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Can Nootropics Help With ADHD? (Based on Medical Research)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, better known as ADHD, is a complex issue. And while there’s no cure for it, people control it with counseling, therapy, and medications.

One set of medications used for controlling ADHD is nootropics. But the question arises if these medications are potent enough to help with symptoms of ADHD.

To answer this, I teamed up with a psychiatrist and dietician and spent a week reading and discussing as many articles on the effects of the best nootropic for ADHD as I could find.

Here’s what we found.

Quick Summary

  • Safe consumption of nootropics can increase cognitive performance, improve brain health, and help treat certain medical conditions such as ADHD.
  • You can treat ADHD directly by taking prescription medications and therapeutic interventions.
  • While nootropics can help alleviate symptoms of some mental illnesses, they don’t cure them; that requires therapy and other measures.

Can Nootropics Help With ADHD?

A doctor and patient talking about nootropics for ADHD

Yes, nootropics can help with ADHD by enhancing cognitive function and improving brain health.

Before we get into how nootropics can help treat ADHD, let’s first understand what this mental disorder exactly is.

What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is one of the most common mental disorders that affect children. It's a neurological disorder that affects parts of the brain responsible for planning, focusing, and executing tasks.

People with ADHD usually have trouble focusing, organizing, and controlling impulses, along with some other common symptoms [1].

The most common ADHD symptoms include:

  • Short attention span
  • Making careless mistakes often
  • Losing possessions quite often
  • Difficulty organizing
  • Constant task switching
  • Inability to listen to instructions
  • Inability to concentrate on time-consuming tasks
  • Inattentiveness (difficulty concentrating and focusing)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Inability to sit still or stay calm
  • Excessive physical movement or talking
  • Impulsive actions
  • Interrupting conversations
  • Little to no sense of danger

What Does ADHD Do to the Brain?

A person suffering headaches from ADHD

ADHD throws your thought-regulating neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) off balance, which impacts your attention, working memory, and impulse control.

While scientists are still trying to figure out what exactly goes behind ADHD, the most popular hypothesis is that the disorder affects the balance of the following neurotransmitters:

  • Norepinephrine: Helps manage attention, vigilance, and sleep cycle [2].
  • Dopamine: Manages motivation and reward/gratification function [3].
  • Epinephrine: Stimulates the brain for quick thinking under stress and mental fatigue [4].

How Do Nootropics Combat ADHD Symptoms?

Nootropics combat ADHD symptoms by targeting the neuroreceptors that help with attention performance: norepinephrine and dopamine [5].

By promoting these chemicals and enhancing healthy brain function, nootropics can safely fight the effects of attention deficit disorder.

While ADHD nootropics can improve ADHD symptoms, they cannot cure them.

Best Ones for ADHD

A woman holding up a white blank pill bottle

The best nootropics for ADHD come in two categories: natural nootropics and prescription drugs (ADHD drugs).

5 Best Natural Solutions

The following are the best natural nootropics for ADHD.

1. Tyrosine

Tyrosine is a naturally-occurring amino acid that’s responsible for synthesizing the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine [6].

These neurotransmitters play a crucial role in maintaining mood regulation [7].

And since ADHD affects dopamine and norepinephrine levels, L-Tyrosine may help balance them.

ADHD can also cause your stress levels to increase, which affects your cognitive abilities.

L-Tyrosine is believed to enhance brain functioning, task switching, and working memory, which can help curb stress [8].

2. Maritime Pine Bark Extract

Maritime is considered one of the best ADHD nootropics because of its ability to sustain dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain [9].

It can also raise nitric oxide (NO) levels, which relaxes your blood vessels and increases blood flow to the brain [10]. Increased blood circulation can boost brain performance [11].

This herb also contains powerful antioxidants called OPC. They cross the blood-brain barrier and enhance neuroprotective activity in the brain [12].

3. L-Theanine

The chemical symbol for L-Theanine about green powder

L-theanine is a natural amino acid found in green tea. It’s especially helpful for managing ADHD symptoms like impaired focus and sleep deprivation.

L-theanine can help raise Alpha brain waves, which plays an important role in managing attention [13].

And additional research shows that L-theanine–caffeine combination can have a positive effect on sustained attention and inhibitory control among children with ADHD [14].

4. Citicoline

Citicoline is a nootropic known for its brain-energizing effects. Decreased brain energy is associated with ADHD, so citicoline’s ability to help mitochondria fire more effectively can help clear brain fog [15].

Citicoline is known for supporting norepinephrine and dopamine production, which may help with mood regulation for people with ADHD [5].

5. Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba extract may improve symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to some studies [16].

A 2014 study found that children who took 240 mg of Ginkgo biloba extract daily for 3–5 weeks showed reduced symptoms of ADHD with little to no side effects [17].

It’s not as strong or effective as medications like methylphenidate, but it's a natural remedy that can be used to treat mild symptoms.

Prescription Nootropics for ADHD

A doctor writing a prescription on a clipboard

While our recommendation is to start out with all-natural nootropics, certain instances require more serious intervention and, therefore, a strong set of nootropics.

This is where prescription medication for ADHD comes into the picture.

After a careful analysis of many clinical studies, we listed out the best and safest prescription nootropics for treating ADHD:

  • Adderall: This is the most commonly prescribed drug for ADHD patients because its effects are very potent. However, it might be too strong at times and lead to insomnia [18]. We recommend strictly going with what your doctor recommends.
  • Ritalin: This drug is used for children with ADHD. It controls impulsive behavior and allows them to concentrate better. It’s also used to treat adults with ADHD or sleep narcolepsy [19].

Can You Take Smart Drugs for Mental Health?

A person taking smart drugs for his mental health

Yes, you can take nootropics as smart drugs for mental health.

Many of the drugs for mental disorders are prescription medications which include synthetic nootropics, but they should only be used if prescribed by a doctor.

However, natural nootropic supplements and nootropic foods may also help alleviate symptoms of certain cognitive issues and disorders.

Taking smart drugs has the following benefits:

  • May help control symptoms of certain disorders
  • Repairs and maintains brain cells
  • Boosts mental performance and cognitive ability
  • Increases flow to boost brain function and cognitive enhancement
  • May help with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease
  • May help with neurological disorders like sleep narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

FAQs

How Can I Focus My ADHD Brain Without Medication?

You can focus your ADHD brain without medication by exercising frequently. Exercising every day can increase endorphins, which improve your overall mood [20]. Exercise also elevates your brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels, which regulate your mood.

Can You Live With ADHD Without Medication?

Yes, you can live without ADHD medication. However, you’d have to follow a disciplined lifestyle to curb the symptoms of the disorder. You can take natural supplements, exercise daily, and engage in a healthy lifestyle to keep symptoms of ADHD at bay.

Improve Mental Performance and Fight ADHD Symptoms With Nootropics

While medication can help fight ADHD, it’s not a long-term solution.

Speaking from my own personal and professional experience with clients, the best way to control ADHD is to live a healthy lifestyle.

This includes meditation, diet, regular exercise, as well as some natural nootropic supplements.

We’ve tested these products here at TotalShape, and one of their main benefits is enhanced focus and mental clarity, which are both essential for ADHD.

Check out our list, and find one that best suits your needs.


References:

  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/symptoms/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2865224/
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22581-dopamine
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/psychology/epinephrine
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3035600/
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/norepinephrine
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3131098/
  8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0924977X18301251
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6619435/
  10. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/837220
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31495298/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29936455/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18296328/
  14. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-70037-7 
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24389400/
  16. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/4/405/htm
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25163996
  18. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/adult-adhd-and-sleep-problems
  19. https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/methylphenidate-children/
  20. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469
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