If you or your child have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), you may feel like managing the symptoms for tranquility and focus is an impossible task. Fortunately, you can use essential oils to treat the many symptoms of ADD/ADHD. Here are some facts you should know about attention deficit problems, as well which essential oils are best for relief and easy recipes you can try at home to quell symptoms right away.
Attention Deficit Disorders: A Huge Cost to Mental Balance and Productivity
Attention deficit disorders, also known as ADD and ADHD, make life exceedingly difficult for those that have them. Kids with ADHD have difficulty paying attention in school and often engage in disruptive behavior, such as talking out of turn or throwing tantrums. Juveniles with ADHD are three times more likely than their peers to have negative interactions with the justice system, due to making poor choices and indulging in impulsive behavior.
Adults can also have both ADD and ADHD. Sometimes since childhood, where depending on the person’s age, the problem has gone undiagnosed because of lack of knowledge about attention deficit disorders before recent decades.
Attention deficit issues can also manifest as the result of other conditions, such as autoimmune illnesses, and ADD or ADD-like syndromes are a common complaint among menopausal women. In the latter instance, fluctuating hormones and a lack of estrogen cause a drop in dopamine and serotonin, both of which precipitate “brain fog” (lack of mental clarity) and even depression. Women who have had ongoing attention deficit difficulties can find them exacerbated by menopause.
According to the United States CDC (Centers for Disease Control), roughly 11 percent of American kids have ADD or ADHD (that’s more than six million kids!), and that number is growing. The cost of addressing attention deficit disorders is estimated at between $150-270 billion per year for children and upwards of $30 billion for adults.
This huge expense includes not only medical treatment but low productivity and loss of income as well.
Just as ADHD puts kids at higher risk of contact with the courts and law enforcement, ADD for adults carries significant health risks, such as increased cardiovascular problems and injuries, due to reduced use of preventive health measures as a result of forgetfulness, impulsive actions, and the like.
Conventional treatment for ADD/ADHD for both children and adults focuses largely on pharmaceuticals. However, drug therapy isn’t efficacious for everyone and carries with it adverse side effects for some. Additionally, drug therapy can be costly and has compliance issues that are complicated by the very symptoms it is looking to treat.
In addition to medication, people with ADD/ADHD often find relief by adjusting to a healthier diet lower in sugar and by managing other health issues, including:
- gluten sensitivity or intolerance (including Celiac disease)
- other digestive problems (such as leaky gut syndrome)
- nutritional deficiencies
- reactions to food additives
- exposure to chemicals and environmental triggers (including household cleaning products)
- lack of exercise
- need for cognitive and behavioral therapy
Essential oils remain another natural type of treatment for ADD/ADHD. Essential oils have been found to change brain wave patterns in positive ways by affecting the connection between the body’s olfactory system (the nose) and the brain’s limbic system, which partially governs functions associated with attention and hyperactivity. By simply inhaling essential oils, you or your child can improve focus, minimize distractions, and calm the mind for work, study, or sleep.
Ten 10 Essential Oils to Treat ADD/ADHD
Below you’ll find ten popular essential oils for relieving ADD and ADHD symptoms.
Remember that scent associations are important factors, too. If you associate lavender, for example, with uncomfortable experiences then, of course, it is not a good oil to use for this purpose. Even though it has calming qualities – if it has bad associations for you, then it offers little support!
Well known for its calming properties, lavender should not be a surprising inclusion at the start of the list of essential oils to treat ADD/ADHD. This essential oil has been well studied scientifically and found to be ideal for relaxation and the promotion of restful sleep. If you have a child that gets out of control and overstimulated at the end of a long day, or if you have trouble nodding off due to anxious thoughts, lavender is a good choice for you. You’ll find lavender in many essential oil recipes for attention deficit issues.
Vetiver essential oil balances the nervous system, which makes it perfect for people whose ADD or ADHD make them anxious, impatient, or hyped up. It revs up the circulatory system–great for brain power–without being over stimulating. Vetiver essential oil has been demonstrated in clinical settings to improve the ratio of theta to beta brain waves, moving users from a state of mental incoherence to one of calm alertness.
Cedarwood essential oil has effects similar to those of vetiver for people with ADD/ADHD. The sesquiterpenes in cedarwood essential oil improve oxygenation in the brain. In fact, a study involving school children showed they performed better and were more attentive in the classroom when they inhaled both cedarwood and vetiver essential oils several times daily, and improvements were seen in just one month or less.
Like lavender, Roman chamomile has a centuries-old reputation as a calming essential oil. For people who find themselves overstimulated due to ADD/ADHD, this essential oil is another must have. Not only does Roman chamomile essential oil help ease anxiety and hyperactivity, but it also promotes good sleep and helps free the mind from repetitive negative thoughts.
Mandarin, as a citrus essential oil, is a cheering scent, which makes it perfect when you need uplifting during depression or just general malaise. Because mandarin essential oil is mildly energizing and focusing it is popular with people who suffer from brain fog, such as those with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, etc.
Also known as “Immortelle” because of its strong life-extending antioxidant properties, helichrysum essential oil is also an anti-inflammatory. These two elements make helichrysum essential oil a good choice when exposure to toxins may have caused or may be exacerbating attention deficit problems. This essential oil is also wonderful for reducing spasms, so if muscle tension makes your ADD worse, it should be included in your recipes.
With its crisp, piney scent, rosemary essential oil is ideal for improving focus and mental clarity. It is a common ingredient in essential oil recipes for better studying and performance at work. In fact, rosemary essential oil has been clinically proven to improve cognitive performance overall.
Similar to rosemary, cypress essential oil has a fresh, outdoorsy aroma, and it helps the brain eliminate distractions and focus on the task at hand. It soothes sore muscles and also makes an excellent ingredient in natural household cleaning products that won’t worsen ADD or ADHD.
Frankincense essential oil offers users peace and tranquility, which is why it is a superb ingredient in blends to treat attention deficit problems that result in hyperactivity, anger, anxiety, and insomnia. Frankincense essential oil also facilitates the transfer of olfactory information to the brain’s limbic system, so when blended with other essential oils, it can improve their effectiveness in combatting ADD/ADHD symptoms.
7 DIY Essential Oil Recipes for ADD/ADHD
- 15 drops lavender EO
- 15 drops cedarwood EO
- 15 drops vetiver EO
- 1 tablespoon fractionated (liquid) coconut oil or grapeseed oil
- Combine the ingredients above in a small glass bottle with a rollerball top.
- Roll the bottle gently between the palms to blend the oils.
- Apply a drop or two as needed to the wrists, base of the throat, or temples to improve concentration while studying, working, or completing other tasks requiring focus.
- (Hint: you can also dab this mixture on a cotton pad and inhale it for the same effect.)
Calm Down Rollerball
- 30 drops lavender EO
- 15 drops vetiver EO
- 15 drops patchouli EO
- 10 drops frankincense EO
- 10 drops ylang-ylang EO
- 10 drops spruce EO
- 35 drops carrier oil of choice (argan, avocado, coconut, sesame, sweet almond, jojoba, grapeseed, macadamia)
- Mix the ingredients above in a glass bottle with a rollerball top.
- Roll the ball gently between the palms to completely blend the ingredients.
- Apply a few drops to the wrists when agitated or to the bottoms of the feet (especially on and around the big toe) for calming.
Chemical-Free Laundry Detergent
- 30 drops (or more to taste) lavender EO
- ¾ cup natural castile soap (use lavender scented soap for more aroma)
- ½ cup baking soda
- ½ cup washing soda laundry booster
- 2 gallons hot water
- In a 5-gallon bucket, add the washing soda and dissolve it with just enough hot tap water to turn it from powder to liquid.
- Add the baking soda and stir until it is dissolved.
- Add the hot tap water.
- Add the castile soap.
- Add the lavender EO.
- Stir thoroughly to mix.
- Pour into 1-gallon glass containers with airtight lids.
- Use instead of commercial laundry detergent to reduce ADD/ADHD exacerbated by chemical sensitivity.
- (Hint: you can add other essential oils for different scent varieties, but lavender is a good base for calming, chemical-free cleaning.)
Naptime Blend (for Inhalation or Foot Massage)
- 85 drops vetiver EO
- 30 drops ylang-ylang EO
- 20 drops frankincense EO
- 15 drops clary sage EO
- 10 drops marjoram EO
- 35 drops fractionated (liquid) coconut oil
- Combine the ingredients above in a small glass bottle with a rollerball top.
- Roll the bottle gently between the palms to thoroughly blend the oils.
- Apply a few drops and massage into the bottom of your child’s feet about 30 minutes before naptime to induce calmness and sleepiness.
- (Hint: you can also apply this mixture to a cotton pad and have the child inhale it for similar effects.)
Super Relaxing Massage Oil Blend
- 20 drops Roman chamomile EO
- 20 drops lavender EO
- 20 drops mandarin EO
- 60 drops jojoba oil (or massage oil base of choice)
- Combine the ingredients above in a glass bottle with a spill-proof top.
- Use for self-massage or give to your massage therapist for a relaxing treatment that targets tense muscles and pent-up anger.
Lavender Linen Spray for Better Sleep
- 15 drops lavender EO
- 3 ounces distilled water
- 1 tablespoon rubbing alcohol or witch hazel
- Combine the ingredients above in a small spray bottle.
- Spritz on bed linens for improved sleep (use before sleep and again when you make the bed in the morning).
- (Hint: you can combine other scents with the lavender EO for variety; good pairs include vanilla, ylang-ylang, rose, and Roman chamomile.)
Calming Play Clay for Kids (and Kids at Heart!)
- 6 drops lavender EO
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup salt
- 1 tablespoon cream of tartar
- food coloring (optional): red and blue combined, or purple
- Combine all the ingredients except for the lavender EO in a medium-size pot and whisk them together, adding the food coloring last.
- Heat on medium-high until the mixture begins to form clumps (warning: this can happen quite quickly).
- Keep stirring, and the mixture will begin to pull away from the sides of the pot.
- Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to wax paper.
- Once the dough has cooled, add the lavender EO and make sure it is well mixed.
- Store in a container with an airtight lid.
- Use whenever kids need a calming activity, such as before dinner, naptime, or bedtime (great to take to restaurants where kids get fidgety).
- (Hint: recipe can be multiplied for more children.)
Closing Tips for Using Essential Oils to Treat Attention Deficit Problems
Because you may be using essential oils to treat ADD/ADHD symptoms in your child, be extra careful when starting out. Consult your pediatrician first, especially if your child is very young. Start with diluted versions of essential oil recipes if necessary to test your child’s reaction (this is good advice for adult users too). Remind your child that any essential oils used are for external use only, and keep your oils and recipes away from little kids that might ingest them.
When treating children with essential oils for ADD/ADHD, you may want to use different oil blends for different symptoms or times of the day. The same oils that work in the morning to help get your child going and focused on school work may not be best for quelling insomnia or mitigating anxiety. Likewise, adults may need different
essential oils based on their particular symptoms; some people need to calm impatience and restlessness, while others, like women who suffer from menopause fatigue, need essential oils that offer improved focus and concentration without being overly relaxing.
Whether you are using essential oils yourself or employing them to treat your child, always do a patch test when trying a new oil. Test it on a small spot of skin before using it large scale on a larger area or the entire body.
Never discontinue your medications or those of your child just because you start using essential oils. You may be able to reduce or even eliminate some medications with natural treatments, but you should do this in concert with your healthcare provider.
While essential oils for ADD and ADHD are generally best administered through inhalation and topical routes, there are many ways to take advantage of these delivery methods! Have fun playing with different types of recipes, such as pillow mists and play clay (see recipes, above). And don’t forget you can make many recipes portable so that you can enjoy their relief at school, at work, and while traveling. (Talk to your child’s school first, if you intend to send any essential oil tools, like rollerballs, to the classroom with them; you may need to register the object with the school nurse or keep it at the teacher’s desk.)
The ten oils listed in this article are just a starting point for treating ADD/ADHD. Some other oils you may enjoy using for calm and focus include:
- clary sage