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7 Best Supplements for ADHD

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Table of Contents

Can supplements help with ADHD? There’s evidence that some over the counter supplements for ADHD have benefits. Below is an in-depth guide to the specific supplements and vitamins for ADHD that can be especially helpful.

What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is one of the most common mental disorders that affect children.

Symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Inattention or being unable to focus.
  • Hyperactivity, which is excessive movement that’s not appropriate in the given setting.
  • Impulsivity, or behaving without thinking things through.

People are affected in most areas of their lives and throughout their lifetime when they have ADHD. It can lead to problems with social function, learning, and self-esteem.

As an adult with ADHD, you might experience extreme self-criticism and low self-worth.

When someone receives a diagnosis of ADHD, it often occurs when they’re school aged. The mental disorder is more commonly diagnosed among boys than girls, likely because of how the symptoms can appear differently. That doesn’t necessarily mean boys are more likely to have ADHD, but instead that the way they experience symptoms makes it more evident to people around them, such as teachers.

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Causes

Researchers aren’t entirely sure about the specific causes of ADHD, and evidence suggests genetics play a significant role in the development of ADHD. Still, as is true with most mental health disorders, there’s not currently any specific gene or combination of genes identified as the cause.

There is also evidence showing anatomical differences in the brains of ADHD children compared to kids without.

For example, in children with ADHD, there is usually reduced white and gray brain matter volume. There are also different areas of activation in brain regions in specific tasks.

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Treatment for ADHD

The treatment approach for ADHD usually includes a combination of medication and therapy.

Parent management training, school intervention, and other behavioral strategies are primarily used in younger children.

Based on current treatment guidelines, psychostimulants like amphetamines are the first-line medication-based treatment for ADHD. In preschool-aged children, only amphetamines are approved by the FDA, but treatment guidelines suggest using methylphenidate instead of amphetamines could be a better approach.

ADHD in Adults

Often, children diagnosed with ADHD will continue meeting the diagnostic criteria later in their lives. Adults with ADHD may also have impairments that mean they need ongoing treatment. Adults with ADHD can receive treatment that includes psychotherapy, medication, or a combination.

Behavioral management strategies like figuring out ways to minimize distractions can also help.

What Are ADHD Medications?

One reason that you might be looking for supplements or ADHD vitamins is that the conventionally prescribed medications for this condition do have side effects.

ADHD medicines help many people with focus, fidgeting, listening, and staying focused. These medicines work by helping chemicals in the brain function better, targeting neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in particular. These are chemicals that affect our concentration and attention.

Medications for ADHD can be broken into two broad categories—stimulants and non-stimulants.

  • Stimulant medications include methylphenidate, available under brand names like Ritalin and Concerta. Stimulants also include amphetamines like Adderall and Vyvanse.
  • Non-stimulant medications include Strattera and Kapvay.

When a healthcare provider prescribes a new medicine, they review other herbal medicines or vitamins. They’ll also learn more about the individual’s complete medical history.

A doctor usually begins with a low dose of a stimulant medicine. The doctor will then monitor for benefits and side effects. If it doesn’t work, the doctor might change the type of medication.

Side effects of ADHD medication can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Problems sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach pain
  • Jitteriness
  • Fast heart rate

Natural ADHD Supplements for Brain Function and Cognitive Function

The following are some of the best ADHD vitamins and over-the-counter supplements for ADHD.

1. Omega 3s

Omega 3 fatty acids are one of the most studied natural supplements for ADHD, with a wide range of research to support their use.

The American Psychiatric Association recommends everyone eat fish, especially fatty fish like tuna and salmon, twice a week. There’s also a recommendation that if someone has an impulse control disorder, they try to have at least one gram of fish oil daily.

So, why is that?

How Omega-3 Fatty Acids Help ADHD Symptoms and the Brain

It appears that omega-3 fatty acids help brains, especially one with ADHD, function more optimally.

Around 60% of our brains are made up of fat, and that means, as a result, our brains need dietary fat for well-being. Essential fatty acids are building blocks of fat, and fatty fish and fish oil supplements supply the bulk of the essential fatty acids your brain needs.

If you have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in your brain, the effects include the following:

  • The outer membrane of your neurons, or brain cells, degenerates
  • Neurons make less serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that controls mood and mental activity.
  • Your cellular receptors for dopamine can change, leading to lower dopamine levels.
  • Dendrites make fewer branches. Dendrites are brain extensions that move messages in and out of your neurons.
  • There are fewer synapses, which are bridges between neurons.

Almost every part of neurotransmission in the brain relies on omega-3 fatty acids.

These are important supplements for children and adults alike.

If either a child or an adult has a deficiency of omega-3s, it’s bad for their brain.

Some of the things to know about fatty acids and ADHD include the following:

  • In a study of hundreds of school-aged children, the ones who ate a diet low in omega-3 fatty acids had a 31% higher chance of an ADHD diagnosis.
  • Children diagnosed with ADHD have lower blood levels of fatty acids. In children with ADHD, their blood levels of omega-3s are 38% lower than children without the disorder on average. In a study of almost 500 school-aged children, those with lower blood levels of fatty acid DHA had more learning difficulties, hostility, and defiance.
  • Children with ADHD with low levels of DHA have disordered brain activity associated with a mental health disorder.

Research relating to the use of omega-3 supplements for ADHD includes:

  • In an analysis of data from 16 studies on ADHD, researchers at Oregon Health & Science University found that supplementing with omega-3s consistently leads to less hyperactivity, based on evaluations from parents and teachers. According to the review published in the Clinical Psychology Review journal, there’s evidence that omega-3s could be a viable supplement to medication and behavioral therapies for ADHD.
  • Australian researchers found that taking an omega-3 supplement every day for four months helped reduce symptoms in children with ADHD like inattention, disobedience, and hyperactivity.
  • German researchers found that supplementing with omega-3s helped working memory in children with ADHD.
  • In Israel, researchers found that supplementing children who had ADHD and had sleep problems with omega-3 led to better sleep, less fatigue during the day, and more cooperation with others.

The Best Omega-3 Supplement for ADHD

There are a lot of great omega-3 supplements for children and adults with ADHD, but my favorite is Thorne’s Omega Plus. Things to know about Thorne Omega Plus include:

  • It combines an optimal combination of omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids for brain health.
  • Thorne is the only supplement company that works with Mayo Clinic on wellness content and research.
  • Thorne does four rounds of testing for every product.
  • For more than 30 years, Thorne has been manufacturing their products.

How to Take an Omega-3 Supplement for ADHD: You should aim to get around 800 mg of EPA a day, 400 mg of DHA, and 100 mg of GLA with your supplement. Aim to take it anywhere from two to three times a day for the best results.

2. Magnesium

There’s some evidence to show that a mineral imbalance could play a role in the symptoms of ADHD. Some functional medicine practitioners recommend that one of the first places to start if you’re dealing with symptoms of ADHD and are looking for supplements is to correct trace mineral imbalances.

Magnesium is also a mineral, but not a trace mineral. Magnesium is a macromineral, and it’s required for hundreds of reactions in the body, including nerve and muscle function, DNA synthesis, and glutathione synthesis.

Magnesium is necessary for brain function. Bioavailable magnesium affects the function of neurotransmitters and how they bind to receptors like serotonin and dopamine. Magnesium can increase neurotransmission, and it can also normalize glutamate levels. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter. Magnesium plays a role in supporting the calming actions of GABA through its interaction with its receptor.

Over the past 100 years, magnesium has been increasingly declining in the food supply because of highly processed foods, soil depletion, and fertilizers. Refining grains removes about 80% of the original magnesium in food. Consuming refined sugars, caffeine and sodas can also deplete magnesium.

It’s estimated that around 50% of Americans in all age groups aren’t getting enough magnesium and are dealing with magnesium deficiency.

Around 95% of people with ADHD are magnesium deficient, and researchers have found that almost every child with a mental health disorder could benefit from a magnesium supplement.

How Magnesium Helps ADHD

In a recent study of children between 6 and 16 with ADHD, 72% were magnesium deficient. A significant correlation was identified between hair magnesium levels, total IQ, and hyperactivity.

The children who were deficient in magnesium were randomized to either take a 200 mg magnesium supplement daily or follow the standard medical therapy for eight weeks.

The children taking the magnesium supplements had improved impulsivity, inattention, hyperactivity, and opposition compared to the study participants just taking medicine alone.

Studies show magnesium supplements can have promising benefits for reducing ADHD symptoms, especially if they have vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 on its own is good for mental health, and it also helps with the absorption of magnesium.

In one study, children were given 100 mg of magnesium plus vitamin B6 daily for one to six months. In every child, instability, attention at school, spasms, and physical aggression all improved.

In other studies, magnesium treatment increased productivity, attention, and performance and decreased errors. Positive changes were also demonstrated in the EEGs of children who received magnesium.

What’s the Best Magnesium Supplement for ADHD?

There are a lot of types of magnesium, and they share similarities but also some differences. If your primary focus is on ADHD supplements, consider taking magnesium L-threonate, the most widely studied magnesium for ADHD and anxiety, mood, and cognition.

You can also use magnesium citrate, especially if the supplement is for a child, and that can be found as a gummy.

Magnesium supplementation is considered safe, but be careful about dosage because it can cause loose stools and some diarrhea.

My favorite type of magnesium supplement is NOW Supplements Magtein. I take this every day.

  • Contains L-threonate
  • Specifically formulated for cognitive support
  • Helps with brain health and cognitive function by maintaining the stability and density of neuronal synapses
  • A patented form of magnesium that crosses the blood-brain barrier
  • May facilitate learning, memory, and a relaxed mood

How to Take Magnesium for ADHD: If you take magnesium for ADHD, follow the instructions from the supplement maker. With Magtein, you can take one capsule in the morning and two in the evening before bed. Don’t exceed the dosage from the supplement maker to avoid gastrointestinal symptoms.

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3. L-Tyrosine

There are some reports that L-tyrosine is a natural Adderall replacement or an effective ADHD supplement. Of course, you don’t want to replace your medication without speaking to your doctor, but there are some compelling indications that L-tyrosine could be one of the best ADHD supplements.

L-tyrosine is one type of tyrosine. Tyrosine is a nonessential amino acid, meaning it’s one your body produces if you don’t get it from your diet. As is true with other amino acids, tyrosine needs plenty of sources of protein to be produced.

Tyrosine helps produce neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine, dopamine, and epinephrine.

While it’s sometimes called a natural Adderall, L-tyrosine is unique and not a stimulant.

How L-Tyrosine Helps ADHD Symptoms

Unlike stimulants, L-tyrosine can help symptoms of ADHD because it raises levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, potentially improving focus, attention, and memory.

There have been a lot of studies that look at the benefits of L-tyrosine for mental health and function.

For example, in a 2015 review, the conclusion was that tyrosine could help improve knowledge acquirement.

In a 2015 study of adults, tyrosine helped enhance cognitive flexibility, such as the ability to come up with unique ideas or adapt to changes in circumstances.

One of the critical characteristics of an ADHD brain is low dopamine. When people have low dopamine levels, they are wired to want to seek out more. They want to find ways to get that dopamine rush, which can contribute to problematic behaviors. Since L-tyrosine can raise dopamine naturally, it may be beneficial.

What’s the Best L-Tyrosine Supplement?

I also take L-tyrosine every day. My favorite supplement is NOW Supplements Extra Strength L-Tyrosine.

 

  • Supports neurotransmitters and mental alertness
  • Helps support a positive mood
  • Promotes better responses to acute stress
  • May also help with things like brain fog and lack of energy
  • Pharmaceutical grade

How to Take L-Tyrosine for ADHD: Take just one capsule daily with the NOW Supplements brand of L-tyrosine. It’s a 750 mg dose higher than many other supplements, so one is enough.

4. Zinc

Zinc is an essential nutrient that plays a role in immune function and metabolism. Zinc is also part of wound healing and your sense of smell and taste.

As an essential nutrient, your body can’t produce or store zinc, so you have to get enough from the food you eat or a supplement.

After iron, zinc is the second-most abundant trace mineral in the body, with a presence in every cell.

Increasingly, researchers are learning about the benefits of this essential mineral and zinc supplementation for mental health and neurotransmitter function, including for anxiety and depression symptoms.

So why does zinc affect mental health?

First, it directly affects our neural processes, according to a 2017 study.

Zinc is also associated with serotonin and dopamine production.

Zinc helps elevate levels of something called brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF in the parts of the brain that control our emotions. If we have low zinc levels, BDNF levels can decline. 

In 2011, a study found low zinc levels could lead to lower GABA levels. GABA is a neurotransmitter that blocks specific signals to reduce stress, fear, and worry. Zinc supplements can raise GABA levels, therefore helping reduce anxiety symptoms. In a 2019 study, the regular use of a multivitamin-mineral supplement improved anxiety in young people between 18 and 24.

A 2019 study in Japan found that low levels of zinc and magnesium, and copper led to anxiety and depression.

In a 2021 study of older adults, using zinc supplements significantly reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. A 2017 review found a link between low zinc levels and depression, and it found that supplementing with zinc could help improve symptoms of depression.

In a 2011 review, zinc was found to improve mood disorder symptoms like depression because it reduces inflammation. Inflammation can lead to inhibited cognitive performance and brain function.

How Does Zinc Help with ADHD?

Research supports the role of zinc deficiency in the development and severity of ADHD.

There was a study of 44 kids who had a diagnosis of ADHD. Before the trial, none of the children had taken any medicines for their symptoms. During the first six weeks of the trial, half the children took 55 mg of zinc daily in addition to conventional treatment, and the other half took a placebo.

The behavior of both groups of children improved throughout the study, but the kids taking the zinc supplements had a more significant improvement in their condition after six weeks.

There was also evidence to suggest the zinc supplement reduced some of the symptoms of conventional medicine, like nausea.

Another study found a link between the severity of ADHD symptoms and zinc deficiency and serum zinc levels.  

Zinc is required by the body to convert vitamin B6 to an active form. Vitamin B6 helps with ADHD symptoms. Zinc also promotes melatonin production, and melatonin helps with dopamine production and regulation. Zinc can also potentially increase the effectiveness of methylphenidate, which is used to treat ADHD.

What’s the Best Zinc Supplement for ADHD?

My pick for the best zinc supplement to improve ADHD symptoms is UltraZin from Pure Encapsulations.

  • Top-rated on Amazon
  • Uses microencapsulation technology to improve bioavailability and absorption
  • Made with premium ingredients
  • No fillers, gluten, artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners
  • Tested to verify potency and purity

How to Take Zinc for ADHD: The dose of zinc for ADHD depends on age and a few other factors. For example, children between birth and three years old need 2-4 mg daily. Children between the ages of four and six need around five mg a day, and children between 7 and 10 need 7 to 9 mg. Adult men need approximately 11 mg of zinc daily, and women need around 8 mg. You can take too much zinc, which can be dangerous, so follow the instructions on the supplement you use.

5. Iron

When discussing herbal supplements and the best ADHD vitamins, iron is important.

Iron carries oxygen to our organs and muscles but also affects dopamine production in the brain.

In a 2004 study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 84% of children with ADHD had significantly low iron levels. This was compared with 18% of kids who didn’t have ADHD and had low iron levels.

The lower the ferritin levels, the more severe the symptoms were found to be. Ferritin is a protein that’s in the cells that store iron.

A study published in Pediatric Neurology showed symptoms improved when children with ADHD who were iron deficient took a supplement.

Low levels of iron might also be a factor in Restless Leg Syndrome, which frequently affects children and adults with ADHD. In 2003, in a study published in the journal Sleep, their symptoms improved when children with restless leg syndrome were given a supplement.

How Does Iron Supplementation Help ADHD Symptoms?

Iron affects the synthesis and signaling of dopamine, noradrenaline, and adrenaline. These brain chemicals involve attention, reward, emotion, movement, and other functions.

As well as playing a role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, iron also affects other steps in the signaling process of neurotransmitters. When someone has an iron deficiency, it disrupts their normal dopamine signaling, and low dopamine levels are thought to be related to ADHD in adults and children.

The Best Iron Supplements for Kids with ADHD

If you have a child with ADHD, you should use a supplement that’s specifically for their age group because iron overdoses can occur and can be very dangerous. My favorite iron supplement for kids is Nuvamin Liquid Liposomal Iron Drops.

  • Vegan
  • No metallic aftertaste
  • Specifically designed for kids, babies, and children
  • Liposomal formulation for better absorption and bioavailability
  • Iron is efficiently delivered into the bloodstream without side effects
  • Vegan
  • No metallic aftertaste
  • Specifically designed for kids, babies, and children
  • Liposomal formulation for better absorption and bioavailability
  • Iron is efficiently delivered into the bloodstream without side effects

The Best Iron Supplement for Teens and Adults with ADHD

For adults, my favorite iron is Thorne Ferrasorb.

  • Contains 36 mg of iron and essential nutrients
  • Includes elemental iron
  • Folate, B, and C vitamins for the best absorption
  • Pure ingredients
  • Unique formula to build the blood

How to Take Iron for ADHD: If you think that you or your child has an iron deficiency, you should have bloodwork done before you start a supplement. From there, if you are deficient, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

6. Vitamin C

There are a lot of vitamins to help with ADHD, and one of those is vitamin C. Vitamin C is a critical component of healthy brain function. Our brain uses vitamin C to make neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine and dopamine.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, and it’s also known as ascorbic acid. A water-soluble vitamin dissolves in water and can be delivered to the body’s tissues, but it’s not stored, so you need to get adequate amounts daily from your food or a supplement.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps heal wounds and plays a role in controlling infections. Vitamin C is needed to make collagen and allows your body to make several hormones and chemical messengers in the brain.

Vitamin C can help improve the absorption of non-heme iron in plant-based foods. If you drink just a bit of orange juice with a meal that’s rich in iron, it can boost absorption.

You might think you’re getting enough vitamin C from your diet, or your child is. In reality, vitamin C is destroyed by light and heat, so if you’re cooking foods with vitamin C, it’s likely being degraded and destroyed.

How Does Vitamin C Help with ADHD?

When discussing vitamins to help with ADHD and what vitamins are good for ADHD in teenagers, children, and adults, it’s important to discuss vitamin C.

Vitamin C regulates neurotransmitter biosynthesis, including dopamine.

Vitamin C is a cofactor for dopamine.

Brain neurons have some of the highest levels of vitamin C in any tissue.

Research shows that supplementing with vitamin C can reduce hyperactivity symptoms in children.

What’s the Best Vitamin C Supplement for ADHD?

The vitamin C that I use every day is  Mary Ruth’s Megadose Vitamin C Liposomal.

  • Enhanced absorption because it’s liposomal
  • Greater bioavailability than unencapsulated vitamin C
  • Liquid form that’s easy to take
  • Made in a GMP facility (Good Manufacturing Practice)
  • Also includes vitamin E

How to Take Vitamin C for ADHD: If you’re going to try this supplement for ADHD, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you try this vitamin as a supplement, you should be aware that it can interfere with the absorption of medications for ADHD. Vitamin C shouldn’t be taken an hour before or after ADHD medications.

7. B Vitamin Complex

A vitamin B complex can be essential among nutritional supplements to support brain function, and vitamins are among the most critical natural ADHD supplements.

There’s evidence to suggest that B vitamins are helpful not only for ADHD symptoms but also for general memory and cognitive function. They might even help with symptoms of autism spectrum disorders.

B vitamins include:

  • B1 or thiamin
  • B2 or riboflavin
  • B3 or niacin
  • B5, which is also called pantothenic acid
  • B6, also called pyridoxine
  • B9, which is folate or folic acid
  • B12 also called cobalamin

These vitamins help enzymes do various jobs, including releasing energy from fat and carbohydrates and breaking down amino acids. B vitamins are also an essential part of a healthy immune system.

B vitamins help manage energy levels, and they help with the regulation of hormones. Having adequate B vitamins can help with emotional regulation, brain functioning, mental focus, sleep disturbances, and decreased anxiety. People with ADHD tend to have issues in these areas.

Evidence shows that levels of certain vitamins, including B vitamins, affect at least the severity of symptoms in ADHD. In a study from 2017, adults with ADHD may have lower levels of B vitamins than people without ADHD.

Why Are B Vitamins Helpful for ADHD?

Among children’s supplements for ADHD and vitamins to help with ADHD in adults, B vitamins are critical.

Deficiencies in B vitamins can worsen ADHD symptoms like irritability. B vitamin deficiencies can also cause fatigue, but adequate levels, especially vitamin B6, can decrease symptoms of ADHD, improve alertness and reduce anxiety.

What’s the Best Vitamin B Complex for ADHD?

My favorite B vitamin complex is the Active B-Complex from Integrative Therapeutics.

  • Includes all eight B vitamins.
  • Also has choline which supports healthy brain function
  • Helps with the synthesis of serotonin, dopamine, and GABA
  • Gluten-free and vegan
  • No artificial flavors, colors, or artificial sweeteners
  • Formulated with Quatrefolic L-methyl folate, which is highly bioavailable

How to Take a Vitamin B Complex for ADHD: If you’re going to take a B vitamin complex for symptoms of ADHD, follow the manufacturer’s instructions because they can all vary between products.

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Other Supplements for ADHD

Along with the supplements highlighted above, other vitamins and herbal remedies that may be helpful include:

  • Vitamin D: There is research to show that vitamin D supplementation can potentially lead to significant improvements in ADHD total scores, including inattention and hyperactivity scores.
  • Melatonin: People with ADHD often have a delay in melatonin onset, meaning it takes longer to fall asleep, and they tend not to get adequate sleep. Around 25-50% of people with ADHD have a sleep disorder, so children and adults with the condition might benefit from a melatonin supplement.
  • Gingko Biloba: Among herbal remedies, ginkgo Biloba might be helpful for adults and teens with ADHD.
  • Probiotics: Probiotic supplementation can help ADHD and mental health disorders because your gut creates neurotransmitters.

Final Thoughts

For symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, there are natural options available. Some of the best supplements for this mental health disorder in adults and children are vitamins.

There is growing evidence showing the links between diet, vitamin deficiencies, and mental health disorders, including ADHD.

Of course, treating ADHD isn’t something you should try on your own or only with an herbal remedy or vitamin. It can be complex, and you should speak to a medical professional before trying any natural remedies.

Suppose you or your child take a stimulant medication currently. In that case, you should be especially careful about natural remedies or even supplementing with vitamins because there could be interactions with the treatment plan. This isn’t medical advice; you should always speak to a medical professional before trying an herbal remedy or vitamin supplement.

To recap, some of the most important natural supplements and vitamins for ADHD include omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, B vitamins, iron supplements, zinc, and magnesium supplement. Others that may be helpful include vitamin D and probiotics.

If your child has ADHD, you might want to have them tested for food allergies and explore other natural treatment options, like cutting out eating foods high in sugar or highly processed. You might consider a gluten-free diet too, which looks promising in currently available research. When you combine natural supplements with lifestyle changes, you’re likely to see the best outcomes.

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