Richard G. Petty, MD

Non-pharmacological and Lifestyle Approaches to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: 10. Traditional Chinese Medicine

One of the problems when looking at research using traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is that the Chinese medical system does not easily map onto the Western system of medicine. So while we might talk about attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a Chinese medicine expert would be more interested in disturbances of qi, shen and jing in the whole person.

Most people who have done much acupuncture have seen people with attentional problems and tried to help them with acupuncture or acupressure. In traditional Chinese medicine, hyperactivity is thought to be the result of disturbance of the Shen (Mind or Spirit) that resides in the Heart. If the Shen is healthy then the mind and body of the child will be calm.

According to traditional Chinese medical pathology, there are three things that can disturb the Shen residing in the Heart:

  • Heat
  • Phlegm and/or
  • Xu (Deficiency)

In the poetic language of the Chinese:

“If the Shen is not nourished sufficiently the child will not feel grounded and their Shen will flutter around nervously, like an agitated flame; this will be made worse if further Heat develops and rises, or if excessive Phlegm develops and obstructs the portals or orifices of the Heart to cause confusion and poor judgment.”

You see why Western doctors often have a hard time learning about Chinese medicine, and few ever comprehend its beauty and subtlety. And I say that after 26 years of acupuncture practice under my belt!

Despite the popularity of Chinese medicine, which includes acupuncture, herbs, nutrition and qigong, there are very few studies.

There have been some done in China, but often the structure of trials is different in China, where it is often considered unethical to withhold treatment, so studies rarely have a placebo arm.

A number of experts in Chinese medicine have written articles on their experience in treating ADHD.

Since there are so many people claiming success using Chinese medicine, there is an urgent need for controlled studies so that we can see how acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine might fit in with other forms of treatment, and when to use what. As we have said when examining all the different forms of unorthodox medicine, we always have to balance the natural desire to do without medications against the havoc that can be caused by untreated or inadequately treated ADHD.

Having seen acupuncture and acupressure help some people with ADHD myself, I shall continue to monitor and report on any research reports that come out in the future.

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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