A Holistic Approach to ADHD
In my ten years of experience as a Clinical Herbal Therapist I have seen a number of children and adults diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Each of child I have seen has need a herbal protocol based on age, the cause, and severity of the disorder.
Lets’ explore three different cases of ADHD to learn how different children need individualized health protocols.
The first boy was thirteen when his parents brought him to see me. The boy had been puberty for 1 ½ years and was big for his age. The boy struggled with restlessness, a lack of focus and aggression. Daily the boy would get up and wander around the class while the teacher was talking. He was getting in to physical fights with friends and his brother on a weekly basis. While sports such as hockey and soccer used to be his outlet for pent up energy, he no longer had the patience to play them. He became extremely frustrated when loosing and impatient with other players mistakes.
Two weeks before coming to see me, he was given a diagnosis of ADHD and refused to take any prescribed medication. He said it made him feel sick. His parents were deeply concerned for his well-being. He agreed to try herbal medicine.
As it is extremely difficult to monitor a thirteen year’s diet, I made the usual suggestions but with an awareness that kids like junk food. Instead of hoping for change through diet I focused on the boy’s hormonal changes.
During puberty a male teen experiences the highest levels of testosterone he will have throughout his life. Because the boy had entered puberty early, I wondered if he was having a difficult time managing the surges of testosterone. Was the high levels of testosterone causing the restlessness and aggression as well confusion over the many changes which are not only physical but also emotional, mental and sexual. So I offered the boy a small amount of an herb that moderates the release of testosterone.
This herb, Vitex agnus-castus, did not stop the boy’s growth, but it eased the testosterone surges. Within a week his teacher and parents noticed a decline in both the impulsive aggression and restlessness.
He took the herb for 6 months while being supported to make both dietary changes, learn anger management skills and ways to handle stress. At the end of 6 months, he stopped taking the herb. Over the six months he grew more mentally and emotionally mature. His mind and emotions were able to catch up to his rapidly maturing body.
Another boy I worked with was 3 years old. This boy was extremely impatient and threw chronic temper tantrums. In my office at the time I had numerous stuff toys and Lego. Often children would arrive and pretend to play with the toys but really be much more interested in my conversation with their parents. With this boy it was impossible to have a conversation. The boy continuously interrupted us and when we continued speaking he would throw toys as us and bang his feet on the floor. Eventually Mom was able to reveal that the boy’s gestation period and birth was traumatic.
During pregnancy she had divorced the boy’s father and moved across the country away from family and friends. The labour was long, the cord was caught around the boy’s neck. He arrived in this world bruised and silent.
There is a form of herbals medicine called flower essence. One of these flower essences is specific to a traumatic birth. I offered this essence to boy while he was in the office. Within in five minutes he was laying on the floor, quietly singing to himself.
Besides chamomile and passion flower tea for the boy, he was given flower essence for the next 4 months. Although he continued to have behavioral challenges, they became much more manageable and less frequent. Because of all the changes his Mom had been through, I also offered her herbal medicine for stress.
A third child was an eight year old boy. In my office paced and refused to acknowledge me or any of the toys. He had dark circles under his eyes and his mother told me had just received a diagnosis of ADHD. After restlessly walking back and forth across the room for several minutes, he suddenly laid down and fell asleep.
As the Mom and I spoke we reviewed the boy’s diet and I found that his parents were concerned about him gaining weight and had removed all carbs from his diet replacing them with fruit. The boy was eating fruit for breakfast, snacks, at lunch and before bed. I also learned that the boy had been suffering with chronic ear infections and had taken multiple rounds of anti-biotics. While the boy slept, he began snoring and suddenly woke himself up.
This boy’s ADHD was caused by a severally disturbed microbiome rooted in multiple rounds of anti-biotics and aggravated by excessive amounts of fruit. I suggested the boy begin to take fermented foods and only have one piece of fruit a day. The rest of the day I recommended the boy eat vegetables with some sort of protein. I offered herbs to resolve the chronic ear infection. Within a month the boy was focused again, no longer snoring and had begun to lose weight.
It is my experience that there are multiple causes of ADHD. Each child given this diagnosis needs to be seen as an individual to be helped.