Treating ADHD with Acupuncture

By Michelle Fletcher

Perhaps the most common diagnosis given to children in the United States is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Over 10% of boys and 5% of girls suffer from this disorder, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology (AACAP).

Traditional treatment of ADHD and ADD (attention deficit disorder) is through the prescription of the stimulant methylphenidate (Ritalin): its production has increased seven times in the 1990s alone, and is continually administered to younger and younger patients. Parents are beginning to question the drugs side-effects and are asking for alternative approaches to ADHD.

Acupuncturist Simon A Becker believes that more parents are turning to alternative medicine. “The use of Ritalin for children suffering from ADHD is, because of its side effects and addictiveness, becoming less and less popular among many health conscious parents. These parents then often look for alternative treatments to solve their children’s behavioral problems.”

In recent years, acupuncture has become a popular complementary therapy for children suffering from ADHD. Auricular acupuncture, specifically, has been proven most effective. The ear may be used alone or in combination with body acupuncture to solve countless illnesses through the stimulation of specific points on the body with micro-thin needles, electricity, laser, or other devices. Since the ear may be stimulated through noninvasive procedures, it is the favored treatment for children.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete system that evaluates each patient individually and addresses specifically to their personality, problems, and bodies. Treatment of ADHD through acupuncture and oriental medicine is looked upon much differently than western medicine, which sees ADHD as a complex neurodevelopmental disorder. According to Chinese medicine, ADHD is either due to insufficient nourishment of the spirit, spirit agitation by some type of heat, or orifice obstruction by static blood or phlegm. Static blood may also interfere with the normal engenderment of blood and hence lead to insufficient spirit nourishment.

“Based on clinical research, both Chinese herbs and acupuncture can be used as an alternative therapy to treat ADHD,” said Dr. Harry Hong, Licensed Acupuncturist. “A comprehensive program including both Chinese herbs and auricular acupuncture may likely serve as a primary treatment for mild ADHD children and as an adjunct therapy for severe cases to possibly lower the dosage of medication needed and reduce the side effects.”

Another important fact to understand is that ADHD is a phenomenon in the United States. “With 5% of the world population, the United States consumes 90% of its Ritalin,” said Hong. “In most other countries the problem is handled very differently. For example, the Chinese believe that some of the symptoms from ADHD are a good description of the way preschool children often behave. The behavior can be changed at the age of six or seven when they go to school. For those children with difficulties too severe to change behavior in school, more tests for ADHD are performed. Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture are often the first choice for ADHD children because of the safe nature of the therapies. Since 1980s there have been numerous clinical trials using Chinese herbs alone to help ADHD children. Most of the trials reported encouraging results.”

“Acupuncture achieves a relatively good clinical effectiveness in the treatment of ADHD, particularly for the hyperactive and mixed subtypes,” said Becker in his article. “Furthermore, post-treatment recurrence rates are low. Hence, this is an effective type of treatment for ADHD which deserves to be popularized.”

Parents interested in pursuing natural therapies for children suffering from ADHD should consult a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine or a registered acupuncturist. Many health plans now cover partial or full costs of acupuncturist visits.

Becker, Simon A. A Ritalin Alternative. Acupuncture in the Treatment of ADHD. Chinese Medical Psychiatry. Blue Poppy Enterprises: 2007.

Becker, Simon A. A Ritalin Alternative. Acupuncture in the Treatment of ADHD. Chinese Medical Psychiatry. Blue Poppy Enterprises: 2007.

Hong, Harry. Treating Children With ADHD the Natural Way. HealthBoards: Accessed June 5, 2007. <>

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