Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

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

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

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.

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    Written by Donald J. Brown ND

    Explore Wellness in 2021