While some parents try to sharpen their kids’ attention with single herbs such as St. John’s wort or ginkgo, many others shop Internet sites and health food stores for combination products that claim to make children calmer and more focused.
Calm Child, available in tablets or in a syrup, offers a mishmash of supposedly sedating herbal ingredients including chamomile, lemon balm and catnip.
Focus Factor for Kids takes a nutrient-heavy approach: A serving of four chewable wafers provides more than 200% of the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C, 100% of the RDA for thiamine and 33% of the RDA for zinc, along with 18 other vitamins and minerals. It also includes a “proprietary blend” of antioxidant compounds, omega 3 fatty acids and DMAE, a building block for some key brain chemicals.
Pedia-Calm contains DMAE along with soy phospholipids (types of fat found in cell membranes).
The label for Calm Child says that it can “support calm, focused attention in children.” The label for Focus Factor for Kids says it will support “memory, concentration and focus.” Several websites selling Pedia-Calm claim that it works much like prescription stimulants such as Ritalin to relieve symptoms of ADHD.
The mildly sedating herbs found in some products may very well calm down an overactive child, says Dr. Jack McClellan, child psychiatrist and director of the Child Study and Treatment Center at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “But that won’t necessarily improve learning,” he says.
According to McClellan, parents who insist on tested, proven therapies for their children’s ADHD have one choice: Ritalin and similar stimulant prescription medications. The treatments for ADHD have more supporting evidence than any other medical therapy for any other mental health problem in children, he says. “It’s not even close.”
—Chris Woolston, Los Angeles Times, 10/6/08