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7 Things To Know About Complementary Health Approaches for ADHD

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People with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have trouble paying attention or controlling impulsive behavior, and they may be overly active. Conventional treatment, which may include medication (most often stimulants), behavior therapy, or a combination of both, is helpful for the majority of children and adults with ADHD. Many complementary health approaches have been studied for ADHD, but none has been conclusively shown to be helpful.

Here are 7 things you should know if you are considering a complementary health approach for ADHD:

  1. Researchers are studying whether omega-3 fatty acids could be helpful for ADHD, but current evidence is inconclusive.
  2. Melatonin has not been shown to relieve ADHD symptoms, but it may help children with ADHD who have sleep problems to fall asleep sooner.
  3. Research on other dietary supplements, including L-carnitine, St. John’s wort, French maritime pine bark extract (also known as Pycnogenol), and ginkgo biloba, has not demonstrated that these supplements are helpful for ADHD. Dietary supplements may have side effects and may interact with drugs. In particular, St. John’s wort can speed up the process by which the body breaks down many drugs, thus making the drugs less effective.
  4. Several mind and body practices, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, and meditation have been studied for ADHD, but the amount of evidence on each of these practices is small, and no conclusions can be reached about whether they are beneficial.
  5. Short-term aerobic exercise, including yoga, has shown beneficial effects on symptoms of ADHD such as attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
  6. Some research has suggested that neurofeedback, a technique in which people are trained to alter their brain wave patterns, may improve ADHD symptoms, but several small studies that compared neurofeedback to a control procedure did not find differences between the two treatments.
  7. If you’re considering using any of these complementary health approaches, or others, for ADHD, talk with your (or your child’s) health care provider.

This page last modified September 24, 2015