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Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Mother cooking while her son looks on
In addition to behavioural therapy and medication, many researchers and parents of children with ADHD have become interested in alternative options. Many of these alternatives are still controversial, and there is little support for the use of any of them as the sole treatment for ADHD. However, there is evidence that some alternative treatments can be beneficial when combined with an overall treatment plan for ADHD. You should consult your child’s doctor before beginning any treatment.

The following are some alternative treatments for ADHD.


Biofeedback is a method used to help individuals become aware of physiological changes in their body they might not otherwise notice, such as their heart rate or their blood pressure. For individuals with ADHD, biofeedback attempts to normalize rhythms of brain activation. Although biofeedback has been used to treat ADHD and other conditions for the past 30 years, there is little evidence that it is effective.

Diet modification

Diet modification is a controversial treatment for ADHD that involves an additive-free diet, a diet low in sugar, a diet that contains few foods, or some combination of these modifications. There is no clear evidence that any of these diet modifications improves symptoms of ADHD.


Homeopathy involves choosing one remedy for all of an individual’s symptoms. The treatment is meant to stimulate the body’s defence mechanisms. Research to date does not support the use of homeopathy as a treatment for ADHD.


Yoga is a form of exercise that originated in India. It uses breathing techniques, meditation, and postures to alter the body’s physiology. Yoga is a new area of research in ADHD treatment, but it appears that when yoga is used along with conventional therapy (medication or medication with behaviour therapy) it could have some benefits for children with ADHD.

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness is the process of actively paying attention to what is going on in your body and mind. Mindfulness meditation is an ancient technique for increasing this awareness; it has been shown to help people with depression, anxiety, heart disease, and other conditions. Scientists at UCLA are studying mindfulness meditation to help people with ADHD become more aware of their patterns of attention, emotion, and other aspects of ADHD, both positive and negative. A small pilot study showed improvements in self-reported ADHD symptoms and in test performance on tasks to measure attention and cognitive inhibition. Further research is in progress.


Massage is a new area of research in therapy for ADHD. Some early studies have found that it may be beneficial for children with ADHD, but more research is needed to determine its effectiveness.

Green outdoor settings

The use of green outdoor settings as a therapy for ADHD is based on evidence that children are better able to pay attention after they have been exposed to natural environments. There is very little research on the use of green outdoor settings as a therapy for ADHD, and it is not clear yet how effective they can be.

Tara McAuley, PhD, CPsych

Peter Chaban, MA, MEd

Rosemary Tannock, PhD