The Best Supplements for ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a complex neurological condition that affects millions of children and adults worldwide. While the exact causes of ADHD are not fully understood, research has shown that it is a result of differences in brain structure and function. Brain function needs a variety of nutrients and vitamins to function optimally, and deficiencies in these nutrients have been linked to cognitive and behavioral issues.

Although all vitamins and minerals are important for brain health, the following appear to have a significant effect on ADHD symptoms:

1.Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fat that provides the body with energy and helps cell function in all the body systems, including the cardiovascular and endocrine systems. There are three main types: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are found in fish, and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), found in plants.

Studies have shown that omega-3s are moderately effective in relieving symptoms related to behavior, cognitive skills, and focus. Omega-3 supplementation should be undertaken with your doctor’s guidance. As quoted in ADDitude, ADHD expert Dr. Edward Hallowell typically recommends up to 5,000 milligrams of an omega-3 supplement for adults each day and up to 2,500 milligrams a day for children. Also speaking to ADDitude, Dr. Sandy Newmark, founder of the Center for Pediatric Integrative Medicine in San Francisco, US, suggests children between 4 and 8 years old take between 1,000 and 1,500 milligrams a day. One study published in Pediatrics by lead author Paul Montgomery recommends choosing a fish oil supplement that contains a 2:1 ratio of EPAs to DHAs.

2. Zinc

Studies1 showed that magnesium, zinc and copper deficiencies were found in ADHD-diagnosed children, and that zinc and magnesium deficiencies, in particular, were found to be correlated with hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity. Zinc is a cofactor for the metabolism relevant to neurotransmitters, prostaglandins, and melatonin, and indirectly affects dopamine metabolism. It also mediates the release of neurotransmitters and is an important cofactor for more than 300 other nutrients, which means that a zinc deficiency may create a functional deficiency of these other nutrients.

3. Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency can affect cognitive ability and processing, including a reduced attention span along with fatigue, lack of concentration, becoming easily irritated, nervousness, and mood swings. These symptoms overlap significantly with ADHD symptoms and have led many experts involved in the treatment and care of ADHD to hypothesize that children who suffer from the condition have magnesium deficiency as well. Studies have shown that magnesium supplementation can help with sleep and relaxation in people with ADHD.

4. Vitamin B6

The B vitamins play important roles in the formation of different neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin, linked to ADHD characteristics. Some studies have shown that vitamin B6 deficiency can be linked to ADHD symptoms; lower levels of vitamins B2, B6, and B9 were significantly associated with ADHD. Vitamin B6 is also a cofactor for magnesium absorption; research has shown that magnesium taken with vitamin B6 may lead to improved behavior in ADHD-diagnosed children.

5. Iron

Iron affects the synthesis and signaling of the neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline, adrenaline, and 5-hydroxytryptamine, which help regulate attention, emotion, reward, movement, and other functions. In a scoping review of research published over a seven-year period, it showed a link between ADHD occurrence (and severity) and iron deficiency, with further studies demonstrating symptom improvement with iron supplementation.

6. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a vitamin that is important for bone health and healthy brain function. Again, studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency can be linked to ADHD symptoms, with children with ADHD having significantly lower levels of vitamin D than children without ADHD. One study showed that vitamin D supplementation in children with ADHD may improve cognitive function, including inattention, opposition, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

7. Vitamin C

ADHD stimulants work because they increase dopamine levels in the brain. Vitamin C is important in regulating the neurotransmitter dopamine at the synapses in the brain too. With its antioxidant properties, it’s important to get vitamin C from food, but if your child isn’t eating healthily, consider supplementation.

It’s ideal that you and your family get all their nutrition from food, but the reality for many is that food alone does not adequately cover all the nutritional bases, especially when your child has a nutrient deficiency. Before supplementing, do consider:

  • While there is some research that supports the use of certain supplements for ADHD, they do not, however, have the same effect and immediacy as ADHD medication, and should be used as part of an integrative treatment plan.
  • Supplements may take longer to work before seeing an improvement, and doctors recommend trying them for a month before deciding whether they are helpful.
  • Certain supplements, such as iron and zinc, do have side effects and contraindications, so it’s important to speak to your doctor about the dosages and the best time to take them.
  1. ADDitude. (2022). 6 Essential, Natural Supplements for ADHD. ADDitude [Online]. Accessed on 14 June 2023.
  2. Cleveland Clinic. (2022). Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Cleveland Clinic [Online]. Accessed on 14 June 2023.
  3. Dean, C. (2014). The Magnesium Miracle. Ballantine Books. New York.
  4. Elbaz, F., Zahra, S., & Hanafy, H. (2017). Magnesium, zinc, and copper estimation in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, 18(2), 153-163.
  5. Elshorbagy, H. H., Barseem, N. F., Abdelghani, W. E., Suliman, H. A. I., Al-Shokary, A. H., Abdulsamea, S. E., Elsadek, A. E., Abdel Maksoud, Y. H., & Nour El Din, D. M. A. E. (2018). Impact of Vitamin D Supplementation on Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children. The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 52(7), 623–631.
  6. Greenblat, J. M., & Delane, D. D. (2017). Micronutrient Deficiencies in ADHD: A Global Research Consensus. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, 32(6).
  7. Hare, D., Ayton, S., Bush, A., & Lei, P. (2013). A delicate balance: Iron metabolism and diseases of the brain. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 5, 34.
  8. Landaas, E. T., Aarsland, T. I., Ulvik, A., Halmøy, A., Ueland, P. M., & Haavik, J. (2016). Vitamin levels in adults with ADHD. BJPsych Open, 2(6), 377–384.
  9. Lillis, C. (2019). ADHD supplements: Are they effective?. Medical News Today [Online]. Accessed on 14 June 2023.
  10. PsychCentral. (2014). The 9 Best ADHD Supplements. PsychCentral [Online]. Accessed on 14 June 2023.
  11. CHADD. (2017). ADHD & Teen Pregnancy; Micronutrients & Behavior Improvement. CHADD [Online]. Accessed on 14 June 2023.
  12. Madriota, M. (2014). The 9 Best ADHD Supplements. PsychCentral [Online]. Accessed on 14 June 2023.
  13. McWilliams, S., Singh, I., Leung, W., Stockler, S., & Ipsiroglu, O. S. (2022). Iron deficiency and common neurodevelopmental disorders—A scoping review. PLOS ONE, 17(9), e0273819.

Share this article

These articles are for information purposes only. It cannot replace the diagnosis of a healthcare provider. Pharma Dynamics gives no warranty as to the accuracy of the information contained in such articles and shall not, under any circumstances, be liable for any consequences which may be suffered as a result of a user’s reliance thereon.

The information the reader is about to be referred to may not comply with the South Africa regulatory requirements. Information relevant to the South African environment is available from the Company and in the Professional Information/Patient Information Leaflet/Instructions for Use approved by the Regulatory Authority.

md logo
Welcome to My Dynamics!
  • Welcome

    Hi, I'm the My Dynamics Chat Bot. I can help you find recipes, articles, pamphlets and so much more!

    Give me a try, simply just type you question below and I will give you links to the most relevant content!