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Alternatives for ADHD, Cancer Protection and More

November 5, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

The medicinal portions of plants and trees can come from bark, flowers, leaves and even the rhizomes or roots. There’s a sort of pragmatic beauty in nature. Many of the therapeutic components of plants are parts that humans typically don’t eat. After all, how many of us have snacked on the inner bark of a French maritime pine tree or ordered a fillet of salmon with a side of wilted ginkgo or gotu kola leaves? There are however certain exceptions to this rule. Green tea and turmeric are perhaps two of the highest profile examples of this phenomenon.

One of the more challenging aspects of raising a child is deciding when it’s absolutely necessary to use medications. There are many factors to consider especially when the condition that needs treatment isn’t life threatening. One example is a disorder referred to as ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). There are several controversial and potent medications currently being used to manage ADHD symptoms. However, many allopathic physicians and parents are unaware that there are some natural alternatives that may also make a difference.

A study published in the October 20th issue of the journal Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy may offer hope to those looking for a more natural and safer option to the drugs generally used to address ADHD. This fascinating research focused on the role that certain trace minerals play in the manifestation of ADHD symptoms. A group of scientists administered a pine bark extract (1 mg/kg/day) or a placebo for 4 weeks to 65 children and adolescents with ADHD. 56 healthy youngsters were used as a comparison group. Blood samples were taken pre and post trial that quantified the levels of copper, iron, selenium and zinc.

  • Lower concentrations of zinc and higher levels of copper were found in the young participants with ADHD.
  • Iron (measured as total iron, ferritin and transferrin) and selenium levels were comparable among those with ADHD and without.
  • Pink bark extract supplementation was shown to reduce copper and total iron levels in the young ADHD patients.

The authors of the study concluded that pine bark “modified trace element status, normalized total antioxidant status through a decrease of Cu (copper), Fe (iron), and Cu/Zn (zinc) ratio and improved clinical symptoms of ADHD”. The improvement in the copper/zinc ratio may be an important piece to the ADHD puzzle. A separate study from April of 2009 found that adding 15 mg of zinc to the diet of 218 “third grade students” reduced symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity. (1,2)

Another newly published trial did not find the same level of success as the previously mentioned inquiries. The experiment was conducted at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Medical Sciences, Arak, Iran. It tested the effects of a ginkgo biloba extract in a group of 50 boys and girls with ADHD. Over the course of 6 weeks, the young subjects were administered the ginkgo extract or a conventional ADHD medication (methylphenidate). A standardized index known as the Parent and Teacher Rating Scale was used to determine changes during the treatment period. Both groups showed some degree of improvement in the “Parent ADHD Rating Scale”. But those receiving the conventional medication improved to a significantly greater extent. The changes, as assessed by teachers, were dramatically more evident in the methylphenidate students. These findings indicate that ginkgo biloba extract, given at dosages ranging from 80-120 mg, is probably not as effective as conventional medical treatment. However, there are a few points that need to be made. Not all ginkgo extracts are created equal. It’s possible that other ginkgo extracts may perform in a more satisfactory manner. It’s also important to note that there was a higher level of reported side effects in those using methylphenidate. The adverse reactions included “decreased appetite, headache and insomnia”. (3)

The combination of turmeric extract (curcumin) and green tea may be a potent team in the fight against a variety of cancers. The most recent evidence of this is found in the October 24th edition of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. In that experiment, groups of lab rats were fed a conventional diet or diets that were supplemented with: a) curcumin; b) green tea catechins; or c) curcumin + green tea catechins. All of the rats receiving the herbal extracts demonstrated significant protection against the development of colon cancer. However, the combination of curcumin + green tea “displayed the most potent inhibitory effect”. The authors of the study concluded that “the combination of curcumin and catechins may produce a synergistic colon cancer-preventative effect that would be more potent than each of the compounds alone”. This same combination is also receiving attention from prestigious research outlets such as the Mayo Clinic and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Clinic with regard to chronic lymphocytic leukemia. In addition, a Chinese study from 2002 found that this duo can protect against oral cancer in an animal model. A 2007 trial even suggests that curcumin + green tea polyphenols “may have the potential to beneficially modify the life spans of animals”. (4,5,6,7,8)

Effects of C. Asiatica (Gotu Kola) on Muscle
Source: eCAM Advance Access October 30, 2009 (link)

Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) has a long standing reputation for supporting mental and physical health, especially during the “twilight of our lives”. A new study presented in the journal Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine helps to strengthen the case for this traditional herbal remedy. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial (the “gold standard” of scientific studies) recently evaluated the effects of C. asiatica in a group of 80 healthy elderly subjects. A portion of the participants received a placebo and the remainder was given varying amounts of C. asiatica (250 mg, 500 mg or 750 mg once daily) for 3 months. Physical tests and a quality of life index were administered prior to, during, and after the study.

  • After 2 months of the 500 mg and 750 mg dosage of C. asiatica, participants demonstrated “increased lower extremity strength” as measured by a “30 second chair stand test”.
  • These higher doses also resulted in improvements in overall “life satisfaction” and “physical function”.

The Thai-based researchers commented that the results “support the traditional reputation of C. asiatica on strength improvement, especially in the lower extremities of the elderly”. They go on to say that “C. asiatica also possesses the potential to be a natural resource for vigor and strength increase, in healthy elderly persons”. Previous experiments indicate that this herbal extract may also reduce anxiety, improve mood and enhance “working memory” in seniors. Another positive aspect to C. asiatica is its well documented ability to support healthier blood flow. This may be one mechanism by which it combats many age-related complications such as poor circulation to the brain, feet and legs. (9,10,11,12,13)

Sometimes I watch PBS, The Discovery Channel or Animal Planet and simply marvel at the things that are constantly going on in the natural world of which I am completely unaware. On some level, I understand that the ecosystems throughout the universe are burgeoning with life and activity. But what I don’t know are the details. The same is true with science. We all comprehend that there are men and women wearing white coats in some remote lab who are studying “something” that may affect us down the line. Every once in a while, a news story will appear that draws us into that elusive world. But for the most part, it’s a mysterious place. In my own small way, I hope to bridge that divide between these scientists and the rest of us “laypeople”.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Children's Health, Nutritional Supplements

13 Comments & Updates to “Alternatives for ADHD, Cancer Protection and More”

  1. Nina K. Says:


    thanks for the article. i hope this one will be helpful for friends of us, their son suffers from adhd and he doesn’t tolerate any chemical medications.

    Stay healthy!

    Nina K.

  2. anne h Says:

    You are doing a great job of doing just that – a bridge between two worlds!
    You are like an ambassador to health! Thank you for being a trusted guide.

  3. Dr. Bill Rawls Says:

    Thats a very interesting point about turmeric, JP. I read a study about India that despite overcrowding, poor sanitation and high exposure to industrial pollution, the cancer rate is half that of America and interestingly, the rate of dementia is the lowest in the world. Very likely this is related to consumption of food spiced by curry, as the average Indian consumes 1-2 grams of curry every day. Turmeric and ginger, commonly used in curries, are both are known for potent anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

  4. JP Says:

    Thanks, Anne! I appreciate all your support! 🙂

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:


    I suspect that’s at least part of the reason for the lower cancer incidence. Both curcumin and ginger are very complex/interesting (chemically speaking) and appear to have so many applications. Perhaps the best news is that it appears that research into both of these is proceeding. Yay!

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Thanks, Nina! 🙂

    I sincerely hope so too! 🙂

    Be well!


  7. Paul Fanton Says:

    Hi JP,

    I feel so good that an MD is responding and thanking you for your information!

    You are reaching some direcly and others through bridges!

    I wish you that the dissemination of your reliable information will snowball with benefits for many people as you desire!

    As an example, Dr Barbara Talento PHD, past President of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at CSFU has recommended your site to the OLLI members! She was a Professor and Registered Nurse in her professional life, with great knowledge of Healthy Nutrition.



  8. JP Says:

    Thank you for letting me know that, Paul! That’s quite an honor indeed! Wonderful news! 🙂

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Update 05/03/15:


    Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice – Published Online: April 18, 2015

    Ginkgo biloba in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. A randomized, placebo-controlled, trial

    Objective: To evaluate the efficacy of Ginkgo biloba as a complementary therapy for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

    Methods: Children and adolescents with ADHD received methylphenidate (20–30 mg/day) plus either G. biloba (80–120 mg/day) or placebo for 6 weeks. Parent and teacher forms of the ADHD Rating Scale-IV (ADHD-RS-IV) were completed at baseline, week 2, and week 6. Treatment response was defined as 27% improvement from baseline in the ADHD-RS-IV.

    Results: Compared with placebo, more reduction was observed with G. biloba regarding ADHD-RS-IV parent rating inattention score (−7.74 ± 1.94 vs. −5.34 ± 1.85, P < 0.001) and total score (−13.1 ± 3.36 vs. −10.2 ± 3.01, P = 0.001) as well as teacher rating inattention score (−7.29 ± 1.90 vs. −5.96 ± 1.52, P = 0.004). Response rate was higher with G. biloba compared with placebo based on parent rating (93.5% vs. 58.6%, P = 0.002). Conclusions: The G. biloba is an effective complementary treatment for ADHD. Further studies with longer treatment duration are warranted in this regard. Be well! JP

  10. JP Says:

    Update 05/13/15:


    J Atten Disord. 2015 Feb 2. pii: 1087054715569282.

    Effects of Physical Exercise Intervention on Motor Skills and Executive Functions in Children With ADHD: A Pilot Study.

    OBJECTIVE: This study examined the effect of a 12-week table tennis exercise on motor skills and executive functions in children with ADHD.

    METHOD: Fifteen children with ADHD received the intervention, whereas 15 children with ADHD and 30 typically developing children did not. The Test of Gross Motor Development-2, Stroop, and Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) were conducted before and after the intervention.

    RESULTS: After the intervention, the ADHD training group scored significantly higher in the locomotor as well as object-control skills, Stroop Color-Word condition, and WCST total correct performance compared with the ADHD non-training group, and we noted improvements in the locomotor as well as object-control skills, Stroop Color-Word condition, and three aspects of the WCST performances of the ADHD training group over time.

    CONCLUSION: A 12-week table tennis exercise may have clinical relevance in motor skills and executive functions of children with ADHD.

    Be well!


  11. Jason Says:

    I agree with most of ADHD facts of this article. My son has been diagnosed with ADHD at the age of two and half. He was Hyperactive, Careless, Not interested on anything or can not focus or concentrate on any tasks. All the consultants and psychologists told that he must go to a special school.

    As we all know they need role models around for them to learn and correct their behavior. If they are in a special school they see all the same kind of kids and make the behavior worse. So we determined to fix our boy up for the school. He is in year 3 and one of the few leading kids in the class. He is performing far beyond that non ADHD mates and was able to gain reputation from mates. We believe in few things helped him to go to the best government mainstream school.

    Strong commitment and sacrifice of both parents is the key. I know few parents who gave priority for their profession, Buying a house,etc.; was not able to help their kids. This is a critical decision point you need to make. These kids need more time with their parents.

    Depending too much on professional advices blocks out flow of good advices. Because of the doctors did not ask you to do something does not mean that is not an option. We Serve good home made foods not processed food. Specially Pink Salmon, Goku Kola (Centella Asiatica) and Broccoli. Those are the super brain foods with lowest toxic materials.

    Need to understand that this kind of a disorder came in to contact because of a Karmic reason. No win for fighting each other in the family or treating rough of sick kid. Best way to over come this thing is accept it, find how to Love the sick more and more, help other similar kids if possible, spread the love for everyone. This is time you need more in to family counselling and religious activities. Having this kind of kids in the family teaches you a great life lesson you were never ready to accept.

    If you are still worrying about the joy of life you missed because of this; focus on working of the child right now, and you will be free in few years. Otherwise try to enjoy now and suffer forever. This is the time you need to use wisely and whole family together. Is not easy to balance out whether the money or the time with family to give priority.

    We sent our kid to Autism Services Early Intervention Program for about an year. Also given him Neurofeedback (NFB) sessions. Introduced him in to Aikido martial art where body and mind coordination and mediation trained.

  12. JP Says:

    Thanks a lot of sharing your family’s experience with us, Jason. I think you make many good points.

    I wish you and your family continued happiness and success!

    Be well!


  13. JP Says:

    Updated 06/11/16:


    Nutrients 2016, 8(6), 352

    Dietary, Nutrient Patterns and Blood Essential Elements in Chinese Children with ADHD

    Dietary or nutrient patterns represent the combined effects of foods or nutrients, and elucidate efficaciously the impact of diet on diseases. Because the pharmacotherapy on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was reported be associated with certain side effects, and the etiology of ADHD is multifactorial, this study investigated the association of dietary and nutrient patterns with the risk of ADHD. We conducted a case-control study with 592 Chinese children including ADHD (n = 296) and non-ADHD (n = 296) aged 6–14 years old, matched by age and sex. Dietary and nutrient patterns were identified using factor analysis and a food frequency questionnaire. Blood essential elements levels were measured using atomic absorption spectrometry. A fish-white meat dietary pattern rich in shellfish, deep water fish, white meat, freshwater fish, organ meat and fungi and algae was inversely associated with ADHD (p = 0.006). Further analysis found that a mineral-protein nutrient pattern rich in zinc, protein, phosphorus, selenium, calcium and riboflavin was inversely associated with ADHD (p = 0.014). Additionally, the blood zinc was also negatively related to ADHD (p = 0.003). In conclusion, the fish-white meat dietary pattern and mineral-protein nutrient pattern may have beneficial effects on ADHD in Chinese children, and blood zinc may be helpful in distinguishing ADHD in Chinese children.

    Be well!


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