In the United States, the most common diagnosis given to children today is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) this disorder affects about 5 percent of girls and 10 percent of boys in grade-school years. From 1991 – 1998, the sale of Ritalin (methylphenidate), a pharmaceutical stimulant increased by 700 percent. An alarming trend has been set in which this drug is prescribed to younger and younger children. Information gathered from certain States suggests that during the years 1991 and 1995, there was an increase in the prescription of stimulants for kids below the age of 5 (for girls, an increase of 107 percent and for boys, 78 percent). This trend of early medication causes a lot of concern for American parents about the drug’s side effect to their young children. Because of this more and more people are seeking safe alternative approaches to ADHD.
Understanding that ADHD is deemed a problem only in the US is the first step towards a a safe and effective alternative therapy for this “condition”. The population of the US comprises just 5 percent of the world’s population but it accounts for 90% of total Ritalin use globally. ADHD is handled quite differently In most countries of the world. The Chinese, for example, consider some of the symptoms of ADHD as just normal behavior of preschool children, when they reach the age of six or seven, their behavior changes especially when they start going to school. Children experiencing difficulties changing their behavior are given test for ADHD. Because of the safe nature of Chinese herbs and allergy desensitization, they are usually the first treatment given to ADHD children. Allergy desensitization and food elimination therapy have demonstrated to work quite well in the treatment of ADHD. Several clinical trials also show Chinese herbs can help ADHD children. An overwhelming number of these trials suggest encouraging outcomes.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
ADHD from the standpoint of TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), is the result of Kidney Yin deficiency. Chinese herbal tonics with Yin energy are typically prescribed. Herbs such as Dioscorea opposite, root of Acori graminei, root of Polygara, bark of Phellodendron, root of Anemarrhena, and root of Rehmannia are frequently used. In 1987, a Chinese study headed by Zhang was conducted involving 326 children with ages ranging 4 – 16. They were given an herbal formula called Jing Ling Extract. The children took the extract two times a day for three months. The study showed that almost 35 percent of the children were cured (no recurring symptoms for six months, coordinate movement tests were negative, marked improvement in school performance, and disappearance of all clinical symptoms). The rate of effectiveness was almost 95 percent including improved cases. In 1989, another study (a separate open trial) also headed by Zhang was conducted that also tested a similar formula, Jing Ling Pill. The study involved the participation of 103 girls and 454 boys for a total of 557 children ages ranging 4 – 16. For six months they were given this pill two times each day. Results reveal that 144 children were cured (25.8 percent) and the rate of effectiveness of the pill was 92.8 percent.
Another study (open randomly assigned trial) performed in 1990, headed by Huang and Zhang compared a drug known as methylphenidate with a Chinese herbal formula. The drug was given to subjects for one to three months two times a day at a dose of 5 – 15 mg while the Chinese herbal formula was given to 80 participants. Out of the 80 subjects, 23 were cured (no recurring symptoms for half a year and no clinical symptoms) compared to only three out of the 20 who were given methylphenidate. The rates of effectiveness were 86 percent versus 90 percent for the methylphenidates and Chinese herbal group, respectively. When it comes to rates of effectiveness, there was not much difference between the two groups, the herbal group, however, experienced a rise in IQ and had lower side effects than the drug group.
A 1995 study headed by Wang witnessed a rate of effectiveness of 94 percent, including improved academics, improved attention, and reduced hyperactivity from children given the herbal tonic Tiaoshen Liquor. In 1994, an open trial headed by Sun observed the effects of Yizhi syrup, another Chinese herbal formula on 66 hyperkinetic children. The trial showed a 85 percent rate of effectiveness, including soft neurological signs, and marked improvement in school records and behavior.
Chinese medicine rarely uses a single herb for treatment. Chinese herbal formulas are composed of a variety of herbs that help reduce side effects and boost the herb’s therapeutic effects. For the treatment of ADHD no data showing use of a single herb exists. Be that as it may, the aforementioned trials using Chinese herbal formula bode well for the use of Chinese medicine treatment for ADHD in the US.
A huge volume of clinical data suggests that a substantial portion of ADHD/ADD cases is connected to environmental and food allergies. A huge number of children with ADHD also suffer from a weak immune system due to environmental toxins. Special electrodermal technique has been used to detect probable autoimmune response against their neurotransmitters and nervous system. Environmental and food allergies and the immune system’s reaction to nutrients such as amino acids and vitamins lead to neurotransmitter deficiency and nervous system malfunction. A revolutionary technique called BioSET, as well as allergy desensitization technique, enzyme therapy, food allergy management, and neurotoxin detoxification, has led to successful outcomes in the treatment of ADHD. Techniques such as BioSET that deal with the immune system and toxins are used always during the initial phase of the treatment. Other supporting treatments such as nutritional supplement and Chinese herbal medicine can help overcome the deficiency of the body once the immune system has been stabilized.
In the treatment of child ADHD, acupuncture has found a role as form of complementary therapy. Using laser acupuncture, an unpublished preliminary pre-post single-blind data study headed by Loo showed improvements in academic performance from students in grades K to 3.
The use of auricular acupuncture also has led to positive results in ADHD treatment. This type of acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years in China were it originated. Over the past half-century, the entire somatotopic and microsystem maps have been developed. Various health conditions can be treated by ear acupuncture either as a standalone treatment or in conjunction with body acupuncture. Ear and body acupuncture stimulate acupoints through the use of needles and other devices such as laser or electricity. Since non-invasive devices can be used to stimulate acupoints on the ear, auricular acupuncture works well with children. A study performed in the Virginia Commonwealth University observed the therapeutic effects of acupuncture beads when taped and massaged on a child’s ear. The study had seven children participants whose ears were each taped with an acupuncture bead. The bead was massaged three times a day for 30 seconds. The parents monitored the behavior of their child. Significant improvements were seen in three of the seven subjects and a fourth also showed a positive change in behavior even though the chart did not show the improvement.
This study and other similar studies on auricular acupuncture for ADHD treatment suggest promising outcomes even if no published systematic data in ADHD acupuncture treatment can be found. In the future, more clinical studies are needed dealing with auricular acupuncture treatment of ADHD. The fact is since 1993, the National Institutes for Health (NIIH) has been funding least one ADHD laser acupuncture treatment study each year.
Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and BioSET technique, based on clinical research, can serve as ideal alternative treatments for ADHD. Likely to serve as a main plan of treatment for mild cases of ADHD is a comprehensive program that includes nutritional supplementation such as amino acid therapy, auricular acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and BioSET. It can also be used as an adjunctive treatment for extreme forms of ADHD in order to reduce the drug dosage and the side effects.