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Essential Oils for ADD and ADHD

By Jodi Cohen

A young child with a striped shirt holding his head in distress, possibly experiencing a headache or feeling overwhelmed, against a soft pink background.

Inhalation of essential oils can help support your attention, focus, concentration and even help support symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

ADD and ADHD are often correlated with frontal lobe impairment or delays.

The frontal lobe, the part of your brain located behind your forehead, is involved in your “executive function” and your ability to focus, concentrate, organize, plan, problem solve, pay attention, make decisions and inhibit responses as well as your ability to understand and manage your emotional response.

The circuitry in your frontal lobe helps your brain sort through stimulation to decide what information is relevant and what needs to be ignored. This helps you regulate movements, control impulses, use language, focus attention, make decisions, and correct errors.

Research associates the frontal region “with a number of components including reasoning, planning, problem solving, parts of speech, intellect, behavior, attention, movements, sense of smell and personality.”

When your frontal lobe has not developed or is not developing appropriately, you don’t have the neurological endurance to focus and are easily distracted. When the frontal lobe is not functioning properly, hyperactivity can occur as the area of the brain that allows you to dampen impulses does not activate. As a result, it can be difficult to sit still and focus.

The only way to effectively treat these focus concerns is to address the frontal lobe.

Strengthening the prefrontal cortex exerts a moderating influence on the more impulsive and less flexible structures of your limbic system, helping you calm repetitive thought patterns and anxiety.  This ability to inhibit certain behaviors helps your brain focus on important tasks, improving your thinking and processing speed.


The Frontal lobe

Inhalation offers the easiest channel into the body and the fastest, most direct and effective channel to stimulate the brain and the frontal lobe.

When you inhale essential oils they travel through the nasal passageway to the frontal lobe of the brain and can be used to stimulate the prefrontal cortex. The entire process from the initial inhalation of an essential oil to a corresponding response in the body can happen in a matter of seconds.

Your sense of smell, which is part of our olfactory system, is one of the most powerful channels into the body.   In fact, olfactory cells are brain cells, and the olfactory membrane in the nasal cavity is the only place in your body where the brain is directly exposed to the environment.

Research on the “Influence of Fragrances on Human Psychophysiological Activity” found that “The inhalation of essential oils significantly increased the (stimulation) in the prefrontal region demonstrated on an EEG which demonstrated changes both the physical and mental states that became more stable and relaxed after the inhalation of essential oil.”

More specifically, the study found that “the brains of professional perfume researchers respond to odors mainly in the frontal region” and that oils like lavender and rosemary increased alertness, enhanced frontal lobe activation which increased physical and mental states.

Additional research demonstrates that olfactory stimulation with rose and orange oil can support healthy prefrontal cortex activity, finding “that olfactory stimulation by rose or orange oil induces physiological and psychological relaxation.”

Topically applying essential oils for focus to the prefrontal cortex (over your forehead) can help draw energy to and strengthen your prefrontal cortex by increasing blood flow and energy to the area.  Your prefrontal cortex helps balance brain function and improve cognition and processing speed.

In fact, research shows that increasing blood flow to the prefrontal cortex can prevent the reduction of brain function in elderly people, especially in attention and working memory.

This increased stimulation helps to strengthen your prefrontal cortex which both helps to enhance your brain’s ability to plan, organize, and see the big picture along with supporting emotional intelligence.

When the prefrontal cortex is not firing on all cylinders, it loses processing speed, deficits of inhibition and focus can occur, resulting in poor internal supervision, short attention span, distractibility, disorganization, and hyperactivity, impulse control problems, difficulty learning from past errors, lack of forethought, and procrastination.


Essential Oils to Support the Frontal Lobe

My favorite essential oil blend to stimulate the frontal lobe is Focus™ blend.  It contains the following oils designed to support focus:

Basil (Ocimum basilicum): Is one of the best nerve tonics. It clears your head and helps relieve intellectual fatigue, which gives the mind added strength and clarity.   Basil has high linalool content, making it an ideal to help sharpen your memory, improve concentration and promote a sense of focus when applied to the temples and back of the neck.

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum): Helps lift the mood and alleviate mental fatigue and nervous strain. Improves mental clarity and memory.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita):  Peppermint helps to boost your focus and your energy level both mentally and physically.  Research from the University of Cincinnati found that inhaling peppermint oil increases mental accuracy by 28 percent.

Research on Modulation of cognitive performance and mood by aromas of peppermint and ylang-ylang found that peppermint oil enhanced mental alertness, cognition and mood. “Peppermint was found to enhance memory and increase alertness.” Another research paper on The Effect of Peppermint on Memory Performance suggests peppermint essential oils improve memory and retrieval in cognitive tasks requiring sustained focus

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis):  Helps your brain and your memory work at top form. In addition to helping you focus and concentration, it may also help you relieve nervous exhaustion and stress-related illness. For example, rosemary oil contains cineole, which increases blood flow in the brain, improving alertness, as demonstrated by a 2012 study published in Therapeutic Advances in Pharmacology.

To help enhance your focus, apply 2- 3 drops of Focus™ over your temples 2-3 times daily or as needed during moments where additional focus is needed.  You can also put a few drops on a tissue or cotton ball and hold it where you can smell it.


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About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.