Herb does not ease ADHD

Taking St. John's Wort for ADHD is no better than a placebo.

St. Johns Wort, from NIH, courtesy ADAMTaking St. John's Wort for ADHD is no better than a placebo.

(Picture from the NIH, which says it may help in cases of mild depression.)

Wendy Weber of Bastyr University in Kenmore, Wash., , a naturopathic physician, studied 54 children with ADHD who were not on other medications or diagnosed with an additional condition like bipolar disorder.

She gave half the group pills which were 0.14% hyperforin, which is said to be the active ingredient in the herb, and gave the others nothing. There was no difference between the two groups.

Critics will question the randomness of the study, and note that newer St. John's Wort pills contain much more hyperforin. But this was a peer-reviewed piece of research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Readers may know this is a personal subject to me. I was diagnosed with ADHD in 1964, and my kids were diagnosed in the mid-1990s.

MRIs of ADHD kids show some brain structures develop later than in other kids, mainly those which are socially trained in kindergarten.

Once these structures develop and are trained later in life, symptoms may improve, but you're still talking about a fairly dysfunctional childhood. And many problems never completely go away -- I still lose my temper and where are my keys?

The idea that an herbal pill, as opposed to a drug, will "cure" this condition in young children is absurd on its face. But 30% of ADHD kids get no relief from the drugs, either.

Personally I've found that long-term therapy and "owning" the condition, accepting its deficits while embracing its enhancements, works best. And many ADHD kids are brilliant. If seen as a difference and not a deficit there is hope.

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