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8 Ways to Treat ADHD Naturally

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8 Ways to Treat ADHD Naturally

By Carrie Demers, MD, Yoga+

My eight-year-old son was just diagnosed with ADHD. My husband and I can’t decide if we should give him medication or pursue alternative treatments. What do you recommend?

This is a tough dilemma for many parents. On one hand, studies show that commonly prescribed medications like Ritalin and Adderall are helpful for 60 to 75 percent of children who are properly diagnosed with ADHD: their ability to focus increases, their grades improve, and they feel better about themselves. On the other hand, these medications are psychostimulants with many potential side effects: insomnia, headaches, abdominal pain, weight loss, and depression. Research on the long-term effects of these drugs is insufficient, but in 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warnings about side effects such as stunted growth and psychiatric problems.

From a holistic point of view, chemical overstimulation of the nervous system isn’t healthy. Fortunately, there are many natural treatments that are effective both alone and in conjunction with drug therapy. Although my answers here are framed by the case of a child, they are applicable to teens and adults as well.

Ayurveda’s Answer

In ayurveda, ADHD is classified as a vata imbalance. Vata is “wind energy”: it’s light, changeable, dry, cool, and mobile. It governs the movement of our bodies and our thoughts. Everyone has some vata in their prakriti (constitution), but those who have a predominance of this light, expansive energy (i.e., a “vata constitution”) tend to have sensitive nervous systems, so they experience the world with a heightened intensity. As a result, they’re prone to anxiety, inattention, restlessness, and sleep problems. Ironically, these children will often seek out sensory-stimulating activities (such as action movies or sugar-laden foods), creating a vicious cycle that agitates their already overactive nervous systems.

Commonly prescribed ADHD drugs stimulate the brain cells to release more of the neurotransmitters called dopamine and norepinephrine, which generally enhance a child’s ability to control impulsive behaviors and concentrate–but they also cause increased activity in the central nervous system (CNS). I would venture to say that these drugs perpetuate the underlying cause of ADHD–overstimulation of a sensitive CNS–throwing your child’s vata energy further out of balance. According to ayurveda, adopting a vata-pacifying lifestyle is the best natural option for your son.

1. Create a Routine

Children with ADHD are drawn to new activities, adventure, and change. Yet they’re balanced by the opposite: activities that are calming, relaxing, and nurturing. Your son needs regularity and structure to counter his natural tendency toward chaos: a regular time to do his homework, exercise, relax, eat, go to bed, and wake up to begin a new day. Here’s some advice about how to create a vata-calming environment for him at home.

2. Relaxation

Do a 5- to 10-minute relaxation with your son at least once a day. Lie down on the floor or in bed in shavasana (corpse pose), supporting your heads with a pillow and covering up with a blanket to stay warm. Then ask your child to feel his body from head to toe. Turn the practice into a game; together, pretend you are a scoop of ice cream melting in the sun, or that you’re sinking into a huge feather pillow. Imagine your breath is like the waves of the ocean–or ask your child to instruct you. The idea is to get your child to relax and deepen his breath, which helps his CNS switch from a sympathetic mode, which is a “fight-or-flight” state, to a parasympathetic mode, which is a nourishing and restorative state. Try this when your child comes home from school, or before supper or bedtime; these are times when our kids can be most overstimulated.

Next: 6 More Ways to Treat ADHD Naturally

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Yoga International is an award-winning, independent magazine that contemplates the deeper dimensions of spiritual life--exploring the power of yoga practice and philosophy to not only transform our bodies and minds, but inspire meaningful engagement in our society, environment, and the global community.


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9:21AM PDT on Jul 24, 2014

if only someone could give me a bedtime message hahaha

8:21AM PDT on May 6, 2014

While some would view the holistic approach to treating illness and disease contrary to the wisdom of conventional medicine, quite the opposite is true in most cases. In fact, most conventional physicians view a patient with a desire to work to improve their overall health as refreshing.

Holistic care treats the whole person, rather than just specific areas of the body. The primary difference between holistic care and conventional medicine is that holistic practitioners try to use naturally occurring substances to treat illnesses and disease instead of manufactured chemicals. Additionally, there is a focus on alternative therapies including chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage and even psychotherapy when appropriate.

My outlook towards alternative medicine changed totally, try this,, my quality of life improved dramatically.

7:49AM PST on Feb 3, 2014

The part about limiting the food dyes, and MSG is the ones that stick out for me the most. Also, lots of fish-oil is very helpful, but to find the "gummy" version for my 6 year old child that also can't have food dies has been nearly impossible.

2:50AM PST on Dec 18, 2013

Our son was diagnosed with AdHD. The Dcotor offered a prescription. I was shocked at how easily they are convinced to give a pre-teen psychotropic medicines with known side effects. We told the Doctor we will consider it and get back to him in a week. I did my research online and found many ayurvedic and homeopathic alternatives. Ultimately we put him on a mix of supplements ayurveda and homeopathy including :
factor brain formula, Neuro Homeopathic Formula, Serotonin Dopamine Liquescence
TNMC - Neuro Medulla Complex and intellec tablets

The results have been great and both his behavior and grades have improved drastically. I'm glad we did not opt for the drugs as I really don't know what would have happened to him if we did. I have since read somewhere that Doctors in America are 4 times more likely to put your child on Ritalin than anywhere else....

7:12PM PDT on Jul 22, 2013

Thank you. Will try some of these.

11:01PM PDT on Jun 22, 2013

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2:33PM PDT on Apr 1, 2013

I am curious.. My son was just diagnosed as ADHD and a balanced diet and being active and having calm time are all things that are a normal in our home. I'm not sure what else I can do for him. My brother was given coffee as a mood adjuster. Does anybody think it works?

5:41AM PST on Mar 7, 2013


10:18PM PST on Jan 13, 2013

Loading up your diet on fruits and vegetables is a great way to boost your mood, and also helps with ADD/ADHD. Juice Plus is a helpful way to bridge the gap between the 7-13 recommended daily servings, and what we actually eat every day. Explore my website for more information.

7:29PM PDT on Oct 29, 2012

Several in my family seem to be effected by ADD. Natural remedies have helped many in different ways. Discounting their effectiveness just because you have no scientific proof tends to severely limit possible chances for success. Find your own studies rather than waiting for them to come knocking on your door.

V Kessler

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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