is a neurobehavioral disorder that causes an inability to focus and listen to direction.  In older literature the term ADD or “ADD with hyperactivity” has been used for this same disorder.

“Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder that affects 3-5 percent of all American children. It interferes with a person’s ability to stay on a task and to exercise age-appropriate inhibition (cognitive alone or both cognitive and behavioral). Some of the warning signs of ADHD include failure to listen to instructions, inability to organize oneself and school work, fidgeting with hands and feet, talking too much, leaving projects, chores and homework unfinished, and having trouble paying attention to and responding to details. … ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood, although the condition can continue into the adult years.”

A summary of the relationship of Asperger syndrome, autism, and ADHD

Because symptoms are similar between these disorders confusion may exist with the inexperienced in diagnosis as well as proper response. (for those that have children with these disorders it is not difficult to understand the difference.) The following summary addresses the similarities and differences.

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the way a child communicates and interacts.  It can be generalized as ASD (autism spectrum disorder) that includes a range of different manifestations that varying in degree of severity.  ASD includes Asperger’s syndrome (high-functioning autism), autism, and PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorders-not otherwise specified).

ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is a neurobehavioral disorder that causes an inability to focus and listen to direction.  In older literature the term ADD or “ADD with hyperactivity” was used for this same disorder.

One of the notable differences some have noted is that those with autism do not learn well from experience (or coping) but rather by rote or memorization.  Most love structure and will repeat very well learned structure.  On the other hand those with ADHD will learn from experiences and are able to extrapolate this learning to other experiences.

It is believed the root causes of the two disorders are different but since they are both developmental disorders and both affect children in communication, social interaction, and behavioral characteristics they can be confused and even misdiagnosed.  The website gives the following lists of the behaviors occurring in autism and ADHD:

Autism Behavioral Checklist

  • Difficulty mixing with other children
  • No real fear of danger
  • Tantrums: displays extreme distress for no apparent reason
  • Inappropriate giggling or laughing
  • May not want cuddling or act cuddly
  • Noticeable physical over activity or extreme under activity
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Works impulsively; often makes careless mistakes: work is sloppy*
  • Uneven gross/fine motor skills*

ADHD Behavioral Checklist

  • Cannot talk or play quietly; disrupts others with talk or actions
  • Difficult awaiting turn in games or activities
  • Engages in potentially dangerous activities
  • Plays without normal caution or  consideration of consequences
  • Severe temper tantrums
  • Interrupts, disrupts, talks and acts inappropriately
  • When younger, difficulty accepting soothing or holding
  • Always on the move, overactive, even during sleep
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in school work or other activities
  • Uneven gross/fine motor skills

*editor’s note: Some that have had experience with children with these disorders disagree with some points.  For instance a child with Asperger Syndrome is very structured in what they do and would not be considered sloppy.  What may appear to us to be a careless mistake is not to them from their point of view.  This same child may also have very good motor skills.  Also the difficulty in communication skills is much different between autistic and ADHD children.

A common symptom between autism and ADHD is that either may suffer from gross and fine motor skills as well as the impulsive driven behaviors. In some cases, the autism behaviors reveal a deficit in being able to respond emotionally.

Essential oils, autism and ADHD.  Like other health concerns these disorders may be helped at multiple levels.  Since many of the symptoms (behaviors) are common between the two disorders there will be benefits from the same oils.  As you work with the oils you will find what works best for your child as well as the mode of application.

[search helps: Aspergers, autistic, hyper, hyperactive]

Suggested Protocols

Please note: The information provided below is a compilation of suggestions made by those that have used essential oils and has NOT been scientifically verified with clinical tests nor reviewed by medical experts. It is anecdotal information and should be treated as such. For serious medical concerns please seek professional medical attention.

Essential Oils to Use:

Oils & Blends: Clary Sage, a Focus Blend, Frankincense, Lavender, Vetiver, Ylang Ylang

Also consider: Basil, Dill, Marjoram, Patchouli, Vitamins

Suggested protocols:

Note – Since many with ADD/ADHD, Asperger’s, or autism are highly sensitive to odors and sometime touch do not force the application of oils if it is a negative experience as this will build a experiential resentment towards their use in the future. Many times it is successful letting them make their own selection from a few choices of oils.

Focus Blend – A special blend (Amyris, Frankincense, Lime, Patchouli, Roman Chamomile, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang) prepared to enhance focus and support healthy thought processes.

Frankincense – Stimulates limbic system of the brain.

Lavender – Calming and relaxing to nervous system.

Vetiver – Calming and Relaxing.

Clary Sage – Uplifting, may help with depression.

Blend Frankincense and Vetiver – Some have success with this simple blend.

Consider taking vitamins which are necessary for proper brain function.

Application – These oils and blend can be inhaled or carried via the blood stream. For the latter applied topically to the feet is effective or with a light massage action along the spine.

The early writers on use of essential oils (Valnet, Tisserand, Gassefosse) came before our modern era where this type of disorder has become so common.  For that reason there is no information from them on the use of oils.  More recent essential oils users have documented their successes in using oils to address the symptoms often experienced by those with ADHD. Summarized below are some of their recommendations:

  • For frustration, impatience, and anger use oils that calm.  Frankincense, Lavender, Ylang Ylang.  Applying to the feet, back of the neck, behind the knees, and diffusion are all suggested.
  • For improved concentration the oil Vetiver.  Again on the feet or, for school children that need help during the school day, a necklace with a pendant that will absorb the oil will make it available all day.
  • Some, with autism, are particularly sensitive to smell and may resist the use of oils.  Applying to the feet, even after they are asleep, can circumvent this problem.

The following blend was submitted by a mother that had great success with 3 children.

Peaceful Child Blend

  • 18 drops Vetiver
  • 10 drops Ylang Ylang
  • 7 drops Frankincense
  • 5 drops Clary Sage
  • 3 drops Marjoram
  • 12+ drops Fractionated coconut oil (for diluting the blend)

Blend in a roll on bottle and apply to bottoms of feet and on the brain/spinal reflex points of the feet right after showering in the morning.

Science Research

Essential Oils and ADD/ADHD
The following research is oft quoted and suggested to be published in the AMA Journal.  We have not be able to verify that this is in an official publication.

In a two year case study (1999-2001), Dr. Terry Friedmann M. D. found significant results when children that had previously been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD were administered therapeutic essential oils by inhalation. The essential oils of Brain Power, Vetiver, Lavender and Cedarwood were used. The oils were administered in this fashion: one oil was administered by inhalation 3 times per day for 30 days. An inhalation device was also used at night to administer a continuous inhalation of oil. The inhalation of the oils proved to settle the children’s brain waves back into normal patters and improved their scholastic performance and behavioral patterns. The final results were:

  • Lavender increased performance by 53%
  • Cedarwood increased performance by 83%
  • Vetiver increased performance by 100%.

This study will be published in the American Medical Association Journal.

German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) effective in ADHD

Phytomedicine. 2009 Apr;16(4):284-6. Epub 2008 Dec 20.

Observational study: Matricaria chamomilla may improve some symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Niederhofer H., Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Regional Hospital Bozen, Via Guncina 54/A, 39100 Bolzano


Noradrenaline and serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been proven to be effective in some cases of ADHD. In this open trial, Matricaria chamomilla, a serotonin and noradrealine reuptake inhibitor, actually used as an antidepressant, has been checked for this indication.

Three 14-16-year-old male psychiatric outpatients, diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder (ADHD) have been rated at baseline and while taking Matricaria chamomilla to determine its efficacy as a treatment for ADHD. Improvement was valuated using comparisons of Conners’ parent ratings.

Patients’ mean scores improved for Conners’ hyperactivity, inattention and immaturity factors.

Although the sample size is very small and therefore generalization is very difficult, this observation indicates that Matricaria chamomilla might be a slightly effective treatment also for ADHD.

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