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Case Study:  Essential Oils and ADHD Symptoms (Dr Terry S Friedman)

In 2001, a study done by Dr. Terry Friedman found that vetiver oil is effective in treating children with ADHD. 


The case study was conducted for two years (1999-2001), and it involved 40 children between 6 and 12 years old. Twenty of the children were not diagnosed with ADHD — they served as the control group — and 20 children were diagnosed.


The essential oils that were used in the study were lavender, vetiver, cedarwood and Brain Power (which is a blend of frankincense, sandalwood, melissa, cedarwood, blue cypress, lavender and helichrysum essential oils). 


  • Cedarwood essential oil was chosen for the study because it has a high concentration of sesquiterpenes (they make up 50 percent of its constituents), which improve oxygenation of brain cells. 

  • Vetiver is known to calm and balance the nervous system while stimulating the circulatory system, according to Friedmann. He explained:


  • The Essential oils were tested one at a time for 30 days per oil; the children used a inhalation device at night and inhaled the essential oil about three times day when they were feeling “scattered.”


"When the essential oil is inhaled, the micro droplets are carried to the limbic system of the brain, which is that portion that is the processing center for reason, emotion and smell, and to the hypothalamus, which is the hormone command center. 

The essential micro droplets are also carried to the lungs where they enter the circulatory system.“


  • Improvements in brain activity were revealed via electro-encephalograph (EEG), which measures electrical impulses moving through the brain. This allowed researchers to determine whether the children's brains were functioning primarily in a beta (i.e., alert) state or a theta state (i.e., lack of focus). 

  • Improvements in beta-theta ratios were noted following the use of vetiver essential oil, while parents also noted improvements in symptoms. Friedmann reported:


"I received several letters from parents of the ADHD children stating that their behavior at home had improved for the better.

In several cases, they also stated that school educators informed them that their performance was observed to improve in the classroom. The report cards in some of the subjects had reflected this improvement as well."


The final results were extremely promising


  • Lavender oil’s benefits increased performance by 34%


  • Vetiver oil increased performance by 17%



  • a study found that when children with ADHD inhaled vetiver essential oil, three times a day for 30 days, they had improved brain pattern behaviour and did better in school


  • The relaxing and calming properties of vetiver oil helped the children combat their ADHD and ADD symptoms, which typically include difficulty in concentrating, diminished focus, being easily distracted, difficulty with organization and following directions, impatience, and fidgety behavior. 

  • The research that is being done to support vetiver oil, and other essential oils, as an effective natural remedy for ADHD is an exciting and much-needed prospect.



References 1. Diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Summary (August 1999). Technical Review: Number 3 (AHCPR Publication No. 99-0049). Rockville, MD: Agency for Health Care Policy and Research. Also available: (accessed: August 26, 2000). 2. Essential oils desk reference compiled by Essential Science Publishing. Second Edition. 2001. 3. Elia, J., et al. (1999). Treatment of attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder. New England Journal of Medicine, 340(10): 780-788. 

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