For many individuals suffering from hyperactivity, for example as a symptom of ADHD, the thought of using conventional drugs to help control their condition is not appealing. Medicines may have a range of undesirable side-effects, and patients are often concerned about the risk of dependency. There are a number of natural remedies for hyperactivity, many of which may help some people to avoid the use of conventional medicines.
Natural Remedies for Hyperactivity: Elimination Diet
As summarised by LE Arnold in the 1998 NIH Conference on diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, the use of an elimination diet or so-called few food diet has been shown in a number of studies to reduce hyperactivity in some individuals. For example, a placebo-controlled double blind challenge by Carter et al published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood in 1993 showed improvement of symptoms when a few-food diet was observed, and subsequent worsening of symptoms when certain foods were re-introduced. This trial was part of a wider investigation into the use of elimination diets, the overall findings of which demonstrate strong evidence that few-food diets may help to control hyperactivity.
A typical few food diet allows only certain foods to be eaten; usually this will include two meats, two carbohydrate sources, two fruits, a restricted range of green and root vegetables, sunflower oil, milk-free margarine and bottled water. This diet excludes major allergens such as dairy products and soya and does not contain any food additives, many of which are implicated in hyperactivity.
Other foods and additives can then be reintroduced at a rate of one per week in order to establish whether they cause a worsening of the condition. There is no strong evidence that simpler diet restrictions such as avoiding sugar are effective in the management of hyperactivity.
Natural Remedies for Hyperactivity: Mineral Supplements
Individuals with hyperactivity typically have reduced levels of the minerals iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium compared with healthy controls. Taking mineral supplements to increase the levels of these minerals has therefore been proposed as an alternative treatment for hyperactivity.
Natural Remedies for Hyperactivity: Herbal and Homeopathic Treatments
A number of Chinese herbal cocktails are available, many of which seem to be effective in the control of hyperactivity based on clinical experience. Examples of Chinese herbal medicines used in the treatment of hyperactivity include Tiaoshen Liquor, Yizhi wit-increasing syrup, Calmplex and Gingko. Some clinical trials have been carried out, including one by Zhang and Huang published in the Chinese Journal of Modern Developments in Traditional Medicine. These trials yielded promising results, but further placebo-controlled trials are needed to confirm the efficacy of Chinese herbal treatments in the control of hyperactivity.
Other Alternative Remedies
Acupuncture is a popular alternative remedy for hyperactivity, but there have been no published systematic trials studying the effectiveness of this therapeutic approach.
EEG biofeedback is a complex alternative technique involving training the brain using neurological imaging techniques. Children with ADHD have been observed to exhibit different patterns of brain activity when compared with normal controls, and therapeutic interventions involving promoting certain patterns of brain activity using visual and auditory feedback have yielded promising results.
Meditation has also been shown to improve symptoms of hyperactivity when compared with a control group, with subjects demonstrating reduced levels of impulsivity and improved parental behavior scores.
NB: This article is for information purposes and is not intended to replace sound medical advice and opinion.
 LE Arnold “Treatment Alternatives for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” NIH Consensus Development Conference on Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (1998)
 CM Carter, M Urbanowicz, R Hemsley “Effects of a Few Food Diet in Attention Deficit Disorder” Archives of Disease in Childhood 69:564-568 (1993)
 T Kozielec, B Staronrat-Hermelin, L Kotkowiak “Deficiency of Certain Trace Elements in Children with Hyperactivity” Psychiatra Polska 28:345-353 (1994)
 Zhang H, Huang J. “Preliminary study of traditional Chinese medicine treatment of minimal brain dysfunction: analysis of 100 cases” Chinese J Modern Developments in Traditional Medicine 10:278-9 (1990)
 CA Mann, JF Lubar, AW Zimmermann “Quantitative analysis of EEG in boys with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder: Controlled study with clinical implications” Pediatric Neurology 8:30-36 (1992)
 J Kratter J Hogan “The Use of Meditation in the Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity” Education Resources Information Centre (1982)