By – Dr Renita D’Souza
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a behavioural disorder. The symptoms usually begin to appear in children at around 2 years of age. Ayurvedic treatment with therapies targeted to improve brain functions, herbs and remedies to improve concentration and mind calmness, coupled with cognitive behavioural therapy can be very effective in ADHD.
Read – Do you concentrate on improving concentration? 14 Easy Techniques
Table of Contents
Symptoms of ADHD
- Child does not seem to listen when you speak to them directly
- Lack of concentration.
- Does not seem to be interested to complete the activity.
- Find difficult to plan strategy or organise the task.
- Fails to follow instructions
- Lack of eye contact
- Seen to be lost in own thoughts or daydreaming
- Talks excessively
- Irrelevant speech
- Will be always seen moving and does not like to be seated at one place
- They are forgetful and lose things easily
- Interrupts others in their conversation
- Act before hearing complete instructions or answers before the question completes.
- Always seen to be fidgeting
- Will be aggressive and anxious in nature.
Understanding ADHD by the principle of Ayurveda
Vata Dosha is responsible for all types of movements and activities in the body. ADHD, where there is excess physical and mental activity, is a Vata imbalance disorder.
Vata dosha governs the functions involving movement, activity, thinking process, speech, perceiving the sense objects etc. The things perceived by sense organs should be differentiated between the beneficial or harmful, good or bad and this is possible by proper functioning of mind.
Dhi (intelligence, power of gaining knowledge),
Druti (retention of knowledge) and
Smriti (memory) are the normal functions of mind.
Coordination of these mind functions determines the behaviour of the person.
Jnanendriya – the sense organs and
Karmendriyas – mainly hands and legs.
In ADHD, the child’s mind is unable to have good control over these two sets of sense organs, under the influence of aggravated Vata Dosha. Hence, it becomes hyperactive.
Read – Ayurvedic Medicines For Memory: When And How To Take?
In attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, there is abnormal behaviour with hyperactivity which can suggest the imbalance in vata dosha and disturbed mind functions. Here mainly Manovaha strotas is affected causing blockage in normal functioning of these channels.
Causative factors for ADHD
Although the cause for ADHD is unknown, the factors such as
lead intake during pregnancy,
low birth weight,
premature birth etc
are considered as probable causative factors as per the studies.
According to Ayurveda, the activities and diet in pregnancy and that which the child follows after birth causing imbalance in vata dosha, reducing the mind quality and immunity can be considered as probable causative factors for ADHD.
Read – Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS): Causes, Exercises, Remedies, Treatment
- Excessive intake of vata increasing diet in pregnancy and by the child in developing age.
- Taking a diet that reduces mind quality, immunity and strength. Example – junk foods, preserved, canned, refrigerated food items, spicy, contaminated, wrongly combined foods, uncooked or excessively cooked food etc.
Activities increasing vata dosha and reducing mental functions.
- excess physical activity more than once physical strength.
- exposure to cold wind or air conditioned environment.
- excess of watching television, using phones, watching continuous moving characters as while playing video games etc increases vata, inhibits thinking process and memory.
- suppression of natural urges
- excessive talking, travelling, laughing and talking at the top of the voice etc.
Treatment of ADHD in Ayurveda
Adhd is the vata dosha predominant behavioural disorder which affects the manovaha strotas. Hence the treatment
that corrects the dosha imbalance,
improves and normalises the brain functions such as memory, intelligence, concentration, learning ability, speech development etc
can prove to be effective in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Effective principle involved to treat ADHD
- Deepana and Pachana –
This principle corrects digestive fire and digests ama. Thereby it corrects the appetite, clears the channel obstructions by removing ama and aids proper nourishment to all seven tissues.
- Strotoshodhana (cleansing the channels) –
Here mainly the channels carrying out brain functions are afflicted. The normal flow of doshas is obstructed causing lack of concentration, learning disability, poor memory etc. Ayurvedic herbs such as vacha(Acorus calamus) helps in removing the obstruction in channels especially manovahastrotas. Because of its penetrating and digestive property, it clears the channels by digesting ama and allows normal functioning of the brain.
Read – Understanding Digestion Process From An Ayurveda View
- Improving the Brain functions – Medhya Rasayana –
Rasayana medicines used for prevention and curing diseases. They help to nourish all tissues, improves strength and immunity. Medya rasayanas are those which particularly work on mental development and rejuvenates nervous system. They improve memory, learning, enhances concentration and intelligence.
Read – 13 Important Benefits Of Rasayana Treatment
Single herbs used to improve brain functions
It is widely used in children to improve speech, memory and intelligence. The term ‘Vacha’ means ‘speaking’. It rejuvenates brain and nervous system. It balances vata and kapha dosha. Improves digestion strength. Because of its scraping property it removes excess kapha and hence widely used in obesity.
It is the best herb used to strengthen the nervous system. It boost brain functions, improve learning and memory. Widely used to relieve stress, anxiety, forgetfulness, sleeplessness, improve physical strength and used as rejuvenating herb. It balances vata dosha.
Research conducted to evaluate the role of vacha and ashwaghandha in combination to prevent the cognitive dysfunction and its neuro-protective action has shown promising results in ensuring cognitive function in learning & memory and neuro- protection in experimental model (C)
It is an excellent memory enhancing Ayurvedic herb. Its antioxidant action helps improving the cognitive functions, and enhancement of memory.
A study done based on effects of brahmi on human memory has evaluated the significant effect of brahmi over the retention of new information and decreasing the rate of forgetting the newly acquired information. (B)
Improves digestion, relieves ama, boosts immunity, improve memory and cognitive functions, relieves stress and anxiety.
The research conducted based on anti stress action of giloy proved to be effective in depression, improving cognitive functions, memory. Antidepressant mechanism of re uptake of amines in the brain and improving the levels of norepinephrine (NE), serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT), and dopamine (DA), and decreasing the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) have been demonstrated. (A)
Improves intelligence and memory, used in mental disorders, depression, relieves sleeplessness, anxiety, improves digestion strength, immunity and physical strength.
Ghee highly beneficial in improving memory. Ayurveda recommends its daily inclusion in diet. Daily including ghee in diet with proper dose will help improving digestion strength, memory, intelligence, proper functioning of sense organs, wisdom, immunity, lustre, voice. It nourishes and rejuvenates the body of all ages. It balances vata and pitta dosha.
Ayurvedic medications used in ADHD
Extensively used in low memory, loss of concentration, delay speech, language disorders, delay milestone development.
Widely used in children to enhance memory, intelligence. Also used in speech and language disorders. Improves digestive power.
It is the best memory and immunity booster tonic, used in psychological conditions, epilepsy, insanity, improves voice.
It is the potent Ayurvedic memory booster tonic. Enhances memory, intelligence, corrects impaired speech and voice, relieves sleeplessness and vertigo. It calms restless mind and cools down aggressive nature.
It is completely alcohol free.
Used to improve memory and concentration.
Exhibits neuroprotective, anxiolytic and anti-depressant actions.
It is used in mental disorders. It enhances memory.
It is extensively used to enhance intelligence, memory, learning skills and speech. It relieves depression, stress and balances all three doshas.
Other Ayurvedic medicines that are commonly used for the treatment of ADHD are –
The choice of medicine depends on the Ayurvedic doctor.
It is very dangerous to give medicines on your own without consulting the doctor.
Therapies effective in ADHD
- Abyanga (body oil massage) – body oil massage is done in classical method helps to relieve vata dosha, relaxes the body muscles and calms mind.
- Shirodhara – It is the classical procedure of pouring medicated liquids over the head. It is used to relieve diseases related to head. It calms the mind, improves concentration, relieves sleeplessness, depression, anxiety etc. Vata relieving liquids are more effective in adhd patients.
Few examples of effective medicines used in Shirodhara for ADHD
Ksheera Bala Taila
Milk processed with vata balancing herbs
The above products are also used for Ayurvedic therapies related to head such as Shiro Pichu, Shirovasti and Shiro Abhyanga (head massage).
Click to Consult Dr Renita D’Souza
Brahmi vs Ashwagandha for ADHD
Between Ashwagandha and Brahmi, which one is better for improving focus, concentration and to treat ADHD?
Dr JV Hebbar
ADHD is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Usually found in children but not uncommon in adults. Here, attention, focus and concentration is less and the child is hyperactive. Does not sit at one place, moving here and there, restless, edgy, forgetful, speaking out of turn, etc. Mind is not calm, there is no rest given to the mind, the mind is engaged with one or the other activities.
In a person with lack of focus and concentration, similar observations can be made.
Let us discuss some ideal herb qualities required in these conditions.
Hotness vs. Coldness
Coldness tends to settle you down, coldness – water, is nourishing, calming, soothing. When you are anxious, cold water is more useful to calm you down than hot water.
Hotness is stimulating and activating. Probably not the quality needed here, in this case.
Brahmi is considered as a coolant by many Ayurvedic masters (though a few consider it as hot).
Ashwagandha is hot.
Read: Brahmi (Bacopa Monnieri) Benefits, Dose, Side Effects, Research
Heaviness vs. lightness
You would need something which is heavy to make the brain well-nourished, to make the mind satiated, so that it can focus on lesser things than moving all around.
Brahmi, being coolant, is slightly heavier compared to Ashwagandha.
Read: Ashwagandha Withania somnifera Uses, Dose, Side Effects, Research
Oiliness vs. Dryness
You would need oiliness to nourish the brain. As per research, ghee is one of the very ideal lipid mediums to deliver medicinal principles to the brain, as it can cross the blood-brain barrier. So, an herbal ghee medium is ideal to deliver the required medicinal principles to the brain.
Brahmi, along with a few other ingredients is made into herbal ghee, called Brahmi Ghritha. In its description, Brahmi Ghritha Acharya Vagbhata explains
Vak krut – promotes speech
Medha krut – improves intelligence
Smruti krut – improves memory
Read: Brahmi Ghrita Benefits, Dosage, How To Use, Side Effects
Whereas, Ashwagandha ghrita is explained as useful in aphrodisiac therapy, to improve muscle, bone power in children etc.
Read: Brihat Ashwagandha Ghrita Benefits, Dosage, Ingredients
Medhya = promoting intelligence
Brahmi has been attributed with medhya quality by numerous Acharyas, whereas Ashwagandha is not directly explained so, though it is used widely in many psychiatric disorders.
Ayushya, Rasayani – Anti-aging, brain tissue rebuilding
You would need anti-aging effects profusely filled up in the herb to build back brain better. Brahmi is explained as Ayushya and Rasayani. It is widely used in the treatment of dementia in elders.
Ashwagandha, though not directly explained as anti-aging in Samhita textbooks, possesses anti-aging properties as explained by Acharyas of recent centuries.
Kapha promoting vs. Kapha decreasing
Kapha is a combination of earth and water elements. There is calmness, there is firmness, there is stability, focus and calmness.
For the brain to be calm, for the activities to reduce, for the focus to improve, you would want something which nourishes and promotes Kapha Dosha.
Brahmi, being a coolant, promotes Kapha Dosha, whereas Ashwagandha balances Vata and Kapha Doshas.
With all this evidence, the verdict is in favor of Brahmi for the treatment of ADHD.
Read: How to Improve Brain Speed and Memory Space? 25 Sure Shot Tips
Not to neglect Ashwagandha’s functions on the brain, here. If anxiety, lack of courage, lack of motivation, dull mood, weak body, lack of self confidence etc. are causing one to be hyperactive or lose focus, then Ashwagandha has a definitive role to play.
Read: Best Natural Medicine For Mental Problems: Courage