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9 Things To Know About Complementary Health Approaches for ADHD for Children and Teens

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is common among children and teens; almost 10 percent (6 million) have been diagnosed with this condition. Many complementary health approaches have been studied for ADHD, but none has been conclusively shown to be more effective than conventional therapies.

Here are 9 things to know if you are considering a complementary health approach for ADHD for your child:

  1. Current evidence on whether omega-3 fatty acids are helpful for ADHD symptoms is inconclusive. In studies where omega-3 supplements had benefits for ADHD symptoms, they were not as effective as stimulant medications.

  2. Limited evidence suggests that melatonin supplementation may be helpful for sleep problems in children with ADHD. Melatonin appears to be safe for short-term use, but its long-term safety is uncertain.

  3. There’s not enough evidence to reach conclusions about either the effectiveness or safety of Pycnogenol (French maritime pine bark) for ADHD symptoms.

  4. There’s not enough evidence to support the use of Ginkgo biloba for ADHD symptoms. In one study that compared ginkgo with standard drug treatment, ginkgo was less effective.

  5. Current evidence suggests that St. John’s wort is no better than a placebo (an inactive substance) for ADHD symptoms. St. John’s wort interacts in harmful ways with many medicines. 

  6. There is insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions about whether acupuncture is helpful for ADHD symptoms. Acupuncture is generally safe when performed correctly.

  7. It’s unclear whether meditation is helpful for ADHD symptoms. Aerobic exercise, including yoga, has small-to-moderate beneficial effects on ADHD symptoms.

  8. Evidence on the effectiveness of neurofeedback (a technique in which people are trained to alter their brain wave patterns) for ADHD is mixed.

  9. If you’re considering using a complementary health approach for ADHD for your child, talk with the child’s health care provider.