Dear Ayurvedic Abbie: Can Ayurveda Help My Child with ADHD?

December 10, 2014    BY Kathryn Templeton

Dear Ayurvedic Abbie: 
My 10-year-old has been diagnosed with ADHD—can ayurveda help?
—Mom of a "spirited" child

Dear Mom:

Thank you for your question. And yes, there are many ways that ayurvedic medicine can help children with ADHD; however, as Dr. Claudia Welch always says, “There are no short answers in Ayurvedic medicine.¨

First, I would want to know who diagnosed your child with ADHD. Was this a clinical diagnosis from a pediatrician or child psychiatrist? I am always curious when the word “diagnosed” is used, as clinical words often don’t have the same meaning as they do in layperson-speak.

When we give a diagnosis in the clinical world we attach specific definitions. In diagnosing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), there must be certain criteria or symptoms expressed in the client that started before the age of seven. These include forgetfulness, disorganization, impulsiveness, being easily distracted, and hyperactivity (movement in body). In ayurveda, these symptoms are considered attributes of vata dosha, which is associated with movement, lightness, and irregularity. If this was the child's presentation it would suggest an imbalance in vata dosha.

We would then look for ways for the family to support natural “anchors," or routine, for the child (routine is one way to help calm the vata dosha). There are many ways ayurveda can support this intervention, and here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Anchor mealtimes, and offer your child warm, moist, seasonal foods.
  2. Create set morning and bedtime routines. These don't need to be complicated, just start with a consistent bedtime and wake-up time.
  3. Introduce abyhanga, or body oiling, with some soothing aromatherapy oils mixed with sesame oil (this could be part of your child's bedtime routine). Start with a nightly foot rub, and a little oil on the scalp too. For an older child, you could also introduce dry brushing and warm-oil massage before they bathe in the morning or evening. 
  4. Before and after school, offer warming and calming teas (like licorice or chamomile). Before bed, offer boiled milk with yummy spices to calm vata dosha and help the mind and body to feel relaxed and contained.

There are many other ways that ayurvedic medicine can help children with ADHD; however, just as each child has their own unique personality, the way they manifest their imbalances is also unique. Please check with a well-trained, professional ayurvedic practitioner (such as a NAMA-recognized practitioner or doctor or a Himalayan Institute Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist to get a full intake and more information).

Keep Calm and Vata On. 
Ayurvedic Abbie

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Kathryn Templeton
Kathryn Templeton, MA, RDT/MT, E-RYT 500, is an Ayurvedic practitioner who has devoted her life to the health of others. A psychotherapist for more than 30 years, Kathryn is a master teacher in the field of Drama Therapy and continues to work both clinically and as an educator specializing in the treatment of individuals with complex trauma. As an E-RYT 500, NAMA Certified Ayurvedic practitioner and senior Para Yoga teacher, Kathryn has worked to develop specialized treatments integrating the... Read more>>