Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD was first described by the English pediatrician Sir George Frederick Still in 1902, and initial diagnostic classifications emphasized the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. [5]

The causes of ADHD in Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM terms are Liver wind rising with Shen (mind and spirit) disturbance arising from Liver yin deficiency also present are heart and spleen qi deficiency. Attention deficit can occur alone or with a hyperactive component.

In TCM the development of the brain is linked to the Kidneys more specifically the kidney essence. The kidney stores essence from two sources the essence given by both parents (DNA) and the acquired essence we get through nutrition.

Growth, development, and reproduction rely on the essential qi of the kidneys. [4] The National Institutes of Health has released data that closely matches the view Chinese medicine takes on brain maturation.

Brain Matures a Few Years Late in ADHD, but Follows Normal Pattern of development. The brain matures in a normal pattern but is delayed three years in some regions, on average, compared to youth without the disorder. [1,2]

Kids and teens with ADHD, a new study finds, lag behind others of the same age in how quickly their brains form connections within, and between, key brain networks.


Diet: A Very Important Consideration

There is research data suggesting that a percentage of ADD/ADHD
cases are related to food and environmental allergies. [6] A change in diet can have a lasting effect on people with AD/ADHD. Read more from Dr. Feingold

The Chinese medicine pathogenesis of ADHD:

Qi deficiency of the heart and spleen: Difficulty with attention and memory.

The heart is the center of the Shen (mind) if the qi of the heart is disturbed then the Shen (mind) will also be agitated affecting everything from concentration to memory. The Qi of the spleen is responsible for the transportation and transformation if this function is not in homeostatic balance then phlegm will arise to fog the Shen (mind) or phlegm obstructing the mind.

Liver wind rising with Shen (mind and spirit) disturbance arising from Liver yin deficiency: Hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and irritability.

Deficiency of liver yin it will lead to liver wind rising affecting the Shen (mind) (Yin is the component that restrains yang, wind moves quickly and upward it stirs things up). This is characteristic of raucous, irritable, and highly active fidgety behavior, easily distracted toward new and novel things or activities; and shows tumultuous behavior. TCM treatment nourishes the liver yin, calm the Shen (mind) and strengthen the Zhi (Will-Power) and settle the agitated liver yang liver wind rising. 

Phlegm obstruction of the heart orifices: Leads to confusion, inability to concentrate, and poor memory.

This disorder occurs for a variety of reasons, but often because of weak digestion and/or poor diet, coupled with emotional disorders, especially agitation. To treat these disorders with herbal medicine, both sedative and tonic herbs must be used together to restore normal balance in the body. [2, 3]

Acupuncture has the capacity to calm down the nervous system thereby calming the impulses that make it hard for a person to relax alleviating the feelings of agitation and fidgeting. Acupuncture improves concentration and harmonizes the person, this address both the mental confusion and sluggishness commonly associated with ADD patients and hyperactivity seen in patients with HD component of AD HD. A social consequence of AD/HD can be social ostracization and being left out of activities or having difficulty with close friendships, and being vulnerable to emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, fear due to the behavior that children and adults with ADD ADHD exhibits and how people interact and react to people with this disorder, it can be very painful.

Acupuncture has the capacity to calm down the nervous system.

Brain Matures a Few Years Late in ADHD, But Follows Normal Pattern

In youth with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) , the brain matures in a normal pattern but is delayed three years in some regions, on average, compared to youth without the disorder, an imaging study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has revealed.

The delay in ADHD was most prominent in regions at the front of the brain’s outer mantle (cortex), important for the ability to control thinking, attention and planning. Otherwise, both groups showed a similar back-to-front wave of brain maturation with different areas peaking in thickness at different times.

Circuitry in the frontal and temporal (at the side of the brain) areas that integrate information from the sensory areas with the higher-order functions showed the greatest maturational delay in youth with ADHD.

For example, one of the last areas to mature, the middle of the prefrontal cortex, lagged five years in those with the disorder. The motor cortex emerged as the only area that matured faster than normal in the youth with ADHD, in contrast to the late-maturing frontal cortex areas that direct it.

This mismatch might account for the restlessness and fidgety symptoms common among those with the disorder, the researchers suggested. Source: NIMH Child Psychiatry Branch click here to read the full article  Released by NIH November 12, 2007.

“There is no pharmacological magic bullet,” says Conrad. No drug can account for nonmedical factors that may contribute to behavior. A fidgety student may be responding to the one-size-fits-all compulsory education system, Conrad says, not a flaw in his brain chemistry.

The Scholarly Perspective on ADHD:

The principal characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity these symptoms appear early in a child’s life. Because many normal children may have these symptoms, but at a low level, or the symptoms may be caused by another disorder, it is important that the child receive a thorough examination and appropriate diagnosis by a well-qualified professional. [1]

Symptoms of ADHD will appear over the course of many months, often with the symptoms of impulsiveness and hyperactivity preceding those of inattention, which may not emerge for a year or more.

Different symptoms may appear in different settings, depending on the demands the situation may pose for the child’s self-control. A child who “can’t sit still” or is otherwise disruptive will be noticeable in school, but the inattentive daydreamer may be overlooked. The impulsive child who acts before thinking may be considered just a “discipline problem,” while the child who is passive or sluggish may be viewed as merely unmotivated. Yet both may have different types of ADHD.

All children are sometimes restless, sometimes act without thinking, and sometimes daydream the time away. When the child’s hyperactivity, distractibility, poor concentration, or impulsivity begin to affect performance in school, social relationships with other children, or behavior at home,  ADHD may be suspected. But because the symptoms vary so much across settings, ADHD is not easy to diagnose. This is especially true when inattentiveness is the primary symptom. [1]


Children who are inattentive have a hard time keeping their minds on any one thing and may get bored with a task after only a few minutes. If they are doing something they really enjoy, they have no trouble paying attention. But focusing deliberate, conscious attention to organizing and completing a task or learning something new is difficult. [1]

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that becomes apparent in some children in the preschool and early school years.  It is hard for these children to control their behavior and/or pay attention. It is estimated that between 3 and 5 percent of children have ADHD, or approximately 2 million children in the United States. This means that in a classroom of 25 to 30 children, it is likely that at least one will have ADHD. [1]

Different symptoms may appear in different settings, depending on the demands the situation may pose for the child’s self-control. This is true with adults of all ages.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Adults:

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD is a highly publicized childhood disorder that affects approximately 3 percent to 5 percent of all children. What is much less well known is the probability that, of children who have ADHD, many will still have it as adults. Several studies in recent years estimate that between 30 percent and 70 percent of children with ADHD continue to exhibit symptoms in the adult years. Typically, adults with ADHD are unaware that they have this disorder—they often just feel that it’s impossible to get organized, to stick to a job, to keep an appointment. The everyday tasks of getting up, getting dressed and ready for the day’s work, getting to work on time, and being productive on the job can be major challenges for the ADHD adult. [1]

Education and Psychotherapy:

Although medication gives needed support, the individual must succeed on his own. To help in this struggle, both “psycho education” and individual psychotherapy can be helpful. A professional coach can help the ADHD adult learn how to organize his life by using “props”—a large calendar posted where it will be seen in the morning, date books, lists, reminder notes, and have a special place for keys, bills, and the paperwork of everyday life. Tasks can be organized into sections, so that completion of each part can give a sense of accomplishment. Above all, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD adults should learn as much as they can about their disorder. [1]

Psychotherapy is a useful adjunct to medication and education. First, just remembering to keep an appointment with the therapist is a step toward keeping to a routine. Therapy can help change a long-standing poor self-image by examining the experiences that produced it. The therapist can encourage the ADHD patient to adjust to changes brought into his life by treatment—the perceived loss of impulsivity and love of risk-taking, the new sensation of thinking before acting. As the patient begins to have small successes in his new ability to bring organization out of the complexities of his or her life, he or she can begin to appreciate the characteristics of ADHD that are positive—boundless energy, warmth, and enthusiasm. [1]

Reference and further resources:

[1] National Institute of Mental Health Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

[2] Clinical Manual of Oriental Medicine 2nd edition, Lotus Institute of Integrative Medicine Calm Jr. Herbal formula

[3] CHINESE HERBAL TREATMENT FOR ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon

[4] Introduction to English Terminology of Chinese Medicine by Nigel Wiseman © 1998 ISBN 957-666-538-8

[5] Problems of Overdiagnosis and Overprescribing in ADHD By Daniel F. Connor, MD

[6]  Feingold Association of the United States (FAUS)

Autism, OCD and Attention Deficit May Share Brain Markers
All three illnesses linked to glitches in nerve bundle linking brain hemispheres
By Ann Griswold, Spectrum on August 9, 2016

August 11, 2011 | ADHD, Attention Deficit Disorders, Child Adolescent Psychiatry

The Five Faces of ADHD: A Chinese Medicine Approach By Erik L. Goldman | Editor-in-Chief – Vol. 8, No. 2. Summer, 2007

ADHD Medications Are ADHD Drugs Right for You or Your Child? 

Side Effects of ADHD Medications by Jane Collingwood

ADHD Medications, an Overview 

The Vanguard School

Tai chi training reduces self-report of inattention in healthy young adults.

Protocols: Treating Children by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon  

Disorders of the mind and spirit frequently appear early in life. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the inborn problems are said to be due to essence deficiency, while the other potential causes are basically the same as described in modern medicine, even though they may be visualized differently.

Pediatric ADHD, Chinese Herbal Medicine & Acupuncture by Bob Flaws, Dipl. Ac. & C.H., FNAAOM Chinese medical protocols in tandem with Western medicine might allow for smaller doses of Western drugs with less adverse side effects and even better overall treatment outcomes.

The Five Faces of ADHD: A Chinese Medicine Approach

The Creative Gifts of ADHD Scientific American By Scott Barry Kaufman