Regardless of whether or not you have a formal ADHD diagnosis, the herbs and other lifestyle suggestions discussed in this article, in general are known to support focus, attention, and cognitive skills, especially when they’re address the individual person’s patterns, root causes, and needs. All of the interventions discuss are potentially beneficial for adults of all ages, and many are also kid-friendly. (Kid-friendly herbs will be marked accordingly) Although this article is primarily focusing on ADHD what you will learn will benefit a range of cognitive concerns, eg. focus issues, brain fog, dementia prevention, and worsening memory.

Before we explore herbal support for ADHD, lets briefly explore diet and lifestyle approaches that may be more supportive, especially when combine in an overall management protocol


Numerous studies show that exercise improves cognition in all ages, including attentiveness and school performance for children with ADHD (Medina et al., 2010; Silva et al., 2015). In one study, children with ADHD who partook in intense physical activity – in the form of a relay race – followed by cognitive and attentive tests performed just as well children who did not have ADHD, approximately 30% better than children with ADHD who did not exercise (Silva et al., 2015). Regular aerobic exercise increases brain volume, stimulates the body to produce more neurons, and protects neurons from damage (Colcombe et al., 2006; Yuan et al., 2015). Aerobic exercise and resistance training also give a cognitive boost to high school students (Harveson et al., 2016).


Most parents of ADHD children will most likely say that they’ve seen the greatest changes in their children’s ADHD behavior with diet changes and you will find modern science is mostly on board with this approach also (I know this was the case with my ADHD son)

  • limiting sugar
  • eliminating food additives (especially dyes)
  • addressing food sensitivities
  • increasing omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil. 

A 2015 review of 52 studies on various dietary interventions for ADHD confirmed that elimination diets and fish oil were the most promising (Heilskov et al., 2015). Although the research is mixed, children with ADHD often also do not tolerate gluten, dairy, dyes, and additives (Feingold, 2018; Murray & Pizzorno, 2012; Winston, n.d.). In a study of 220 children, following an additive-free Feingold Diet improved symptoms in 73% of children with suspected “hyperactivity” (Rowe, 1988). Be wary of processed gluten-free products and an over-reliance on rice – they may increase exposure to lead and mercury (Raehsler, 2018), heavy metals associated with ADHD (Froehlich, 2011).


Many different herbs can be incorporated into a successful protocol that helps soothe ADHD symptoms to support attention, cognition, and mood. You’ll want to match them up with the individual, keeping in mind constitution, age, and the patterns for that person. Several categories of herbs provide support in ADHD, brain fog, attention, memory, focus, and mood. Several herbs perform more than one role.

Nootropics: “Smart herbs” support cognition, memory, and the brain’s nervous system (Groves, 2016; Winston & Maimes, 2007). Examples include:

  • Gotu kola
  • Bacopa
  • Rhodiola
  • Lion’s mane
  • Ginkgo
  • Holy basil
  • Rosemary

Adaptogens: These herbs help the body adapt to stress by modulating the endocrine and nervous systems. Most improve oxygen utilization, energy levels, and mood. Several have a particular affinity for cognition, with varying degrees of calming or stimulating properties (Groves, 2016; Winston & Maimes, 2007). Examples include:

  • Gotu kola
  • Schizandra
  • Ashwagandha
  • Holy basil
  • Eleuthero
  • Rhodiola

Nervine: These herbs nourish and support a healthy nervous system. They generally calm without being over-sedating, though some are more uplifting and others more relaxing (Groves, 2016; Winston & Maimes, 2007). Examples include:

  • Holy basil
  • Ashwagandha
  • Lemon balm
  • Milky oat seed
  • Gotu kola
  • Skullcap
  • Hawthorn

Calming Herbs: These herbs often overlap with nervines and calming adaptogens and promote a calm-alert state (Groves, 2016; Winston & Maimes, 2007).

  • Skullcap (may be too sedating for some)
  • Milky oat seed
  • Lemon balm
  • Bacopa
  • Gotu kola
  • Holy basil
  • Ashwagandha
  • Schizandra

Circulation Enhancer: These herbs support circulation to the brain, which improves the availability of vital nutrients and elimination of waste. Most are also antioxidant and anti-inflammatory (Groves, 2016).

  • Hawthorn
  • Rosemary
  • Ginkgo
  • Holy basil

Stimulants: These herbs tend to increase brain and/or dopamine activity to increase the alert state. Some people may feel over-stimulated, anxious, jittery, or have a difficult time sleeping, though others may feel paradoxically calm (Groves, 2016; Winston & Maimes, 2007).

  • Coffee
  • Chocolate/Cacao
  • Green tea
  • Rhodiola
  • Eleuthero
  • Schizandra (mild)
  • Ashwagandha (gentle)


ADHD & COGNITIVE BRAIN HEALTH - Herbal Materia Medica:  

Now that we have an overview of beneficial herbs, nutrion and lifestyle. Lets focus on some of our most useful herbal combinations for someone with ADHD, focus, memory, and cognitive issues. The goal is to find the best combination tailored to the individual, matching there most challenging issues based on there known patterns and behavious. Its is certainly not necessary nor advised to use every single herb mentioned above for every single person. Herbs can be useful on their own, but they work best in a combination formula alongside nutritional supplements, diet, good sleep hygiene and exercise.


Consider one or more of these herbs as the primary for your herbal protocol. They are safe, gentle, and majority receive a beneficial outcome. All are safe for children. NB: that all suggested doses are for adults.

LEMON BALM - Melissa officinalis

Melissa officinalis, commonly called lemon balm, is a bushy herbaceous perennial of the mint family that is typically grown in herb gardens and border fronts for its lemon-scented leaves. Lemon Balm calms, uplifts, and increases focus, and is especially useful for anxiety, overstimulation, frustration, anger, or irritation (Groves, 2016; Romm & Romm, 2000; Winston & Maimes, 2007).

It makes a nice supportive herb in blends. This nervine-nootropic has performed well in a variety of human cognition studies, including with ADHD children, adults, and college students, and seniors with varying degrees of dementia. 

Adult Dose: 1-5 ml fresh aerial/leaf tincture, 2-3 times per day. Glycerite at double the dose. Tea, 1 heaping teaspoon steeped for 5 to 15 minutes – this isn’t as strong as a fresh plant tincture, but it’s quite nice in combination with holy basil (Easley & Horne, 2016; Groves, 2016; Winston & Maimes, 2007).

Safety: Generally very safe and well tolerated. The tannins might upset sensitive stomachs, but taking it with food helps. Reduce dose or blend it with a mild uplifting herb if it’s too sedating.

Bacopa monnieri

Bacopa monnieri, also called brahmi, water hyssop, thyme-leaved gratiola, and herb of grace, is a staple plant in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. 

Bacopa also supports focus and calms anxiety without over-sedating; however, it’s slower acting. In Ayurveda, it’s called brahmi, a name sometimes shared with gotu kola. This nootropic nervine supports and protects brain function via various mechanisms for all ages and has a long history of use for cognition in India (Groves, 2016; Romm & Romm, 2000; Stough et al., 2013; Winston & Maimes, 2007). In adults and elders, those taking 300 to 450 mg of bacopa extract daily for 12 weeks saw the greatest improvements in memory free recall versus other cognitive tests (Pase et al., 2012). A review of nine studies noted better cognition, speed of attention, and decreased reaction time (Kongkeaw et al., 2014). ). A handful of studies found bacopa beneficial for school-aged children, particularly those with ADHD, with significant improvements in immediate memory, perception, reaction/performance times, learning, and memory tasks (Shinomol et al., 2011), and more bacopa research on children is underway (Kean et al., 2015).

Part Used: Aerial parts/whole herb

Adult Dose: Often utilized as a capsule or standardized extracts (follow label directions), you can also tincture if fresh or dried. Consider adding 10% glycerin to stabilize the tannins and formulate it with faster-acting, better-tasting herbs (Groves, 2016; Winston & Maimes, 2007). Combining it with rosemary may synergize its effect (Ramachandran et al., 2014).

Safety: Generally very safe and well tolerated, though it is quite bitter and astringent and might upset sensitive stomachs. Market quality is iffy, but it’s not hard to grow in a well-watered pot (Groves, 2019).





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