Sunday, July 21, 2013

Can Vetiver Essential Oil Help ADHD & Autism? - Parsing Research from Experience

aromatherapy photo: aromatherapy aromatherapy.jpg

My Autistic son is fascinated with spices. He methodically removes the lid from each bottle and inhales deeply. Then he returns the top and moves on to the next spice. One day as I watched this ritual unfold for the thousandth time it hit me - he was seeking something that he needed.

It was time to look into aromatherapy.

All my research roads led to Vetiver. I kept finding references to a study on ADHD and Vetiver by Dr. Terry Friedman, M.D., which many bloggers claim was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, but they never provide a link. Hours spent trying to locate this study in JAMA turned up nothing. What I did find, however, is an unpublished scientific paper on Dr. Friedman's website  sold for $11.95. Not exactly the same thing.

Mainstream medicine considers an intervention evidence based when multiple peer-reviewed studies across various researchers yield similar positive results. In recent years Aromatherapy has garnered the attention of The Mayo Clinic and The University of Maryland Medical Center because some oils pass this test. For example, Lavender is considered evidence based for anxiety and depression (here, here, and here). But Vetiver has been neither proven or disproven since it remains largely un-researched.

Even so, there are many compelling testimonials from ADHD & Autism moms on how Vetiver helped their children to focus and calm down.

ADHD moms reporting benefit (a small sample of what's out there)

Common Scents Mom 

Every Day in Every Way

Jennifer Accomando

Autism moms reporting benefit:

Tiffany Rowan

Healing with Essential Oils 

DoTerra Chick

I balance my esteem for peer-reviewed research with a healthy respect for those cherished, time honored traditional healing modalities that may never be subjected to scientific scrutiny. I don't want to miss potentially beneficial treatments just because pharmaceutical companies have no interest in studying them. So, I've established three criteria when deciding whether to try non-evidence based treatments:

1.) It is generally recognized as safe. (The essential oil safety standard, "Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals" lists no safety concerns for Vetiver)

2.) It is not expensive. (Organic Vetiver costs less than $20)

3.) There is strong anecdotal support that it might help. (See above)

Since Vertiver meets all three criteria I decided to try it.

I'm so glad I did!

I bought Aura Cacia Organic Vetiver, a pure enough brand readily available at any health food store, put some on a material swatch and had him sniff it periodically throughout the day. His stims that day went down by about 85%! For those not as familiar with Autism, stims are arm flapping, making loud sounds, and repetitive or jerky body movements. We have used Vetiver for a month now and his stims still have not returned to their previous level. Not even close.

I also tried Vetiver. My life gets stressful. Like everyone, my attention is often pulled in several directions at once. Yet, since starting this essential oil I feel much calmer and more focused. Could this be placebo? Possibly. But that doesn't explain my son. I've learned over the years that if I pay attention, if I watch him closely, he leads me to what heals him. I now count Vetiver among the top ten most helpful interventions we've tried.

My friend also bought a bottle of Vetiver for her Autistic son. Same response. Starting the first day he stopped stimming and was much calmer overall. Coincidence? Perhaps. But maybe not. From a scientific standpoint it's hard to prove until Vetiver is actually studied for Autism. I hope that happens one day.

Update: 9/23/13

After a few months of sniffing Vetiver from the bottle I began getting sinus headaches. I've since learned that essential oils can be a sinus irritant for some people.  I'm concerned that if my son were to also get headaches he wouldn't be able to tell me, so I'm putting this mostly on hold until I get a diffuser. They produce a vaporized stream versus smelling the concentrated form straight from the bottle. His stims have increased since stopping and I miss the relaxing effects of Vetiver myself. Yesterday I tried putting some on a material swatch again, which is much less intense than smelling straight from the bottle. It worked well enough and produced no headache. I imagine putting it on a tissue might do the trick, too.

My friend said for a week Vetiver was like a miracle for her autistic son, then she didn't see much after that. It's hard to say why. I've read for some people ADHD medications are great for a while then stop working altogether. Could this be a similar phenomenon?

"For there is no greater influence in a physical body than the effect of odors upon the olfactory nerves." Edgar Cayce - Reading #274-7

Vetiver references:

Vetiver Essential Oil for ADHD -Live Strong

Dr. Terry Friedman

Information on Vertiver on Aroma Web

Mainstream Medicine Aromatherapy links:

Is Aromatherapy Worthwhile? Mayo Clinic

University of Maryland Medical Center on Aromatherapy


Related Post:

Rosemary Essential Oil Improves Memory - Emerging Scientific Evidence

Some Essential Oils Inhibit MRSA, Strep, & Influenza: Scientific Studies


A Bit of House Keeping:

**This is not a sponsored post. This blog is an affiliate, though. One hundred percent of affiliate profits earned from links on this site will be donated to Kiva, a not-for-profit micro-lending organization that makes no-interest business loans to low income entrepreneurs in the developing world.

This article shares our experience with Vetiver, but it is not intended as medical advice.

This post is linked to Natural Living Momma,

From The Farm Blog Hop


Tags: Aromatherapy, Essential Oils, Vetiver and ADHD, Vetiver and Autism.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How I Beat Severe Insomnia With Lightbox Therapy and Blue Blocker Glasses

insomnia photo: insomnia insomnia.jpg

Insomnia. Yeah, I've lived it. Tossing and turning till the wee hours of the morning. Or, drifting off  just fine only to startle awake a few hours later, unable to fall back asleep. Then there were those waking nightmares where I'd run around the house ranting about this or that, with no memory of it by morning.  And my absolute worst: night terrors and sleep paralysis so jarring that I thought I was having seizures. Clearly my brain signals were set to haywire at night and I was on the verge of full blown Narcolepsy. By day my short term memory grew terrifyingly short and my blood pressure dropped to 52 over 80. Something had to give.

So I did what people usually do in these situations. I saw a doctor. And she did what doctors usually do in these situations. She prescribed Ambien. I was a zombie on Ambien. Another dead end. Doctors couldn't help me and I knew it. I could only help myself. For weeks I immersed in journal abstracts, determined to solve this medical mystery myself.

I uncovered information about Circadian Rhythm Disorders, a cluster of conditions that stem from a person's body clock being off kilter. This can be triggered by medication, work schedule, change in routine, ADHD and other neurological conditions, or by predisposing genetic mutations (clock gene polymorphisms). You can also blame it on blue light frequencies emitted from indoor lighting and those television screens and computers that we stare at all night.  This frequency signals to our brains that it is still daytime, thus suppressing the production of melatonin, a critical sleep hormone.

The key to regulating Circadian Rhythms, and thus melatonin, is exposure to appropriate dark and light cycles. Our eyes need a certain amount light exposure during the day to properly regulate our sleep, mood, and hormones. Yet, modern life hides us inside buildings all day where the light exposure is equivalent to twilight. Then at night, when from a circadian perspective we should be winding down our light exposure, we stare at back-lit screens. No wonder our bodies have days and nights mixed up! Not to mention, prolonged sleep deprivation has been linked to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Not good. At all.

But alas, I did indeed find a solution to my dilemma in the medical journals. It is called Light Box Therapy and Blue Blocker Glasses. This system resets my circadian rhythms by exposing me daily to light when I most need light and by blocking blue light frequencies when exposure to them would disrupt my circadian rhythms.


What was once thought of as only a treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder is now being researched for a range of conditions from insomnia, ADHD, Bipolar, Dementia, skin disorders, epilepsy, general depression, and fatigue.

This is the light box I use for insomnia.

I sit in front of this for 30 minutes every morning immediately upon waking up at 6:00 a.m. This signals to my body that it is morning, thus keeping my circadian rhythms on track for a 10:30 p.m. - 6:00 a.m. sleep cycle. I also use this for 20 minutes in mid-afternoon whenever I can.

Though I love my light, in retrospect I wish I'd bought one that functions more like a reading lamp.

That way I could do other things like read or use my computer rather than just stare into it.

If I miss a day of light my sleep is usually disrupted for two days since that's how long it takes to reset a circadian cycle.

There are many light boxes on the market and not all are created equal. I chose the Nature Bright Sun Touch because it met all the specifications for an adequate light box (10,000 Lux and UVA/UVB protection), the great price, and its many great reviews on Amazon. Plus, it's made in the USA.  Here is an excellent website for light box reviews.


I sleep!
Increased energy level
Nice mood boost
I'm alert as soon as the alarm goes off. No desire to hit snooze anymore.


Sitting in one spot for 1/2 hour.


I wear these Blue Blocker Glasses after 7:00 p.m. every night to block the blue light frequencies from indoor lighting, my computer, and the television screen. This enables me to still use those devices without disrupting my circadian rhythms.

I chose this brand for the price and because they wrap all the way around. Blue Blockers can be found anywhere from $5 - $100.

It takes two days of wearing these before a noticeable effect on sleep.


-I sleep!


-I have to wear these out at night, which makes me look shifty. This might be more of a problem if I were younger, had an active social life, and cared what people think. But at this point in my life I'd rather be able to sleep. I've read they make blue blocker contacts. That's something I will look into.

-If I skip wearing them one night it takes two days to catch up again.


This article discusses my experience with my Light Box and Blue Blocker glasses, but it does not go into deep scientific detail on how and why they work. I have linked a host of scientific articles and study abstracts at the bottom. Also, here is an excellent book by a doctor from Columbia University's sleep clinic that goes into this subject in great detail. I am just sharing information. Nothing here should be construed as medical advice.

Book version                                               Kindle version

With that said, I wonder why most doctors choose not to prescribe this system to their patients with insomnia?

Related Post:

How I Beat Severe Insomnia (Part II): Hypnosis



NY Times: A Portable Glow to Help Melt Those Winter Blues

Blue-Blocking Glasses to Improve Sleep and ADHD Symptoms Developed

IPAD Insomnia - CNN


Amber lenses to block blue light and improve sleep: a randomized trial.

The Use of Bright Light in the Treatment of Insomnia

A controlled trial of light therapy for the treatment of pediatric seasonal affective disorder.

Dawn Simulation for Abstinent Alcoholics With Winter Depression

A randomized controlled trial of cognitive-behavior therapy plus bright light therapy for adolescent delayed sleep phase disorder.

Alleviation of sleep maintenance insomnia with timed exposure to bright light exposure to bright light.

Bright light therapy as an add on treatment for medically intractable epilepsy.

Bright light therapy for symptoms of anxiety and depression in focal epilepsy: randomized controlled trial

Light therapy as a treatment for epilepsy

Controlled trial of bright light and negative air ions for chronic depression.

Twenty minutes versus forty-five minutes morning bright light treatment on sleep onset insomnia in elderly subjects.

Helpful website on this subject: 

Center for Environmental Therapeutics


*This is not a sponsored post. Any profits earned from my affiliate links will be donated to Kiva, a not-for-profit micro-lending organization that makes no interest business loans to low income entrepreneurs in the developing world and in the United States.

This post is linked to Frugally SustainableNatural Living Momma, and

From The Farm Blog Hop

Tags: Insomnia, Narcolepsy, Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, Chronotherapy, Light Box Therapy for insomnia, SAD Lights, Blue Blocker Glasses and insomnia.
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