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  • Olga V. Ways

Acupuncture for AD/HD


Treating Attention Deficit Disorder ADD/HD with Acupuncture and Natural Chinese herbal formulas

The purpose of this article is to provide an initial insight into the understanding of a common condition of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/HD) and various treatment options currently available from the holistic approach of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine – Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine).

One of the understandings of ADD/HD is that it is a physiological imbalance that needs to be treated with drugs, the other view stresses it being more of a behavioral disorder for which counseling is added in addition to medication.

With estimated 10% of the U.S. population diagnosed with ADD/HD, Ritalin being prescribed on a regular basis to help children concentrate and stay on task at school, parents often find themselves at a loss as to the best way to help their children manage their behavior and continue look for possible causes and more natural holistic ways to help their kids succeed educationally and socially.

Some of the symptoms:

  • Difficulty focusing on a task, organizing ad following through

  • Forgetfulness, making careless mistakes

  • Tendency to lose things, avoidance tasks that require prolonged mental concentration

  • Often easily distracted

AD/HD current classification includes:

  • AD/HD-I (predominance of attention deficit or inattention)

  • AD/HD-HI (predominance of hyperactivity and impulsive behavior)

  • AD/HD-C (combination of behavioral criteria)

It is important that AD/HD is not a disorder with a long history and seems to be prevalent in the United States where shelves are still filled with processed food and artificial colorings banned in many European countries. Thus one of the causes is attributed to food allergies and patients should avoid synthetic additives such as synthetic colors, flavors and preservatives BHA, BHT/TBHQ, as well as the group of foods containing a natural salicylate radical (according to Ben Feingold, MD study – www.feingold.org is an excellence web resource).

Other studies point out phosphate as a culprit (Hertha Hafer study and her book “The Hidden Drug – Dietary Phosphate”), as well as zinc, vitamin B6, magnesium and essential fatty acids deficiency.

Dietary changes that are highly recommended to make:

  • Fatty acids supplements (as in fish oil, flax oil, DHA/EPA supplements, primrose oil, borage oil)

  • Ban trans-fats, give preference to olive oil, fish oil, canola oil and flax oil.

  • Avoid food additives and highly processed food

  • Supplement with a high quality, preferable from whole foods, multivitamin that contains trace minerals and other supplements, especially calcium, magnesium, zinc, and Vitamin B6.

  • Reduce sugar, eat whole grains and increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables

Parents should bear in minds the importance of the dietary changes and that any prescription is affecting organs and overall health and is a quick fix. There is a concern about the side effects of the drugs prescribed for AD/HD, such tics, insomnia, irritability, as well as the questions about the long-term safety of these medications and preference to avoid stimulants, leads many parents to alternative treatments (Bussing R., Zima BT, Gary FA, Garvan CW. Use of complementary and alternative medicine for symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Psychiatr Serv. 2002;53:1096-1102.doi:10.1176/appi.ps.53.9.1096 [PubMed]).

Chinese Medicine Perspective and treatment of AD/HD

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, symptoms of AD/HD are related to the energies of the Kidney, Heart and Spleen organs and meridians. With the yin aspect of the Kidney deficiency, we may see excess of yang which would demonstrate as hyperactivity, impulsivity and wandering mind. With Heart and Spleen Qi deficiency, there is likely to be a lack of concentration, poor memory, being in one’s own mind. For these imbalances there are specific acupuncture points and herbal formulas that are often prescribed by Acupuncture Physicians.

Acupuncture is reported to change brain activity bringing it to a more balanced state, significantly decrease activity in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC) (Hori E, Takamoto K, Urakawa S, Ono T, Nishijo H. Effects of acupuncture on the brain hemodynamics. Auton Neurosci.2010;157:74-80.doi:10.1016/j.autneu.2010.06.007. [PubMed] Data from family practice physician and internists show that acupuncture is one of the most frequently recommended CAM (Complimentary and Alternative medicine) therapies (Diehl DL, Kaplan G, Coulter I, Glik D, Hurwitz EL. Use of acupuncture by American Physicians. J Altern Complement. Med. 1997). Acupuncture is a relatively simple, inexpensive, and safe treatment compared to other conventional interventions.

Your Oriental Medicine Doctor will take a full health history of the patient and recommend a course of treatment with is generally 2-4 months, with consecutive follow up visits suggested. Patient is normally seen 2 times a week for the first 2-3 week, then, as the improvements are observed switched to once a week for the rest of the course of treatment.


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