ADD / ADHD / Chemo Brain: Alternative Treatment

A young man came to my office several weeks ago seeking help with Chinese medicine (TCM) for his ADD/ADHD/anxiety/depression.  He had been on Adderall, something related to Amphetamine and a central nervous system stimulant, and antidepressant.  He still experienced some mood problems and fatigue.  He hoped one day he could go off of these pills, not sure whether there are any long term side effects.

On pulse examination, I detected low heart Qi(Chi), translated to western medical language, the blood perfusion of heart and brain is insufficient.  This is a frequent pulse finding for those with ADD/ADHD/anxiety/depression.  In recent years, neuroscientists have discovered many chemicals, so called neurotransmitters, and their receptors in the brain; with each chemical linked to specific function or functions.  In short, amphetamines and the derivatives work as dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitter systems which are related to wakefulness.  Provigil (or Modafinil), another drug, works similarly.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment for ADD / ADHD and Chemo Brain

TCM uses a different approach: If the brain is not receiving enough blood, (not to the power where one may have stroke or pass out) the brain does not make enough neurotransmitters, dopamine included.  With acupuncture and Chinese herbs, whole body circulation improves quickly and so do the mental function and mental focus.  There is no longer foul mood nor sad feeling.

In my daily practice, I use the pulse, both distal radial arteries, to diagnose problems and to give herbal prescriptions.  To me, the best way to define the mysterious Qi is blood circulation.  If circulation to certain part of the body is deficient, then that area/organ suffers from low Qi due to lack of oxygen (the vital air) and nutrients.  It is also my belief that one of several major mechanisms of action of acupuncture and Chinese herbs is to improve circulation.  The TCM practitioners are able to improve circulation in specific part of the body.

Many people suffer from chemo brain after chemotherapy, and they exhibit similar pulse pattern.  They can be treated the same way.

Our young man started acupuncture and herbs, began to feel better a week later and went off Adderall in two weeks.  His attention, mood and energy level have all improved.


Dr. Peter Sheng
Cincinnati Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Therapy, Integrative Medicine & Holistic Health Care