Supporting Austism Spectrum Disorder with Phyto-Therapy

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) more commonly known as Autism, is actually a
generalized terminology, associated with delayed brain developmental disorders. It
can be defined by challenges experienced focusing on ones ability to communicate
effectively in social, verbal, and non -verbal forms of communication. In combination
with, and the evaluation of behaviors that are frequently repeated and limited
interests. (A)autism, aromatherapy, child, essential oils

This spectrum includes a wide range of symptoms and behaviors. Each individuals diagnosis is unique. Therefore each person diagnosed with ASD must have their needs assessed individually. Those with mild forms of ASD can thrive with appropriate levels of support and consistent reinforcement in the areas they are challenged. However, some may never have the ability to function independently,
without medical interventions. (A)

"US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC, April 2012) identify 1 in 68 American children as on the spectrum. Careful research shows that this increase is only partly explained by improved diagnosis and awareness. Studies show autism is five times more common among boys than girls. An estimated 1 out of 48 boys and 1
in 252 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States." (B)

Possible Causes & Factors in Risk Assessment

Scientists cannot identify all the causes. They have been able to identify some risk
* Children who have a parent with ASD are at higher risk.

  • Evidence shows the critical period for developing ASD occurs in the womb.
  • Certain pharmaceutical drugs are taken during pregnancy. Eg. thalidomide
    and valproic acid.
  • Approximately 10% of children with ASD have identifiable genetic and
    chromosomal disorders. Eg. Fragile X syndrome and Down syndrome. (B)

Recognizing Early Indications of Autism

Social-Verbal & Non-Verbal Communication (D)

  • looks away when you speak to him/her
  • does not return your smile
  • lack of interest in other children
  • often seems to be in his or her own world
  • lack of ability to imitate simple motor movements eg. clapping hands
  • prefers to play alone
  • not responding when name is called/by 12 months
  • loss of words previously used
  • unusual language pattern (eg. repetitive speech)

Behavior (D)

  • has unusual interests or attachments
  •  has unusual motor movements, such as hand flapping, spinning or walking
    on tip toes
  •  has difficulty coping with change
  •  unusual distress reaction to some everyday sounds (covers ears)
  • uses peripheral vision to look at objects
  • preoccupation with certain textures or avoids certain textures
  • plays with objects in unusual ways such as repetitive spinning or lining up
  •  sensitivity to light

What to do if you think your child has autism?

autism, aromatherapy, child, essential oilsIt is important to receive an accurate diagnosis. The spectrum is wide and symptoms range from mild to severe. Your child's outcome will depend on an accurate diagnosis. As well as the ability to receive qualified support based on that diagnosis. Gaining access to support at school as well as government funding. The earlier interventions begin, the better. Resulting in positive outcomes and an improved developmental path. Talk with your child's Doctor. Ask for a referral to a developmental pediatrician. Clinical Psychologist or Neuropsychologist in your area.

"Autism is not a tragedy, but a journey of learning and growing." -Zoey Roberts

The Benefits of Phyto-Therapy For ASD

Although Autism Spectrum Disorder is irreversible, phyto-therapy can be used to
support the symptoms associated with ASD. Phyto-therapy can also be used to
support the body and its functions, specifically regarding the brain.

Vitamins & Minerals

Amino acids

Amino acids are organic compounds that act as the building blocks for proteins and
play a key role in a number of cellular processes. According to research conducted
by the University of Arizona, half of the amino acids we require are produced by our
bodies, while the rest must be obtained through a food source (University of
Arizona, 2003). Amino acids can be a helpful addition to fighting the symptoms
associated with autism, especially when it comes to digestive function. According to
the study, "Altered Amino Acid Excretion in Children with Autism", autistic children
do not break down sugars and proteins as efficiently as the general population (Evans et al., 2008). Recommended food sources of amino acids are meat, poultry, fish, eggs, some dairy products, and if sticking to a vegetarian diet, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and whole grains to ensure they are getting complete proteins (Carter, 2004). (E,F,G)

Vitamin D

The rising rates of Vitamin D deficiency have caught the eye of many researchers
who theorize that this is somehow related to the rising rates of autism, and so far
the research has been supportive. Ever since doctors and medical practitioners have
warned of skin cancer risk due to too much sun exposure, there has been an
increase in autism rates, studied by U.S. researcher Dr. John Cannell. He also
observed that rates of autism are higher in regions where there is less chance of sun
exposure, higher rainfall, and more air pollution (Cannell, 2008). Another study
found that adults with autism or on the spectrum of, have Vitamin D deficiencies
(Humble et al., 2010). Although there is no doubt that genetics play a key role in the
development of autism, lack of Vitamin D must be taken into account as to not
exacerbate its symptoms. Consult with a doctor about Vitamin D supplements or,
simply take advantage of a sunny day outside. (H, I, J)

Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EFAs)

The importance of Omega-3 fatty acids is undeniable, as they take part in many
biochemical processes throughout the body. Because Omega-3's cannot be produced
by our body, we must obtain them through foods or supplements. However, there
tends to be an imbalance between the essential fatty acid omega-3 and omega-6
mainly because of poor food choices. This imbalance of higher levels of omega-6 and
lower levels of omega-3 can lead to behavior, mood, and cognition problems
(Genuis, 2006; Ruxton et al., 2004; Yehuda et al., 1999; Young & Conquer, 2005).
Research has found that children with autism have lower levels of Omega-3's but
not with Omega-6's and this imbalance is believed to be related to the exacerbation
of autism and related symptoms (Vancassel et al., 2001). (K,L,M,N,O)


Probiotics are a helpful addition to keep the gut functioning properly, but can they
aid with the symptoms of autism? Research continues to show a link between
autism and some type of dysfunction of the digestive tract. According to a recent
study, a type of yeast called Candida albicans causes many problems with behavior
such as hyperactivity, irritability, confusion, attention issues, and aggression, all of
which are associated with autism but can be combated with the use of probiotics
(Morris, 2008). (P)


S-Adenosylmethionine, or SAMe for short, is a compound that is found naturally in
the body that supports our immune system, plays a part in the breakdown of
important neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin, and maintains the
function of cell membranes (University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011). So why
is this compound important? According to the study "Metabolic Biomarkers of
Increased Oxidative Stress and Impaired Methylation Capacity in Children with
Autism", there are lower levels of SAMe found in children with autism. The research
specifically states, "an increased vulnerability to oxidative stress and a decreased
capacity for methylation may contribute to the development and clinical
manifestation of autism" (James et al., 2004). SAMe can be increased in the body
through supplement form to combat the symptoms of autism. (Q, R)


Glutathione (GSH) is an antioxidant that if deficient, can result in disorders related
to the mind and the nervous system, such as autism. Research shows lower levels of
GSH are found in children with autistic disorders or on the spectrum of (Gutman,
2005). There is additional research that supports the link, in which doctors
observed neurological benefits among autistic people associated with GSH
supplementation (Jepson & Johnson, 2007). (S, T)


Carnitine is a compound necessary for the metabolic process of turning fat into
energy but also important when it comes to how our body handles oxidative stress.
According to the study "Relative Carnitine Deficiency in Autism", children with
autism were found to be deficient in carnitine most likely due to mitochondrial
dysfunction (Filipek et al., 2004). Although more research needs to be conducted,
there have been many other promising studies linking L-carnitine supplementation
to the treatment of disorders that are on the autistic spectrum, such as Rett
syndrome (, 2011). (U, V)


Piracetam acts similar to gamma-aminobutyric acts (GABA) which is a
neurotransmitter responsible for communication between the brain and the
nervous system by reducing the activity of neurons, which are our nerve cells
(Konkel, 2015). Although there is little research on the effects of piracetam and
autism, what has been found is promising. When presented with a combination of
piracetam and risperidone, autistic children showed a lower activity of problem
behaviors associated with autism (Akhondzadeh et al., 2008). The most important
link found between piracetam and autism is the effect that has on motor
coordination. Piracetam itself enhances blood flow and oxygen to the brain which
strengthens memory, organization, motor planning and coordination (Dorfman,
2009). (W,X,Y)


Ginkgo Biloba

As previously stated, those who suffer from autism tend to have a lower
mitochondrial function. Ginkgo Biloba helps protect the cells and mitochondrial
function during cellular stress caused by oxidation, free radicals, and stressors.
Ginkgo Biloba also helps improve brain function and memory by increasing blood
flow to the brain (Bone et al., p. 596). (Z)


Ginseng is a medicinal herb composed of ginsenosides, which have been proven to
be neuroprotective. Ginsenosides were found to increase, spread, and regenerate
neurons and the networks that connect them, in turn supporting the brain function
of those with autism or symptoms of the like (Bone et al., p. 631). (Z)


Licorice has been found to have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activity
especially relating to brain function such as memory and learning (Bone et al., p.
726). (Z)

St. John's Wort

Another supportive anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent for neuroprotection,
St. John's Wort altered levels of glutathione in the brain, increasing it and therefore
decreasing oxidation (Bone et al., p. 832). Because autism causes higher levels of
oxidative stress especially in the brain, adding herbs like Ginseng, Licorice, and St.
John's Wort will reduce that oxidative stress allowing the brain to function properly.

Essential Oils For ASD

Therapeutic Support:autism, aromatherapy, child, essential oils

Certain essential oils when administered properly exhibit antioxidant and neuroprotective effects. Essential oils that are high in the monoterpenol borneol are considered neuroprotective and antioxidant. Borneol exerted an antioxidant effect against Aß-toxicity which is a common toxic effect among areas of thebrain (Shutes, p. C3-15).

You can find borneol in the essential oils of:

  • Yarrow
  • Inula
  • Thymus vulgaris ct. borneol
  • Rosemary
  • Sandalwood (Santalum album)
  • Sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) (AA)

Psychological Support:

Common symptoms of autism include problems with focus, attention, and anxiety.
Essential oils that are distilled from the plant part of a root, wood, resin, and balsam
can support in grounding and center a person who has ASD. Roots are grounding,
stabilizing, and provide nourishment to the psyche. Woods are also grounding and
help the mind to center and focus and provide strength to the spirit. Resins support
psychological and emotional wounds along with trauma. Take the essential oils that
are energetically grounding and make a blend of your choice with essential oils that are neuroprotective for best results.



Resins & Balsams
Balsam Copaiba

Autism Support Sample Recipe:

Vetiver 1 drop
Ginger 2 drops
Sandalwood 2 Drops
Frankinsense 2 Drops
Geranium 2 Drops
Citronella 2 drops
*Blend into one ounce of Sunflower oil (or carrier of choice) for a 2% dilution.


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