Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are mental health and neurological conditions that make it difficult to sustain focus and follow instructions.
The main difference between the two conditions is that ADHD is characterized by hyperactivity and ADD is not.
Symptoms of ADHD can include:
- Trouble focusing on a single task
- Trouble staying still
- Impulsive behavior
- Lack of self-control
- Easily forgetting things
- Mood swings
Symptoms usually appear in childhood and can continue into adulthood.
If left undiagnosed or untreated, ADD and ADHD can result in low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, trouble establishing intimacy or connections in relationships, addictive tendencies, and school or workload issues.
A conventional course of treatment for these conditions can include medication such as Ritalin and Adderall, and therapy modalities such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).
If you’re looking for alternative options to manage symptoms, you may want to look into mindfulness practices, meditation, breathwork, and essential oils.
Essential Oils As Natural Remedies For Physical & Mental Health
Essential oils (EOs) are a concentrated form of plant compounds known for their healing properties.
The active chemicals in EOs interact with the body’s various systems in beneficial ways that promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
EOs enter the bloodstream via direct contact with the skin, inhalation, and even ingestion.
They’re known to directly affect the brain’s limbic system (the emotional part of the brain) via the olfactory bulb that sits just above the nose.
EOs can also interact with the endocrine system, which is responsible for producing the body’s hormones.
The use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes is called aromatherapy.
The Best Essential Oils for ADD & ADHD
It’s important to note that while essential oils make excellent add-ons to existing therapies for ADD and ADHD, they are not a cure-all.
This is especially true for more severe symptoms that can impact the quality of one’s life.
There is currently very little scientific research to support the sole use of EOs for ADD and ADHD.
Here are some of the best essential oils for ADD & ADHD:
Vetiver oil & Cedarwood oil
A 2001 study by Terry S. Friedmann, M.D. found that inhaling both cedarwood and vetiver essential oil three times a day for 30 days led to a significant improvement in ADHD symptoms in children. (1)
“When the essential oil is inhaled, the microdroplets are carried to the brain’s limbic system, which is that portion that is the processing center for reason, emotion, and smell, and to the hypothalamus, which is the hormone command center.
The essential micro droplets are also carried to the lungs where they enter the circulatory system,” explains Dr. Friedmann. (2)
Rosemary oil is known to help memory, but can it also boost the brain to improve cognitive tasks?
A 2012 study published in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology showed for the first time that cognitive performance can significantly be improved by diffusing rosemary essential oil. (3)
The boost in cognitive ability is thought to be thanks to 1,8-cineole, one of the main active chemicals in rosemary oil.
The study found the higher the concentration of 1,8-cineole, the more cognitive improvement was observed.
This is for both the speed of processing and accuracy of results.
Citrus essential oils like lemon, grapefruit, bergamot, orange, and mandarin can help energize and wake up the mind without intensifying hyperactivity.
Bergamot oil is especially known for increasing inner calm while also facilitating feelings of upliftment.
Other oils that may help with ADD and ADHD symptoms:
- Peppermint oil
- Frankincense oil
- Roman chamomile oil
- Ylang ylang oil
- Lavender oil
When used safely and mindfully, essential oils usually offer little to no harmful side effects.
That said, do a bit of research about the contraindications for each oil you intend to use as some of them aren’t suitable for babies, young children, pregnant women, or people with certain health conditions like high blood pressure and epilepsy.
Some essential oils may cause skin irritation, especially with sensitive skin types.
Don’t ingest EOs without first consulting with your doctor or an experienced aromatherapist.
EOs aren’t regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), and there are many diluted or contaminated products on the market, unfortunately.
It’s crucial always to choose high-quality, certified organic, therapeutic-grade pure essential oils.
How To Use EOs for ADD & ADHD
The most effective form of application for ADD and ADHD is via inhalation.
You can use a diffuser in the room where you’re studying or working, or you can also create your portable inhalers for a more concentrated dose.
For topically use, always dilute EOs with a carrier oil like fractionated coconut oil or jojoba oil first.
Use 2-3 drops of essential oil per 1 teaspoon of carrier oil.
Perform a patch test and wait 24-48 hours before proceeding if it’s your first time using any oil.
You can use roller balls or roller bottles for portability.
Try This DIY Essential Oil Blend For Better Focus
- 4 drops vetiver oil
- 4 drops cedarwood oil
- 4 drops rosemary oil
- 4 drops of your choice of citrus oil
- 200 ml of water
- 10 drops vetiver oil
- 10 drops cedarwood oil
- 10 drops rosemary oil
- 5 drops of citrus oil
Apply the essential oils directly to your inhaler cotton wick.
How Yoga Can Help You Manage ADD & ADHD Symptoms
Most of us think of yoga as a physical practice; however, yoga’s true practice involves so much more than just the poses and flow sequences.
The physical aspect of yoga (asana) can help with ADD symptoms because it involves the mindful movement and mastery of the body, the breath, and awareness.
This alone can help you release nervous tension, improve focus, and calm the body and mind.
And you can take it even further by practicing the 8 Limbs of Yoga, or what’s known as classical yoga.
According to this system, there are eight main limbs or branches of yoga practice and 17 principles.
Many of these principles can help you further improve your symptoms.
Here are a few:
- Mindfulness (svadhyaya) – The principle of svadhyaya teaches us to study our minds and reactions and become self-aware. This is how we can change our patterns and start reducing impulsivity and reactivity.
- One-pointed focus (dharana) – We can reduce mental noise and distractions by practicing dharana. Think of learning to sustain a one-pointed focus as mental training. You can use your breath as a focus tool.
- Breathing exercises (pranayama) – Did you know that you can begin to control your mind by controlling your breathing? Yes, it’s true – yoga breathing exercises can help you increase concentration.
- Meditation (dhyana) – According to the 8 Limbs of Yoga, the goal of true yoga practice is to still the ripples of the mind in order to cultivate inner stillness, which leads to inner wisdom. Taking up a daily meditation practice, even if it’s just five minutes a day, can help you focus, remember, create, and perform better.
- Hydrate (saucha) – Believe it or not, being chronically dehydrated can impact your brain and cognitive function. Drinking at least 1.5-2 L of water every day will help your mental performance. This is how you practice yoga by drinking water.
- Deep rest and sleep (Yoga nidra) – Being chronically tired, or sleep-deprived means your brain suffers. Not getting enough quality sleep impairs your thinking, decision-making, and can make you more irritable, impulsive, and emotional. Make sure you get enough quality rest each day to keep your symptoms in check. Here’s a guided yogic sleep meditation.
- Eat like a yogi to increase mental energy – The way you eat dramatically impacts your mind and ability to focus! Eat the wrong things, and your symptoms can get worse. Eat the right things and your brainpower and focus capacity will improve. Here’s how to eat like a yogi for more focus.