Richard G. Petty, MD

Non-pharmacological and Lifestyle Approaches to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: 4. Homeopathic Remedies

A fundamental principle of homeopathy is that that all symptoms of ill health are expressions of disharmony within the whole person and that it is the patient who needs treatment not the disease.

The roots of homeopathy are ancient, but the “modern” form was created in 1796 when a German doctor named Samuel Hahnemann, formulated an approach to the cure of the sick that he called homeopathy (from the Greek words meaning ‘similar suffering’). Two thousand years earlier the Greek physician Hippocrates proposed that there were two ways of treating ill health:

  1. The way of “opposites” – as an example, a medicine is an anti-hypertensive, aimed at opposing high blood pressure and
  2. The second was the way of “similars, of “like curing like.”

A good example of the second approach is insomnia. The conventional treatment might be to use a medicine to bring on sleep artificially. It may well help someone, but the pharmacological industry recognizes that many of the older medicines could produce poor quality sleep, or be addictive, so they continue to create new medicine. Medicines are getting ever better, but the basic principle remains that they are intended to induce sleep artificially. The homeopathic method of “similars” is to give the patient a minute dose of a substance, such as coffee, that would in large doses cause insomnia in a healthy person. This approach may induce natural sleep. The minute dose is really minute: it is so dilute that there are no molecules left. It is believed that homeopathic remedies work by stimulating the body’s own healing power. The remedy is a stimulus that will assist the systems of the body to clear themselves of imbalances.

Homeopathic treatment is highly individualized. Rather than saying that someone “Has ADHD,” the treatment looks at all the signs and symptoms, likes and dislikes that a person brings to the table.

The principles of homeopathy cut across everything that science believes, and so it attracts a lot of criticism. Words like “voodoo” and “witchcraft” are some of the more polite terms that have been applied to it. Yet tens of thousands of people claim that it works and in some parts of the third world it is used first line, even in people with serious illnesses. The research base is thin, but it does exist. There are also a sizeable number of attempts by credible scientists to explain the strange phenomena of homeopathy using rigorous scientific models.

There have been several studies of homeopathy in ADHD, or variable quality, but interestingly four have been positive ( 1, 2, 3, 4) and one failed to find an effect. Overall, the scientific evidence for homeopathy in ADHD is weak, but it is important to be aware of the concept of “levels of evidence.”

In the past it was often thought that the only kind of evidence to be of any value in clinical decision making had to have been obtained by randomized controlled trials. Yet we all know from experience that there are other types of evidence. A teacher or a colleague may have recommended a course of action based on experience or observation, and this can provide valuable guidance. We now recognize four types of clinical evidence:

  1. Case reports
  2. Case series and uncontrolled observational studies
  3. Retrospective database analyses: could be used to test hypotheses but are sometimes limited to hypothesis-generation
  4. Controlled analytic studies, including randomized clinical trials

The first two are used primarily for generating hypotheses. Database analyses are either used for generating or testing an hypothesis, while the controlled studies are all designed to test hypotheses. When we review evidence or perform meta-analyses we give each type of evidence a rating.

So controlled studies are given a higher rating than case reports, because the evidence can be generalized to many individual patients. A further refinement is to factor in the source of the study. So a study by a pharmaceutical company tends to get a lower rating than an independent study.

There is another important issue about clinical trials, which is that we must not confuse pragmatic trials (does the treatment work?) and explanatory studies (how does is work?). Trials are usually designed to answer only one of those two questions. Clinicians have sometimes fallen into the trap of saying that they do not believe a pragmatic trial because it did not explain the mechanism, without realizing that these are two separate questions. Aspirin was used for two centuries before we learned its mechanism of action.

Although homeopathic treatments are all individualized, and finding the best one may require an expert, here are some of the homeopathic remedies most commonly used in the treatment of people with ADHD:

Aconite: They will often have had a major shock in their lives; they tend to have strange and irrational fears, for example cotton balls, and they have a tendency to sweat at night and to have a tendency to get fevers and to be constantly thirsty

Argentum Nitricum: These people – and children – tend to be thin and excitable. They are always in a hurry, moving around and touching everyone. They often have obsessive-compulsive behavior. They are afraid of crowds and dislike going to public places, including school. They prefer being outdoors. They are hyperactive but with a quality of innocence. Though they may have short bursts of anger, they are rarely malicious. They are prone to hypoglycemia and they are better after they have eaten. They tend to craves sweets, though sadly those candies often adversely affect her or his behavior. They may be susceptible to conjunctivitis and tonsillitis

They are forgetful, slow, poor learning ability. They tend to be very sensitive to noise and light. They have night terrors and a fear of ghosts. When they are angry they sometimes look “wild.” They tend to have large heads with bright red cheeks. They look well, even when sick. In addition to the ADHD, they have a tendency to develop otitis media and they typically complain of hot and throbbing discomfort. They often crave cold drinks, lemons and oranges

Cannabis indica:
The child or adult feels isolated, disconnected with feelings of anguish, terror, ecstasy. They feel spacy, confused and inattentive. Time and space feel disoriented. They have a fear of going insane: everything feels like a dream, even familiar things seem strange or unreal. He or she acts as if they are in a dream or off in space. They cannot pay attention for long. They tend to be good at science projects but can theorize until they lose touch with reality. They are absent-minded, can be obsessive-compulsive and sometimes look as if they are on drugs

They tend to have a bad temper: very irritable and impatient; complaining, frustrated, restless, and thirsty. They are also contrary – they do not know what they want; demands one thing than want something else. A fidgety child quiets down once he or she has attracted attention. A child wants to be carried everywhere or he or she will whine and scream but will settle down if carried and rocked. They have an aversion to being touched with a hypersensitivity to pain: feels pain is unbearable; everything is intolerable. They can become so hyperactive that they will get exhausted and begin to cry. There is a dullness of the senses with a diminished power of comprehension, as if they were hard of hearing. All of these symptoms are worse at night

They are often cross, contrary and disobedient with very difficult behavior. If it is a child, he or she does not want to be touched or even looked at and turns away when approached. Nothing satisfies them for long: they are restless, fidgety and fretful, especially during sleep when they grind their teeth and may wet the bed. They often have trouble with parasites, such as pinworms. Their sleep is very restless, accompanied by jerking, frequent swallowing and coughing; often sleep on their abdomen or the hands and knees during sleep. They tend to have an irritated nose causing a constant desire to rub, pick, or bore into it until it bleeds. Their ears can be itchy and they often have twitching of face muscles and eyelids. Some of them may even have seizures. Their appetite can be ravenous with a lot of thirst, and a lot of craving of sweets; children often have large bellies

Difficult children with poor impulse control, even though engage in premeditated actions. They talk excessively and may have episodes of rage that might include hitting and screaming. They can be manipulative, lying, and violent. They seem unable to think, are unresponsive to questions or cannot bear anyone talking to them. They are intense, fearful and excitable. They often have feelings of abandonment, jealousy and suspicion. They have fears of the dark, of dogs and of water. They tend to be very animated, seeming to be silly and foolish, smiling and laughing at everything, often inappropriately and do things outrageous things to the center of attention, being the clown or dancing like a monkey. Children love to run around naked and try to embarrass their parents. They can be jealous of their siblings, often may injure them. Interestingly they cannot tolerate being covered up.

They tend to be loquacious, agitated and hyperactive. They are restless and moody with strong emotions. They can be very jealous of their siblings or even a same sex parent. Lachesis children, and sometimes the adults, tend to be vengeful, sarcastic and nasty, and to have a self-destructive side. They also have a marked lack of confidence and they can easily become depressed, withdrawn and hopeless. They hate any kind of physical or behavioral restriction, such as tight clothing or being “grounded.” They hate authority and may even run away from home. Some may also show aggression which surfaces easily and makes them difficult to live and work with. They tend to be very suspicious with a marked preoccupation about others. They often feel that others are often criticizing them and putting them down. All of these symptoms, including the attentional problems are worse when they wake up. Typically they are not refreshed when they wake, and complain of a feeling of suffocation.

Lycopodium Clavatum:
These people tend to be insecure about themselves, but they overcompensate, acting like boastful bullies. They often have marked lack of confidence and many fears, and are often really cowards. They can be dictatorial at home where they feel safe. They have a real fear of looking bad and they are afraid of failure. They are usually intelligent and may look older than his or her years. Many of them have dyslexia and confuse words or letters. Performance anxiety is common and many prefer younger friends, while wanting to please authority figures. Lycopodium people tend to have a lot of abdominal gas. They are more tired, restless and irritable between 4 and 8 p.m. These children often do not want to sit down to have dinner, preferring to run around.

These children and adults have ADHD, but are also violent or fearful. The hyperactivity is usually severe, they are easily terrified and inclined to violent agitation and fits of rage. Their speech is loud, fast, and sometimes incoherent. They have feelings of terror and abandonment and have multiple fears: of the dark, dogs, evil, death and suffocation. They tend to be constantly thirsty but paradoxically they are afraid of water yet they dread water. As children they are especially afraid to be alone at night. They have nightmares and night terrors that are at their worst between midnight and 2 a.m. They often wake up screaming, saying that they can see ghosts, specters and spirits. The child can be sweet all day and have terrors at night;

These people can be egotistical, and they try to control his or her feelings with their intellects. They hate being scared and often feel as if they have been disgraced as if being scorned; delusions that he or she has been disgraced. They are often messy and untidy, but they do not see it. They can be lost in thought, absent-minded, spacey, forgetful and loses things. They are typically full of theories and dreams, they love fantasy and science fiction. They tend to be loners with limited social skills; preferring computers, reading, mechanical things

Tarentula Hispanica:
Symptoms are accentuated by music. He or she acts wild and crazy and loves to sing and dance. He or she feels as if there is never enough time; feels as if he or she has been insulted. There is often a sense that there is a stranger in the room. He or she sees faces on closing his or her eyes. Children tend to be restless, hurried mischievous and sneaky. They tease, hide things from others and may cut things, including

Revolts against restriction and have a powerful need to feel free. He or she always desires and seeks change, travel and new experiences. Always feels dissatisfied; feels as if there is never enough time. They are usually afraid of dogs and cats. He or she often has delusions that he or she can fly, that someone is following her or him. They are often compulsive, uncontrollable and destructive. They throw tantrums and break things. Many are precocious and they can be malicious

Veratrum album:
These people often feel that something dreadful has happened, even if it has not. They are usually distressed or even inconsolable. Their minds race, they are agitated, restless, fidgeting and impulsive. They are always busy, but often the business is not goal directed. They often become overly religious and may feel that they have the ability to communicate directly with God. They sometimes become quite grandiose believing themselves to be a great and distinguished

Bear in mind that this is only a partial list, but it gives you a very good idea of just how specific the homeopathic remedies are. Two people may both have been diagnosed with ADHD, but the accompanying features determine which remedy will be best.

If the symptoms fit, then the treatment is to give the appropriate remedy. The skill is in doing the precise matching of symptoms and remedy and in deciding on the correct dosage to use.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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