More on ADD / ADHD, Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture

In an earlier blog post, I talked about Ritalin and ADD/ADHD from a Chinese medicine and acupuncture perspective. I want to talk some more about ADD/ADHD from this perspective because I continue to be blown away by how Chinese medicine can really understand and interpret all situations through its medical philosophical lens.

Growing up as an ADD/ADHD-labeled child, I felt like this was a horrible disease that couldn’t be cured. I was given Ritalin all year long except during summer camp, so my growth wasn’t entirely stunted. Interestingly, I was never told I needed Ritalin while I was running around at summer camp. It was only when I was forced inside for lessons at school that I was reminded I had ADD/ADHD and needed to be medicated so I could focus and stop being hyperactive.

To learn about Chinese medicine, and find that the medical philosophy of acupuncture and herbal medicine has such a clear understanding of ADD/ADHD, a thoroughly modern affliction, is astounding. And comforting. When ADD/ADHD is interpreted in these ways, treatment with acupuncture and herbal medicine is so easy and straightforward. It is so simple it seems like it must be impossible or there must be an error somewhere. This is not true. If you use this five part Chinese medicine interpretation of ADD/ADHD, you can get results with treatment. It also explains why Ritalin only works on some ADD/ADHD children and not others (like me).

So, here’s the explanation. Chinese medicine has multiple rubrics for explaining the body. One of them is the 5 Phases – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water. Through the cycle of the phases, life is created. Wood engenders Fire, Fire engenders Earth and so on. Each phase is associated with a season and an organ system. The seasonal correspondance says something about the nature of the phase. Wood phase is aligned with Spring, so Wood is about bursting forth, just like the new growth of the season. Fire aligns with Summer, and is expansive like the full heat that ripens the fruit. Et cetera, et cetera. For more information on this theme, check out my Seasonal Health Tips and blog posts about each individual season.

Now on to ADD and ADHD from Chinese medicine perspective. This interpretation is to be credited to Dr Stephen Cowan and Ephram Korngold, by the way. Here are the 5 Phase types of children with ADD/ADHD:

  • Wood. Wood is the forceful growth of Spring. Wood is the General planning for his army. This type is very much about the body and physicality. They are competitive and driven, and don’t like people, rules or situations getting in their way.  They are also leaders, charismatically winning the group over to his/her cause. Because they are so connected to their physical bodies, acting out usually comes in the form of aggression or argumentativeness. Physical violence is also possible.
  • Fire. Fire is about expansion and social connection. They are happy and joyful, and enjoy entertaining. They are social butterflies and thrill-seekers. They are entertainers. They want to be having fun, and not sitting in lessons. This type is usually the “class clown.”
  • Earth. Earth brings forth nourishment, and equally so Earth types want to be in nourishing social relationships. They will be mediators and caretakers. They often are the people who seek constant social contact. Earth-types also get stuck in repetitive thought patterns blocking all else, just like a farmer repeatedly tilling her fields so nothing can grow. In this case, thought patterns often revolve around social situations, friends, enemies, treaties and the like.
  • Metal. Metal is very interesting. Metal is related to the heavenly realm. This type loves beauty, ephemera, details, justice, order. They love to place value on things, determine right and wrong, and the like. Often, a Metal type will have trouble saying this is important, that isn’t, and not be able to figure out where to place her attention. Like the stuff itself, Metal types are not always the most flexible. To quote Erik L. Goldman: “They have difficulty letting go of small details, get anxious when something’s not done “right,” and become negative when they feel out of control.”
  • Water. Water is our deepest root, our inner philosopher and dreamer. Water types rather day dream about fantastical realms rather than focus on lessons or other mundane things. Water types love to learn, consuming books and information readily, as long as it is of their choosing or to their liking. They are also daydreamers, who are not overly concerned with day-to-day life and its responsibilities. Water types withdraw when stressed or otherwise out of their comfort zone.

These types can be combined, of course, but one is often dominant. When then using this type as an means to direct treatment, I believe results can be achieved to greater extent. I also have yet to meet anyone with ADD/ADHD that doesn’t fit into one of these categories. What do you think?

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2 Responses to “More on ADD / ADHD, Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture”

  1. AcupunctureNovember 20, 2012 at 15:59#

    I’ve suffered from ADD for a long time now, without any medication, it’s starting to take a toll on my life professionally, can you recommend me a daily list of herbs I should take to increase my focus and concentration? thanks

    • Dylan SteinNovember 20, 2012 at 16:40#

      Unfortunately, I can’t recommend any supplements or herbs to you because you’re not my patient. I can say that using acupuncture and herbal medicine will be helpful to most people with ADD/ADHD. You should find someone in your area who is licensed to practice and you find agreeable to work with. Good luck!