The Best Natural Adderall Alternatives

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 05/05/2024

Adderall is a prescription drug used to treat those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s highly addictive and associated with many unwanted side effects, including anxiety, headaches, and insomnia.


Luckily, there are various natural Adderall alternatives that may help improve ADHD symptoms, including zinc, cod liver oil, and vitamin B1. 


Discover five alternatives to Adderall and learn how making beneficial lifestyle changes can help manage ADHD symptoms naturally.


Adderall pills

What is Adderall? 


Adderall is a prescription medication composed of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, two pharmaceutical compounds classified as stimulants. Stimulant medications are used to enhance focus and improve performance.


Stimulants, especially Adderall, are a first-choice treatment option for children and adults with ADHD, a disorder characterized by restlessness and an inability to pay attention or control impulses.


However, it can also be used to treat narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes involuntary periods of deep sleep during the day.


What does Adderall do?

Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant that improves focus and listening skills, reduces hyperactivity, and helps control impulsive behaviors in those with ADHD.


A study published in The Journal of Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics found that psychostimulants, drugs that decrease fatigue and stimulate activity in the brain, benefit between 75 and 80 percent of children with ADHD.


Prescription Adderall for adults is also effective at reducing ADHD-related symptoms and helps enhance the ability to focus on work and other tasks.


How does Adderall work? 

Adderall improves attention and reduces impulsivity by boosting the release of norepinephrine and dopamine, two crucial neurotransmitters that regulate neuronal activities in the brain.


Norepinephrine constricts blood vessels, which raises blood pressure (BP) in the central nervous system, leading to increased focus, attention, and alertness. 


Research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that adolescents with ADHD had significantly lower BP than those without it. Low blood pressure levels are associated with fatigue, anxiety, and other forms of psychological distress.


Dopamine, widely known as the feel-good hormone, plays a role in pleasure responses, including satisfaction and motivation. It also helps improve mood, concentration, and learning ability.


Watch the video below to learn more about Adderall side effects and natural alternatives.

Adderall Side-Effects and Natural Adderall Alternatives

What are the potential side effects of Adderall?


According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Adderall is classified as a Schedule II drug.  


Though Adderall is FDA-approved and prescribed to treat ADHD, it’s considered dangerous by the DEA and has a high potential for abuse, which may lead to dependency and severe withdrawal symptoms. 


Despite improvements in behavior and attentiveness, stimulant ADHD medications are associated with a wide range of side effects and may lead to addiction.


Mild side effects include headaches, dizziness, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Users may also experience insomnia, feelings of nervousness, fever, and loss of appetite.  


Serious side effects include high blood pressure, negative behavior changes, thoughts of suicide, erectile dysfunction, and abnormal blood circulation in extremities, leading to coldness, numbness, and changes in skin color. 


In extreme cases, those prescribed Adderall can experience blurred vision, cardiac arrhythmias, shortness of breath, and difficulty speaking.


This isn’t a complete list of possible side effects from Adderall usage. It’s vital to consult a healthcare provider if you experience any adverse effects.


MCT oil

The best natural Adderall alternatives 


Because of the serious side effects and addiction potential of Adderall, it’s unsurprising that many affected by ADHD are seeking natural alternatives to enhance focus. 


Here are some of the best Adderall alternatives.


1. MCT oil

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is a nutritional source of ketones, an alternative fuel to glucose. Ketones have been linked to neuroprotective benefits and improved cognition. 


Though there’s limited research on the effectiveness of MCT oil on ADHD, several studies are showing its benefits for various neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, which may be associated with ADHD earlier in life.


A study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia found that consistent MCT oil use improved 80 percent of participants’ abilities on various cognitive tests. It also suggests that greater doses and longer-term use resulted in even higher scores.


This may imply that MCT oil can help manage ADHD symptoms, including memory problems, mood changes, and learning difficulties. 


2. Zinc 

Zinc plays an essential role in synaptic activity, the process by which neurons communicate with the body to perform movements and store memories. It also contributes to neuroplasticity, which refers to the brain’s ability to adapt. 


For these reasons, zinc deficiency has been associated with cognitive impairment, including memory problems and brain fog. This explains why zinc supplementation may have a positive effect on ADHD symptoms. 


Natural sources of zinc include fish and shellfish, such as oysters, crabs, salmon, and lobster.


Nutritional yeast

3. Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1, known as thiamine, is essential for many brain functions. Vitamin B1 deficiency can lead to neuronal death in various brain regions, including the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning capacity.


A study published in BMC Pediatrics found that children with ADHD consumed significantly less vitamin B1 than their peers, leaving them at increased risk of deficiency symptoms, including the inability to focus.


Non-fortified nutritional yeast is a rich source of natural vitamin B1 to help support alertness and concentration in those with ADHD. 


4. Lion’s mane mushrooms

Lion’s mane mushrooms have traditionally been used in Chinese medicine to increase brain focus, promote gut health, boost immunity, and lower the risk of cancer.


This beneficial fungus also stimulates nerve growth factor, a neurotrophic protein that increases the regeneration and growth of brain cells, which may help enhance cognitive function, memory, and focus.


5. Cod liver oil

The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain responsible for emotions, learning, and thinking. It comprises 60 percent of fat and contains the body’s highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids.


Cod liver oil is a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids support optimal cognitive function, which may explain why cod liver oil can be an effective natural remedy for ADHD.


A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology found that children with ADHD tend to have lower levels of DHA and EPA, leaving them at increased risk of deficiency and ADHD symptoms. 


The authors concluded that “Omega-3 supplementation improves clinical symptoms and cognitive performances in children and adolescents with ADHD.”


ADHD concept

Lifestyle habits that may help with ADHD


Alongside natural supplements, various beneficial lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms and boost cognitive performance.  


Here are four habits that can support brain health without prescription medication.


1. Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise gets your body moving quickly to engage the cardiovascular system and increase the heart rate. 


Exercises, such as jogging, cycling, or rope jumping, may benefit those with ADHD by releasing dopamine and other neurotransmitters, which can enhance focus, reduce compulsions, and boost mood.


It’s recommended that those with ADHD exercise at a moderately intense pace, between 30 and 40 minutes multiple times per week.  


2. Reduce EMF

Electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure has been linked to neuronal damage in the brain, which can cause changes in memory and increase the risk of ADHD symptoms, including difficulties learning and focusing.


Limiting EMF exposure from cell phones and computers may help reduce the severity of ADHD and other behavioral disorders, especially in children, as they are most susceptible to EMF sensitivity. 


A study published in Epidemiology found that children regularly exposed to cell phones prenatally and postnatally showed greater instances of hyperactivity and emotional issues than those with limited exposure. 


Woman enjoying the sunshine

3. Get more sun 

Vitamin D, produced when skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight, is vital for mental health. Optimal sun exposure and vitamin D production have been proven to alleviate symptoms of various mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression


Additionally, a study published in the Iranian Journal of Child Neurology found that vitamin D levels in children with ADHD were nearly half of those in the control group. This may indicate a link between sun exposure, ADHD symptoms, and general brain health.

 

4. Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between fasting and time-restricted eating windows. 


While more research is needed on the effects of intermittent fasting on ADHD, an animal study published in Nutrients suggests that IF improves brain function by increasing blood ketone concentrations. 


“Caloric restriction during fasting periods forces the body to burn fat. This releases ketones, the brain’s preferred fuel source,” explains Dr. Berg. “Brain cells and neurons thrive on ketones, which improves cognitive functions, including concentration, focus, and clarity.” 


Fasting may also enhance the growth of new brain cells, which can help boost cognitive health, manage ADHD symptoms, and increase mental focus.


Adderall pills on a table

Disclaimer


The methods described above aren’t a replacement for conventional ADHD treatment. It’s imperative that you don’t change or replace your prescription medications without the consent of your healthcare provider. 


If you’re experiencing side effects from ADHD medication or no longer want to take prescription stimulants, your doctor may be able to help you safely transition to a natural Adderall alternative. 


ADHD letter concept

Key takeaways


Adderall is a prescription stimulant drug commonly prescribed to treat ADHD. However, it's highly addictive and may lead to drug abuse, among other unwanted side effects, including headaches, high blood pressure, and shortness of breath.


Fortunately, there are various natural Adderall alternatives that can help manage ADHD, such as medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, zinc supplementation, and cod liver oil. Additionally, regular exercise and intermittent fasting promote brain health and can be beneficial for those with ADHD.



FAQ


1. Are there natural Adderall alternatives? 

Yes, medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil, zinc, and vitamin B1 are natural alternatives to stimulant drugs such as Adderall. In addition, lion’s mane mushrooms and cod liver oil may also help manage symptoms in those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


2. How can I focus without Adderall? 

Limiting electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure from cell phones and regular exercise can help reduce neuronal damage and stimulate the release of dopamine, which can heighten focus and learning. 


Additionally, fasting raises blood concentrations of ketones, a preferred fuel source of brain cells, which may stimulate the growth of new brain cells, potentially increasing attentiveness.   


3. Is there a non-addictive alternative to Adderall? 

Yes, there are several non-addictive natural alternatives to Adderall, including zinc, vitamin B1, and cod liver oil, which support brain function without prescription drugs. Lion’s mane mushrooms and MCT oil can also help improve concentration and mental clarity.


4. What vitamins does Adderall deplete?

Adderall may inhibit the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, and iron.


Deficiencies in these nutrients are associated with many symptoms similar to ADHD, including brain fog and an inability to focus. 


5. Does lion’s mane help ADHD?

Yes, lion’s mane mushrooms have been shown to stimulate the release of nerve growth factor, a protein that enhances the development of brain cells, which could lead to improved cognitive function, memory, and focus.



Sources


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4956327/ 

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7918102/ 

  3. https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling 

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8919247/ 

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8800296/ 

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5669464/ 

  7. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/ 

  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4670977/ 

  9. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/13/9/3166 

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