Natural supplements may be an alternative or addition to ADHD medication, though it’s important to check with your doctor first.
- Best for neurological balance: Polyphenols
- Best for neurotransmitter balance: Vitamin C
- Best for cognitive function: Zinc
- Best for decreasing hyperactivity: Iron
- Best for emotional regulation: Magnesium
- Best for enhancing focus and memory: Omega-3 and omega-6 fats
- Best for improving attention span: L-theanine
- Best for promoting healthy gut and brain function: Fermented foods or probiotics
- Best for improving sleep quality: Melatonin
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common condition that causes impulsivity, inattentiveness, and/or hyperactivity among children and adults.
People living with it may experience challenges with learning, focusing, sleeping, navigating relationships, and more.
Medication is a popular way to manage ADHD symptoms. But there are other options available for those who want to try a different approach. One alternative is supplements.
There are many benefits of natural supplements for ADHD in adults and children.
For starters, supplements can serve as an excellent addition to commonly prescribed medications.
But “where traditional therapies address just a few of the brain chemicals involved in attention, it’s a delicate balance of factors governing the presence or absence of ADHD,” explains Uma Naidoo, MD, nutritional psychiatrist, professional chef, nutrition specialist, and author of the bestseller “This Is Your Brain on Food.”
“Supporting brain health for cognition and focus also confers holistic benefit to mood, development, and healthier aging,” she adds.
On the other hand, some people are hesitant to take ADHD medication, for whatever reason. And that’s OK.
For those who’d like a different approach to ADHD management, natural supplements may be a great alternative for improving brain functioning and overall quality of life.
Still, it’s good to remember that research on supplements for ADHD is often limited, and study results may be mixed.
Plus, everyone is different, so what may work for one person may not work for you. That’s why it’s helpful to discuss different options with a healthcare professional, nutritionist, or both.
With tons of supplements on the market, it can be challenging to figure out which ones are best.
Here’s how we picked our list of the top natural ADHD supplements:
- expert insight
- anecdotal evidence
- consumer reviews
- available research
Plus, the specific supplements we’re suggesting in each section are manufactured according to high-quality standards by reputable brands.
Best for neurological balance: Polyphenols
“Polyphenols are naturally occurring plant nutrients which serve as powerful antioxidants while strengthening the immune system,” Naidoo says.
She notes that they also play an important role in restoring neurological balance in people living with ADHD.
Naidoo says the brains of people with ADHD may be more prone to oxidative damage. But consuming polyphenols may help reduce it, either through supplements or “eating the rainbow.”
For example, polyphenols can be found in:
Best for neurotransmitter balance: Vitamin C
“For similar reasons as above, vitamin C may prove key as a dietary approach to ADHD management due to its antioxidant properties as well as being a necessary element of neurotransmitter balance in the brain, especially dopamine,” Naidoo says.
Research on ADHD and vitamin C specifically is limited. A
However, it’s unclear whether the improvements were due to vitamin C, flax oil, or the combination of both.
Naidoo says some of her favorite sources of vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) include:
- citrus fruits
- red bell peppers
Best for cognitive function: Zinc
Micronutrients like zinc play a major role in the brain and ADHD, says Naidoo.
“Where zinc modulates reward pathways in the brain, which govern focused activity, a
Upping your zinc intake may help you improve brain function, including neurotransmitter production. You can do this by taking a zinc supplement or eating foods rich in zinc, like nuts and shellfish.
Best for decreasing hyperactivity: Iron
Research suggests there’s a correlation between ADHD symptoms and low iron, since a lot of people with ADHD have low iron scores.
There isn’t too much research on whether or not taking iron will definitely help, but older studies suggest it could. On the other hand,
If it’s difficult for you or your child with ADHD to eat iron-rich foods, like beans, lentils, or dark green leafy vegetables, Naidoo suggests:
- adding a handful of spinach to a smoothie
- topping soups with arugula
- mixing kale into a Tuscan white bean stew
- snacking on crispy homemade roasted baby spinach “chips”
You can also consume the nutrient itself by taking an iron supplement. But be careful with the dosage, as too much iron can lead to iron poisoning.
Best for emotional regulation: Magnesium
“Magnesium is well known for its relaxing effects on the body and brain,” Naidoo says.
Plus, it’s unclear whether magnesium, vitamin D, or the combination of both improved symptoms in that study.
Naidoo explains that magnesium may help promote a sense of calmness in people with ADHD, including those who experience difficulty regulating their emotions.
“In those taking stimulant medications, a healthy dose of magnesium by what they eat at dinner may help insomnia,” Naidoo adds.
Great food sources of magnesium include:
- dark chocolate (75% and darker)
- whole grain brown rice
It’s important to dose magnesium appropriately, though. Too much magnesium can be toxic and lead to digestive problems.
Best for enhancing focus and memory: Omega-3 and omega-6 fats
Naidoo adds that they’re essential to healthy brain function, mood, and cognition.
“They’ve also shown to improve medication compliance and may allow for reductions in medication dose,” she says.
While omega-6s are abundant in our food supply, some people find it harder to get enough omega-3s. Some sources of healthy omega-3s in whole foods include:
- wild-caught fatty fish, like salmon
- chia or flaxseeds
Best for improving attention span: L-theanine
“Herbs, vitamins, [and] foods rich in certain antioxidants [containing] L-theanine can heighten focus, calmness, and alertness without the side effects of stimulant medications, including higher blood pressure and insomnia,” Naidoo says.
Taking a supplement with L-theanine or both ingredients may help relieve these ADHD symptoms. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that this study was very small, and what works for some people may not work for others.
Best for promoting healthy gut and brain function: Fermented foods or probiotics
Fun fact: Naidoo says the bacteria in our gut can produce all of the neurotransmitters in the brain. This means that gut health is just as important as brain health for ADHD management.
“ research has linked a more diverse, healthy gut microbiome to improved cognitive function and even preventing ADHD symptoms,” she says. “Eating fermented foods rich in these healthy microbiota can provide benefits to ADHD symptoms.”
Fermented foods, like kimchi and kombucha, might be an acquired taste. But they can be a delicious and helpful aid for brain function.
Can’t get past the flavor? Consider taking a fermented foods supplement or probiotics instead.
Best for improving sleep quality: Melatonin
You might know melatonin as a popular sleep supplement. It’s a go-to sleep aid for many people for good reason.
For folks with ADHD-related sleep problems, taking melatonin may help them wind down at night and get a better night’s sleep.
Limited or anecdotal evidence suggests that other supplements may be helpful for people with ADHD, including:
Still, as with all supplements, it’s important to discuss their use with a healthcare professional to assess potential risks and the ideal dosage for you.
Natural supplements for ADHD in children and adults may help enhance:
- brain functioning
- sleep quality
- attention span
Some of the best supplements to try include:
- omega-3 fatty acids
Taking supplements can be a great alternative or additive to prescribed medication. But before you try any new products, we encourage speaking with a healthcare professional to discuss whether they’re right for you based on your mental and physical health condition(s).