Rhodiola Rosea for Memory, Mood and Focus




Rhodiola does sound like a pasta shape. But, it is not.

Rhodiola rosea, or Rhodiola for short, is actually a very popular herbs used in Europe and Russia. If you have not heard of rhodiola, maybe you’ve heard of its other common names – Arctic root or golden root. People in Russia have been using rhodiola for years to treat fatigue, poor attention span and poor memory.

Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb just like ginseng. As an adaptogen, it helps the body resists stress, both physically and emotionally, while maintaining normal biological functions. You know how we are more susceptible to illness when we didn’t get enough rest, and working long hours. Rhodiola or ginseng will keep our body healthy longer until stressful conditions. This means the body can resist infection or fight off a cold or infection easier.

Rhodiola rosea may be effective for improving mood and alleviating depression. Its anti-depressive effect may be through its interaction with endorphin, the feel-good hormone, in the brain to reduce signs and symptoms of depressive.

Besides its beneficial effects on emotional health, rhodiola is also a great enhancer for mental performance. It has been shown to improve concentration, focus and memory, and reducing symptoms of fatigue. Pilot studies on human subjects show that it improves physical performance, and reduce symptoms of fatigue, stress and damaging effects of oxygen deprivation.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Rasavins and salidrosides are the two main categories of compounds in rhodiola rosea that are responsible for the antidepressant and anxiolytic effects. It is believed they stimulate the production of the neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine.

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that makes you feel good and happy. And dopamine is the one usually depleted in the prefrontal cortex of children with ADHD.

Rosavins and salidrosides also stimulate the production of epinephrine and norepinephrine, hormones that promote happiness and sense of well-being.

The adaptogenic effects come from the influence of rosavins and salidrosides in regulating the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. These compounds also have a positive effect on the central nervous system and cardiovascular system, promoting resistance to injury, stress, and fatigue. Rosavin and salidrosides suppress the stress hormone without supporting the immune system.

HOW IS RHODIOLA TAKEN?

Rhodiola is usually taken in capsule form. Suggested dose for children is 50mg, and 100-200mg for adults a day. Be sure to let your physician know you are planning to taking rhodiola as it may interaction with some of your prescription medication as it does influence the monoamine oxidase. This is especially true if you take any MAO inhibitors.

Always start off on a small amount and slowly increase to a dose that is controlling your symptoms and comfortable with you, even if it means you are not at the recommended dosage.

Be aware that this herb may make you moody or agitated, and may cause insomnia. Again, start slow and observe. Some individuals suggest taking the herb in the morning to avoid sleepless nights.

When purchasing Rhodiola you are looking for the 2 active ingredients – Rosavin (3%) and Salidroside (1%) ratio. Most formula come in 3% rosavin and 1% salidroside.

Just like ginseng, rhodiola should not be taken for prolonged period of time as it may lose its effect with prolonged use. Take a break every 1-2 months.





Meditation Increases Focus & Concentration in Children




You may look at meditation as a form of “mental exercise” that alters the level of consciousness of your by mind bringing your mind inward into your inner self.

Whatever that means…basically, it means shutting down the outside and stay inside, if you understand what I mean.

To me, being in a meditative state is like being in my own “Anna’s in the Wonderland”. You’ll kind of in between being awake and asleep.

It’s abstract…you have to try it to understand.

The practice of meditation has been around for over two thousand years, originating in countries in Southeast Asia. It has always been associated with religious rituals.

It is, in some ways, like prayers or religious chants, except that it has no religious boundaries. Anyone can practice this mental art form regardless of faith or belief.

The goal is to redirect one’s attention toward one’s inner self. It is a very spiritual and personal experience. It is a very unusual and mind-changing experience. Its experience is almost like a paradox – you’re supposed to not focus on anything, but the experience itself increases your awareness of your universe, which all of us are connected to. If you have not meditate before, I highly recommend that you try it.

I remember one time I was meditating after a group yoga lesson. It was only 10 minutes meditation at the end. My father has just passed away a few months early. All of the sudden I felt a very strong feeling that I missed my father, and felt this overwhelming sadness. Tears started pouring from my eyes and I just could not stop crying. It was a very strange feeling. It seemed like the meditating somehow allow my mind to finally relax and let the bottled emotions escaped.

It has many physiological benefits, and increasing focus and concentration is one of them. Thousands of researches and studies have shown the benefit of meditation and its effects on metabolism, blood pressure, brain activation, and other bodily processes. Scientists are interested in exploring its mechanism and benefits. However, after years of scientific studies we still have no knowledge of the exact mechanism of how the practice condones all these physiological benefits.

The most fascinating thing is that meditation can alter brain waves and brain activities. Now that we know our brain is capable of remodeling or rewiring itself throughout life.

It is a very calming and refreshing experience. Many description of meditation involves some kind of mental engagement that requires a lot of focus and concentration. And focus and concentration is what many children with ADHD are lacking. However, it does not mean meditation is impossible.

Start by looking at it as “quiet time”. Even if your child can’t sit with their eyes close for 5 minutes. Have them start by being quiet for 5 minutes, not making any noise or big movements. They can play with their stuffed animals, draw, or whatever they want. You can also play some soothing music in the background.

You can also do the “quiet time” right before bed. Snuggle with your child, read a story and kiss him or her good night. Then turn off the lights. Some children have difficulty falling asleep. Be firm and tell your child he or she has to stay in the dark room and not make noise. OK night light is allowed. Most children will eventually fall asleep.

 

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If your child has difficulty with falling asleep at night, you might want to look into Epsom salt bath and/or melatonin at bedtime. Both of these can help children with ADHD to wind down and be ready for bed.

The Epsom salt bath can help calm the body, and the sulfate in Epsom salt helps to improve the body’s detoxification system. Melatonin is a natural sleeping aid. It is suspected that children with ADHD have a natural tendency to not produce enough melatonin at night, when they need it most to fall asleep.

When we first started trying meditation, my daughter did not like it. Just the thought of sitting down and doing nothing for 5 minutes sounds like torture to her. She was 10 years old, so it is still quite easy to persuade her to do it. She would set her own timer on her watch, which gives her some feeling of control. We try to do it everyday, but of course it’s hit or miss.

After meditating several times, my daughter did acknowledge some benefits, such as feeling calmness, refreshed, and increased alertness which helps to clear her mind for mentally-demanding tasks. Now she does not fight me as much if I ask her to meditate before she tackles her homework. Yet, 5 minutes is still what she is up for.

For starter, aim for five minutes or less, something that you know your child can easily handle. Be sure to make it fun, otherwise, they are not going to do it again. I used to snuggle with my daughter in her bed at bedtime, then I would let her put one of her favorite stuffed animal on her belly while she is lying on her back.

I would ask her to take deep breaths until she sees her stuffed animal rises and falls on her belly. This helps to teach her the breathing part of the practice. The trick is taking long deep breaths that fill up the belly. Slowly you can add the counting from 1-10 to make the breaths longer.




Better Focus and Memory with Gingko Biloba




 

You have probably heard about this super herb, ginkgo biloba that helps with memory and focus. Research has shown that gingko is a powerful herb for boosting memory. However, that is just one of the many potential benefits Gingko has to offer.

Ginkgo has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It is traditionally used to treat respiratory issues such as asthma, wheezing, or coughing, incontinence, and digestive problems. It helps with circulation and is also used to cure depression and dementia, as well as for inner ear problems such as tinnitus or vertigo.

Its benefit for brain function is widely recognized. Ginkgo is used extensively to treat dementia in Europe. And the American Geriatric Society has also issue a statement that “Ginkgo biloba may help people suffering from Alzheimer’s.”

GINKGO BILOBA AND ADHD

Ginkgo leaves contain substances that thin blood and improve muscle tone in the walls of blood vessels to enhance blood flow, especially to the brain. Ginkgo enhances the nervous system by increasing blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain, which is frequently what the ADHD brain tends to lack. Ginkgo is also protects the brain against degeneration as a powerful antioxidant. Ginkgo helps to improve focus in the ADHD brain by inhibiting norepinephrine reuptake.

Ginkgo has shown good results in treating patients who have mental problems that are associated with circulation issues. These are issues such as memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. It has also shown positive results in the prevention of these diseases.

There is evidence that ginkgo leaf extract used in combination with American ginseng ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) showed improvement in ADHD symptoms such as anxiety, hyperactivity, and impulsivity in children age 3 to 17 year-old.

SUPPLEMENTATION

Extracts of Ginkgo leaves contain flavonoid glycosides and terpenoids (ginkgolides, bilobalides). Ginkgo leaf extract may be taken at 80-160ml twice a day. Studies have shown that ginkgo biloba is best used together with ginseng to get better results in mind clarity.

The herb is generally well tolerated, but due to multiple case reports of bleeding, it should be used cautiously in patients on anticoagulant therapy and those with known blood clotting disorders, or prior to some surgical or dental procedures.

Ginkgo may interact with medications. Please consult your physician before starting ginkgo leaf extract if you are taking any prescription medication for diabetes, blood pressure, seizure, etc.

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Ginseng for ADHD




Ginseng has many functions and benefits to our body and mind. However, we’ll be focusing only on its benefit in stimulating immune function, and, improving memory and symptoms of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children when used with Ginkgo biloba.

Panax, such as Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefoliusare, is an adaptogenic herb. It is characterized by the presence of ginsenosides. There are many other plants also known as ginseng, such as American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), Japanese ginseng (Panax japonicus), crown prince ginseng (Pseudostellaria heterophylla), and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). However, only American Ginseng and Panax ginseng contains ginsenosides. Although they are all called ginseng, each has its own very distinctive functions. True ginseng belongs to the Panax genus.

Ginsenosides, the active ingredient, in panax ginseng is most abundant in the leaves. However, the root of the ginseng plant is the most valued form. Ginseng is noted for being an adaptogen, one which can, to a certain extent, be supported with reference to its anticarcinogenic and antioxidant properties.

In traditional Chinese medicine, American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), which also contains ginsenoside, is considered to have a cooling property while Panax ginseng is warming. Japanese ginseng, though the same species as ginseng, is thought to have cooling properties.

HOW IT WORKS?

Individuals with ADHD is often chemically characterized by deficits in this pathway, which typically include reduced dopamine levels in the regions between neuronal cells throughout various key regions of the brain that are responsible for attention span, screening out irrelevant stimuli, and impulse control. As a result, children with ADHD frequent have inadequate dopamine in key regions of the brain, and norepinephrine as well.

Imbalances between dopamine and norepinephrine children with ADHD result in disruptions of physiological processes such as attention span, complex cognitive processes, auditory processing delays, and motor behavioral dysfunctions.

It is believed that ginsenoside may help alleviate some ADHD-related symptoms by boosting levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in these key brain regions, several of which are affiliated with ADHD. Herbal extracts of ginseng is shown to target the brain’s dopamine pathway and exhibit neuro-protective benefits for these pathways.

Interestingly, many stimulants used to treat ADHD also work by boosting levels of dopamine and norepinephrine.

Panax ginseng (Chinese/Korean Ginseng), abundant in ginsenosides Rg1, is shown to improve spatial learning and increase hippocampal synaptophysin level in mice. It is also shown that ginsenosides Rg1, extracted from Panax ginseng is able to mitigate the effects of the oxidative stress in the liver of exhaustive exercised rats.

SUPPLEMENTATION

Dried and peeled American ginseng is available in powder, capsule, extract, candies, or tea forms. These can easily be found in most Asian food stores. American ginseng maybe used in conjunction with gingko biloba.

For children, I would suggest not giving ginseng is a concentrated form, and give only half of the suggested serving on the container.

You may try making lemonade with honey and ginseng tea. The lemon and honey will mask the taste and smell of ginseng. Ginseng does have a very strong peculiar fragrant, especially when cooked or brewed.

You may use ginseng tea powder or granules, or brewed your own with sliced ginseng root (raw or dried).

Also, ginseng is not recommended for long-term daily use. Take ginseng in cycles of 15-20 days, with 2 weeks break between cycles. When I was little, my mom would make chicken and ginseng broth for us – only once in a while.

Ginseng may increase the effects of caffeine, antipsychotics, blood pressure drugs or steroidal medications. Please consult your physician before taking ginseng.




Vitamin B6 and ADHD




Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin and one of the vitamin B’s that make up the complex. It is found in one of three naturally occurring forms – pyridoxine, pyridoxal, pyridoxamine, and three respective 5′-phosphate esters. Pyridoxal 5′ phosphate (PLP) and pyridoxamine 5′ phosphate (PMP) are the active coenzyme forms of B6 that participate in amino acids metabolism.

Inside the body, the naturally occurring glycosylated forms of B6 in fruits and vegetables have to be converted by the liver to the active form the body needs. People with impaired liver function, celiac disease, older adults, and children with autism and/or ADHD have decreased ability in converting vitamin B6 into its active forms. Therefore, supplementing B6 in its active form is more appropriate and readily available for use by the body.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

PLP is necessary for the conversion of DOPA into dopamine, a neurotransmitter, and conversion of glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter, to GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It is also involved in the decarboxylation of SAM to propylamine.

ADHD is believed to be the result of decreased dopamine activity. Low dopamine level in the frontal lobes is associated with decline in cognitive functions, such as memory, attention and problem-solving skills, while deficient of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex is associated with attention deficit disorder.

Related article: ADHD Brain

Dopamine plays a major role in the brain system that is responsible for reward-driven learning, and inhibition control. Every type of reward that has been studied increases the level of dopamine transmission in the brain, and a variety of highly addictive drugs, including stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, act directly on the dopamine system. This is the same mechanism that caffeine works.

The other mechanism that B6 helps with ADHD symptoms is its use in combination with magnesium. Magnesium and vitamin B6 has a co-dependent relationship. While B6 boosts absorption of magnesium into the cells, magnesium is needed for the proper functioning of alkaline phosphatase, which helps the absorption of B6 into body tissues.

Signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency includes sensitivity to loud noises, insomnia, anxiety, hyperactivity, restlessness, panic attacks, salt craving, and both carbohydrate craving and carbohydrate intolerance. Children with ADHD are believed to have lower levels of magnesium inside their blood cells. Since B6 helps improve blood cell level of magnesium, supplementing magnesium along with B6 will help with ADHD symptoms.

SUPPLEMENTATION

A study of young children with average age 6-7 years old showed improvement in behaviors, such as inattention, aggressiveness and hyperactivity with treatment with magnesium and B6. The amounts used were 6 mg/kg/day magnesium and 0.6mg/kg/day B6 – roughly 100-200 mg of magnesium and around 10-20 mg of B6.

Children with ADHD and/or autism have lower conversion rates to PLP, the active form of vitamin B6. Therefore, supplementing with PLP is more appropriate and readily available for use by the body.




Caffeine as ADHD Treatment?

 

I wasn’t going to write about caffeine or coffee as an ADHD treatment. I don’t really know if it is consider natural at all, as it is also a stimulant like all other ADHD medications.

Anyway, I was in my office the other day talking to a co-worker in the afternoon when my boss walked in with a 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew in his hand. He loves Mountain Dew and he drinks a lot of it. I don’t know how much exactly, but I always see a bottle of Mountain Dew – big or small on his desk.

Then it dawns on me that I should write about caffeine. My boss is not hyperactive or anything. He hides in his office all day looking busy, but probably having hard time focusing on task. He talks 10,000 miles per hour, and talks people’s ears off. I’m pretty sure he has undiagnosed ADHD or ADD, and using caffeine as his treatment.

I started to learn about caffeine as ADHD treatment many years ago, when Child Psychiatry started sending their ADHD patients to see me. These children with ADHD are usually underweight because of poor appetite, an extremely common side effect of ADHD medications. I came across one patient who has mild ADHD symptoms. Instead of being put on medication, his/her psychiatrist suggested the family to give couple ounces of caffeine soda everyday, and it works.

At first I thought it was odd. But it makes perfect sense. All ADHD medications such as methylpenidate and amphetamines, are stimulants, and so is caffeine, except caffeine does not need prescription and readily available in beverages.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is an inability to regulate attention. Magnetic resonance imaging studies suggest a weakening of inhibitory signaling in the frontal cortex in the ADHD brain. Stimulants, such as caffeine, help stimulate the frontal cortex to wake up the area that regulates attention. And that’s how caffeine and other stimulants work. In a normal person without ADHD any stimulants will make this person wide-awake, hyper, anxious and even cause insomnia. However, in someone with ADHD, stimulants have the opposite effect. It calms the nerves, helps the brain focus and process information. It may make the person drowsy or sleepy too in some cases.

In the ADHD brain, stimulants, such as mehtylpenidate, amphetamines and even caffeine works by increasing dopamine levels and blocking the reuptake of norepinephrine in the brain.

SIDE EFFECTS Treating children with ADHD with caffeine is controversial. It may cause insomnia, nervousness, irritability and increased heart rate. And in a growing child, caffeine may also stunt growth. In my practice I always warn parents to avoid caffeine in their children’s diet. All ADHD medications have the same side effects.

Caffeine, like all other stimulants, suppresses appetite and stunts growth.

Most children take their medication in the morning with breakfast, so breakfast is usually their best meal of the day. Once the medication kicks in the appetite become non-existent. Then come evening when the medication wears off, their appetite is back.

WHAT TO DRINK? There are a lot of beverages, especially energy drinks that are loaded with caffeine. Do not try caffeine supplements or sports performance-enhancing supplements that are really loaded with caffeine. Those you have to be very careful, especially if you have any heart problem.

For children, 1-2 ounces of coffee will work. I find that coffee somehow works better than caffeinated soda. Not sure why, maybe the high fructose corn syrup in regular soda.

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Again consult your doctor or your child’s pediatrician/psychiatrist before adding caffeine or caffeine-containing beverages to the daily routine.

How much caffeine?

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