Complementary and Integrative Health Approaches to ADHD Treatment

Beth Krone, Ph.D. and Jessica Downes J.D.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the NIH places health and mental health products and practices in the context of rigorous science for reference of the public and professionals. Their April digest focused on non-pharmaceutical approaches to ADHD management, at https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/adhd, and https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/adhd-science. Here is an infographic of their findings for your reference:

Treatment Evidence Effectiveness Caveats Safety
Omega-3 Fatty acids Inconclusive Not as good as stimulants. Better than DHA Possible utility for treating sub-population with deficiencies Prolonged bleeding time, shellfish allergy risks,
gastrointestinal complaints
Melatonin Limited:
CEBM* level-1
No effect on ADHD For sleep-onset only Drowsiness, headache, dizziness, nausea, nightmares
Pycnogenol French Pine Bark Insufficient Unknown Undetermined Unknown
Ginko biloba Insufficient Not as good as stimulants Not recommended for ADHD Headache, nausea, GI upset, diarrhea, dizziness, allergic rash, increased bleeding risk
St John’s Wort Ineffective No effect on ADHD Not recommended for ADHD may interact with ADHD medications Sensitivity to sunlight, anxiety, dry mouth, dizziness, GI problems, fatigue, headache, or sexual dysfunction, serious drug interactions
Acupuncture Insufficient Unknown Few Studies, limited evidence of benefit Improperly performed acupuncture can cause serious side effects
Meditation Insufficient Unknown possible benefit Many methodologically poor-quality studies Unknown
Yoga Insufficient Unknown Possible short-term benefit Too few and methodologically poor-quality studies Must work with experienced trainers to prevent injuries
Aerobic Exercise Insufficient Unknown Possible short-term benefit Too few studies Possible injuries
Neurofeedback Inconclusive Unknown
possible benefit
fMRI studies show activation; recent sham controlled studies show no benefit Unknown
Zinc Inconclusive Unknown Used in populations with deficiencies Zinc toxicity
Dimethylamylamine (DMAA) Insufficient Unknown FDA warnings about serious side effects Elevated blood pressure, heart attack, shortness of breath, chest tightness

* Center for Evidence-Based Medicine

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