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 Herbal Medicine: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder 
Donald Brown J. ND ©
One need venture no further than the last few volumes of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to realize the uncertainty surrounding the diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The last two to three decades have seen this condition labeled minimal brain damage, minimal brain dysfunction, behavior and learning disorder, hyperkinetic-impulsive disorder, hyperkinetic syndrome, developmental hyperactivity, and finally attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. What is apparent is that ADHD is a collection of symptoms or criteria. The decision to label a child with the diagnosis of ADHD is fraught with the potential for error.

Nowhere is this more evident than in attempts to estimate the number of children with ADHD. Recent estimates place the numbers at 10 percent of boys and 3 percent of girls ranging in age from 4 to 11 years old. The central feature of ADHD is trouble getting things done, both at home and at school, and trouble getting along with adults and other children. The increased activity and short attention span of the child with ADHD have led to the use of stimulant drugs such as Ritalin to control behavior. Paradoxically, these medications work to "slow down" the ADHD child. Unfortunately, these medications are potentially harmful and act merely to mask symptoms without getting to the core of the problem.

Early intervention and successful treatment of ADHD have become even more important in light of recent studies that predict these children face greater problems as adults. Evidence is mounting that children with ADHD are at higher risk for depression, restlessness, alcoholism, and antisocial behavior as adults."

Herbal Prescriptions

Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng)—Please use one-half the recommended dose for adults listed under "Other Herbal Considerations" in the following section on depression.

Actions: Helps correct blood sugar metabolism and adrenal function

Evening primrose oil—2 to 3 grams daily2
Action: Recommended by the Hyperactive Children's Support Group of Great Britain. It corrects the essential fatty acid deficiency noted in some ADHD children.

Nutritional Supplement Considerations

Vitamin B6—50 to 100 milligrams daily3
Zinc—5 to 10 milligrams daily4
Copper—0.5 to 1 milligram daily
Chromium—200 micrograms daily5

Dietary Recommendations
A whole-foods diet, high in protein and complex carbohydrates. Cut down on sugar and simple carbohydrates.6 Cut back on processed junk foods high in additives and food colorings. The Hyperactive Children's Support Group of Great Britain recommends that the following food additives be avoided:

Sunset Yellow
Benzoic acid
Red 2G
Brilliant Blue FCF
Quinoline Yellow
Carmoiic acid
Sulfur dioxide
Potassium nitrate
Sodium benzoate
Sodium nitrate

Try to avoid foods, such as the following, with high salicylate content:7

Plums (canned)
Raspberries (fresh)
Peppermint tea

Prunes (canned)
Strawberries (fresh)

Many spices: cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, curry, oregano, paprika, pepper, rosemary, sage, turmeric

Lowering the intake of cow's milk, soy, eggs, wheat, citrus, and other potential allergenic foods may be helpful until your child's behavior im proves.8 Identification and elimination of food allergens should be done under the supervision of a trained health care practitioner.

Lifestyle Considerations

  • Limit TV watching and video games.
  • Work with a counselor to discover if there are any family relationship problems that may be triggering ADHD behaviors.
  • Children with ADHD living in urban areas should be tested for possible lead poisoning.

  • (Excerpted from Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health:
    Your Everyday Guide to Prevention, Treatment, and Care ISBN: 0761503234)
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