Old and new controversies in the alternative treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2005;11(2):116-30. doi: 10.1002/mrdd.20064.


Use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has become widespread in both referral and primary care populations. We review the purported mechanism of action and available evidence for selected CAM therapies for ADHD. Enduring controversies, such as elimination of artificial food additives, colors, and/or preservatives; the effect of sugar on behavior in children; and the use of EEG biofeedback, have been well studied but lack support as effective sole treatments for ADHD. The initial evidence for some emerging CAM therapies, such as essential fatty acid supplementation, yoga, massage, homeopathy, and green outdoor spaces, suggests potential benefits as part of an overall ADHD treatment plan. More rigorously designed studies are needed to evaluate their effectiveness as single therapy for ADHD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Biofeedback, Psychology
  • Child
  • Complementary Therapies / methods*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Fatty Acids, Essential / therapeutic use
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Homeopathy / methods
  • Humans
  • Massage
  • Yoga


  • Fatty Acids, Essential