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Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

At this time, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments are not recommended as treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), because they have not been proved effective or reliable. A major concern is that they may prevent the use of proven traditional treatments that would be of greater benefit.

The following are treatments that you may come across when researching ADHD:

Biofeedback

Biofeedback uses repeated exercises to create or improve pathways of attention and impulse control. The desired result is to help a person create an appropriate mental state for a given situation, such as listening to instructions. Although biofeedback is unlikely to cause physical harm, more research is needed to find out if it might be effective in treating ADHD.

Homeopathy

Stramonium (for nervousness and tremors), cina (for restlessness), and hyoscyamus niger (for impulse control) are examples of homeopathic treatments that need more research before they are considered safe and effective.

Herbal medicines

Herbal medicines and natural substances that some naturopaths use for treating ADHD include ginkgo biloba and lemon balm because of their reputed beneficial effects upon the brain. More studies are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of these herbs and their possible side effects. Kava and St. John's wort, which can be harmful if taken incorrectly, are also sometimes used to try to help regulate mood and behavior problems associated with ADHD.

Iron supplements

You should not use iron supplements or give them to your child without first talking with a doctor. Although some children with ADHD have low levels of iron in their blood, too much iron can be poisonous and may lead to death.

Vitamins

There is no evidence to support taking large doses of vitamins to treat ADHD. A daily multivitamin may help anyone meet his or her nutritional requirements and prevent any deficiencies, especially children who are picky eaters with reduced appetite from psychostimulant medicine.

Dietary modifications

Diet does not contribute to the symptoms of ADHD. But children with food allergies might be better able to deal with ADHD if they avoid foods they are allergic to. Avoiding substances such as food dyes and preservatives is not an effective treatment for ADHD.

Diet restrictions, such as limiting the amount of sugar eaten, became popular despite the lack of scientific evidence showing that it helps children with ADHD. But diet and nutrition can affect general mood and behavior. Eating a balanced diet can help all people—including those who have ADHD—function well.

Yeast

It has not been proved that a fungus, Candida albicans, causes ADHD. Methods to control or destroy fungi, such as certain diet restrictions, removal of fungi in the environment, and medicines to kill fungi (antifungals) do not improve the symptoms of ADHD.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last Revised February 2, 2012

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