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How Do I Choose the Best Supplements for Attention?

Emily Daw
Emily Daw

Especially in children, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are often treated with prescription medications. A number of over-the-counter supplements for attention are also available, however, that can be used either alone or in combination with prescription drugs. Scientific evidence shows that stimulants are generally the most effective of these.

A stimulant is a drug that speeds up the body's central nervous system. The most commonly prescribed medications for ADD and ADHD, including Ritalin (R), are stimulants that improve improve concentration by increasing the flow of blood to the brain. Some herbal or over-the-counter supplements for attention may mimic these effects.

Various supplements for attention.
Various supplements for attention.

The natural stimulant that has been shown to be most effective for improving attention is ginko biloba, usually in combination with ginseng. A combination of these two herbs is often used to slow memory loss in older patients, but can also improve concentration in younger patients. Caffeine, the stimulant found in coffee and tea, can also improve concentration. You should be careful about giving caffeine to children who have ADHD, because it may increase hyperactive behaviors. Evidence indicates that the herbal stimulant St. John's Wort, which is often used to treat depression or other mental disorders, does not have any effect on ADD or ADHD.

A change in diet may help an individual improve his or her attention skills.
A change in diet may help an individual improve his or her attention skills.

Some research indicates that difficulty concentrating may be related to dietary deficiencies. Fish oil taken either as a supplement or eaten as part of a meal has been shown both to increase attention and to decrease hyperactivity. Increasing the amount of zinc in the diet can also decrease hyperactivity in children, but does not necessarily improve attention.

Difficulty focusing and concentrating are symptoms of ADD.
Difficulty focusing and concentrating are symptoms of ADD.

There are also a handful of specialized combination supplements for attention. These may contain a wide number of mineral and herbal ingredients, some of which have been proven effective at aiding attention, but others of which have not. The large number of different ingredients in these supplements may make them more effective for a wider range of patients than other single-ingredient supplements. On the other hand, they have a greater chance of interacting negatively with other medications.

In the United States, herbal supplements are not tested for safety or effectiveness to the same extent that prescription drugs are tested. They may carry more risks than traditional medicines. You should check with your doctor before beginning any supplements for attention to minimize your risk of side effects or harmful interactions.

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Discussion Comments


I recently started using a herb called ginseng. I started using it for better circulation (I'm always freezing), but I've noticed that it also helps me concentrate and pay attention at work. I think this might be a good supplement for others with similar issues.

There are different types of ginseng out there though. The one that's best and that should be used is reg ginseng. I use Korean red ginseng tea and candies once a day. It works and it tastes pretty good. It smells of earthy roots and molasses.


@Pippinwhite-- Caffeine is a double edged sword. It provides the energy and concentration required for some time but then it all goes down-hill after a while. I don't like jittery either and too much coffee gives me anxiety. I literally have to have a herbal tea to calm down which defeats the purpose of having caffeine in the first place.


Omega 3 is fantastic for concentration and memory. That's why in some countries, students are encouraged to snack of walnuts, because it's rich in Omega 3. The average American doesn't eat enough fish and nuts for these nutrients, so it's a good idea to take an Omega 3 supplement. I take fish oil capsules, but there are also other alternatives out there like flax seed supplements. Those who enjoy fish and walnuts should try to eat these regularly.

Omega 3 amino acids basically improve brain function by increasing the communication between neurons. It's been proven that it can fight and delay memory and concentration related problems such as Alzheimer's. Those with ADD and ADHD must put this supplement on top of their list.


@Pippinwhite -- I use gingko biloba and it has really helped me. I have a problem getting going in the mornings too, and the gingko has improved my energy level, and my ability to focus at work. Goodness knows I needed the help focusing!

I don't think gingko is known for interacting with prescription drugs, but it's always best to ask. Better safe than sorry, to coin a cliche.

I don't want anything that's going to turn me into Sonic the Hedgehog either, so I much prefer the gingko. Makes me feel alert, but not twitchy. That's what I'm going for.


As poor as my attention span is in the mornings *with* caffeine, I can't imagine what it would be without it! I absolutely refuse to do energy drinks or anything like that, since I know how jittery they make me. Over-stimulated is just as bad as drowsy!

I might try the gingko biloba, though. That sounds like something that might help. I'll ask my doctor, just to make sure it won't interact with my blood pressure meds or my thyroid medication. I could use something besides coffee to make me feel more alert and motivated in the mornings!

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    • Various supplements for attention.
      Various supplements for attention.
    • A change in diet may help an individual improve his or her attention skills.
      By: ruigsantos
      A change in diet may help an individual improve his or her attention skills.
    • Difficulty focusing and concentrating are symptoms of ADD.
      By: Sandor Kacso
      Difficulty focusing and concentrating are symptoms of ADD.