A Plant Extract to Treat ADHD

By Eve Kessler, Esq.


Nutrition studies suggest that OPCs—plant-based compounds—may have a positive effect on ADHD. These safe and natural substances have been associated with improving attention and focus

Nutritional psychiatry is a growing field that focuses on the importance of essential nutrients in treating mental health conditions, including ADHD. James M. Greenblatt, MD, a specialist in integrative medicine for ADHD and author of Finally Focused: The Breakthrough Natural Treatment Plan for ADHD, suggests that “nutrition is the one underlying cause that is most overlooked by conventional doctors.” He emphasizes that the right nutrients—vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids, and hormones—can make the difference in ADHD treatment, dramatically changing behavior for the better. 


Modern science has confirmed that treatment with a plant-based compound—oliogomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs)–is a safe and effective way to support cognitive function, memory, and brain activation in adults and children with ADHD. In fact, in one small study, treatment with a regimen of OPCs worked as well as Ritalin.

Described as a ”miracle antioxidant” in the bestselling book Miracle Cures, by Jean Carper, OPCs are a type of polyphenol, a chemical compound produced by plants to protect themselves from environmental harm. Polyphenol is a dark, rich plant pigment—red in cranberries, blueberries and grapes; green in green tea; dark brown in dark chocolate. OPCs are also found in grapeseed, gingko biloba, plums, peaches, pine needles, and pine bark.

OPCs influence the neurochemistry of ADHD brains in relation to three types of brain waves: alpha waves (relaxation brain waves produced during meditation and yoga); beta waves (short, fast brain waves used when we’re concentrating); and theta waves (slow waves present during light sleep or daydreaming, when we’re unfocused).

EEGs, which measure brain activity, show that ADHD brains have atypical brain wave patterns—increased slow-wave activity, indicating a lack of focus, and decreased fast-wave activity, signifying a lack of concentration.

While this slow-wave/fast-wave ratio is predictive of ADHD across the lifespan, studies show that treatment with OPCs improves the ratio. Research indicates, for example, that grape seed, blueberry, and green tea extracts all decrease slow waves, thereby improving the ability to pay attention, and blueberry concentrate increases brain activation in areas associated with working memory and executive function.

This article is based on an ADDitude Expert Webinar, The Important Role of OPCs and Trace Minerals in ADHD, by James Greenblatt, MD, chief medical officer and vice president of medical services in Waltham, MA, clinical faculty member at Tufts Medical School and Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, and the author of Finally Focused: The Breakthrough Natural Treatment Plan for ADHD.

Eve Kessler, Esq., a former criminal appellate attorney with The Legal Aid Society, NYC, is Executive Director of SPED*NET, Special Education Network of Wilton (CT), and a Contributing Editor of Smart Kids.

Note: Plantbased recommendations as a treatment for ADHD have not yet undergone rigorous evaluation and have not been shown to be effective in research trials. Use of interventions such as those presented here ought to be discussed with your testing physician.
Jill M. Harkavy-Friedman, Ph.D.

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