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ADHD and chamomile.

Niederhofer H. 2008. Observational study: Matricaria chamomilla may improve some symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Phytomed article in press.

At present the most common treatment method for children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is stimulant drugs such as D-amphetamine and methylphenidate. Despite their success rate, these still fail in 25% of cases, and may have many unwanted side effects (such as tics), forcing a search for second line agents such as drugs that affect the noradrenalin and serotonin systems, noradrenalin reuptake inhibitor desipramine and others.

While best known as a primary herb for the gastrointestinal tract, Matricaria chamomilla (chamomile) has shown itself in studies to be a serotonin and noradrenalin reuptake inhibitor, useful in the treatment of depression. Thus Italian scientists set out to conduct an observational study to determine if it may also have application in the treatment of ADHD.

After a 7 day wash out period, two 14-16 year old boys without concomitant disorders were administered the herb. Each boy was a long term sufferer of ADHD, diagnosed for over 6 years. One patient was given oral tablets of M. chamomilla three times daily (containing 100 mg Levomenol (extract 1:4.0 with ethanol 96%) and essential oil 0.19 g each) for four weeks and then switched to placebo. The other patient was first given placebo and then the active tablet.

Treatment produced a drop in the ADHD rating scale overall and in each of its three scores: the inattention score (drop from 14 to 9), the hyperactive/ impulsive score (drop from 13 to 7) and the total score (drop from 27 to 16). In contrast placebo produced scores similar to those recorded before the study began. A clinician unaware of the herbal intervention recorded scores of 2 (much improved) for the boys on the Clinical Global Impression of improvement score (compares current symptom severity to baseline severity).

No serious side effect or changes in laboratory test results were recorded over the verum period. There was a mild sedation noted by the clinician, but this soon abated.

Overall the results of this first study indicate that M. chamomillia produced an improvement in ADHD, albeit not as significant as the 50-60% improvement noted in trials for stimulant medications. This suggests the possibility of augmenting stimulant treatment with the herb, in order to give lower doses of pharmaceuticals. Treatment with M. chamomillia may also provide protection against tics, a common side effect of other medications. Further high standard, randomised, large sample clinical trials are necessary in order to fully investigate the efficacy of this intervention.

Tessa Finney-Brown MNHAA
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Author:Finney-Brown, Tessa
Publication:Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2009
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