Excerpted from the upcoming revised edition of our book Ritalin-Free Kids; Picnic Point Press; early 2013
More than Ever an Epidemic of ADHD
So went the catchy phrase that we used in 1996, when we first wrote Ritalin-Free Kids, which turned out to be a book whose time had come and completely changed our lives and careers. The number of children being medicated for ADHD in the US alone was 2.5 million, as of 2005 (Health News, Daily News Central, September 2, 2005). In one school in San Diego, as of June of this year, 65% of the of fifth-graders had been diagnosed with ADHD and put on medications. (Stellpflug, Natural News, June 4, 2012, "ADHD: Misdiagnosed and overmedicated.) The initial trend that we expressed alarm about in 1996 has not only become much more prevalent in the US, but has spread throughout the world. In the early 2000s, we had the opportunity to speak on the subject to parents in Canada, Scotland, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. The same refrain echoed everywhere: medicating children for ADHD with stimulants has become an epidemic. Medicating millions of children had, thanks to the example of the US, had become convenient and "the thing to do." Fortunately, many parents did resist the drug trend, and consulted us, other homeopaths, and other practitioners of alternative medicine.
The stimulant drugs are much more diverse now, but the picture is much the same. The biggest change that we have seen in our practice is the prescribing of atypical antipsychotic medications, including Risperdal, Geodon, Seroquel, and Abilify, for behavioral problems associated with ADHD and related diagnoses, including oppositional defiant disorder. These drugs have far more harmful side effects, including obesity, hypothyrodisim, elevated cholesterol, and liver problems. To our way of thinking, the cure is far worse than the disease. Especially when these children can be helped, often dramatically, by something so safe and gentle as homeopathy!
The Nightshade Family
The sensation method of homeopathy, developed by our brilliant teacher since 1993, Dr. Rajan Sankaran of Mumbai, India, changed our entire way of practicing. The emphasis, rather than asking a laundry list of symptoms to rather haphazardly choose among hundreds of possible homeopathic medicines, is now the investigation of the sensation or experience of the chief complaint of the patient. The number of possible medicines has grown to 3500-plus, but our method of finding the best one is much more sophisticated. We narrow down our choices first by figuring out which kingdom, mineral, plant, or animal the child needs. This is done according to the theme of the sensation, one corresponding to each subkingdom or family. Among minerals a family might be the carbons, for example. With plants, it might be the cabbage family, or Brassicas. In the animal kingdom, families are mammals, mollusks, birds, spiders, and so on. This system, or schema, has not only allowed us to become far more astute in understanding the nature of the child, but has opened up the entire world of natural substances, prepared as homeopathic medicines.
One of the most fascinating plant families, which is highly relevant in our work with children with ADHD and related problems, is the Solonacea(nightshade) family, which includes eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers, and tobacco. These plants often have a very vivid and dramatic presentation, either with brightly colored, attractive berries (belladonna,or deadly nightshade) that are deadly if ingested, exotic-looking (even black) leaves, and unusual-looking flowers. We have a quite dramatic plant growing outside our bedroom window in Chile called lengua del diablo (devil's tongue). There is an intense, violent, even demonic feeling to the nightshade family. In fact, when we researched this plant to write this article, we discovered a heavy metal band with the same name!
Differentiating Among the Nightshades for ADHD and Related Problems
The themes that run through the family are suddenness, violence, and terror; for example, of being bitten by wild, savage, black animals with big, sharp teeth, especially in the dark. These plants can be hallucinogenic or cause delirious states during fever. Hallucinations may be of frightful images, monsters, ghosts, vampires, glaring eyes, or hideous faces, to name a few. The main feeling of the family is sudden violence, being pursued, the need to escape. Like someone who is being chased by a lion or a snake. There is a tremendous fear of the dark and a desire for light. Actually, the name Solanaceae comes from sol, which means "sun." Other words that describe the feeling in homeopathic nightshade family are killing, running, striking, rage, horror, sudden death. Think Alfred Hitchcock!
Three nightshade members that we use frequently for intense children with ADHD are Stramonium (thorn apple), Hyoscyamus, (henbane),and belladonna. In fact, the first child whom we ever saw with ADHD was a carrot-topped boy caught in a foster-family revolving door. "Explosive" is the best way to describe him: striking out, threatening violent acts, kicking, hitting, and pinching anyone who came close. He had an immediate and dramatic response to Stramonium. His foster mother and teachers thought that he was a different child. We have used Stramonium more times than we can count since that time, often with similar results. We understand well now that the violent, explosive rage is an outward manifestation of the sheer terror within.
Hyoscyamus has a similar fear of being alone, or abandoned, but the presentation of the youngster is different. In this symptom picture, the intensity manifests as jealousy, provocative and seductive sexuality, coquettish teasing, and silliness to the point of being ridiculous. We recognize these children by their clownish behavior, potty talk, and love of being naked or mooning – all to get a laugh and attention so that they won't feel abandoned.
Belladonna also exhibits wild hallucinations, delirium, and extremely strong, frightening, violent mental symptoms. There is an underlying terror of going to the gallows or being beheaded. Like Stramonium, children needing Belladonna can strike, bite, kick, and pull hair. What is prominent in this medicine, though, is the suddenness and violence of the physical, not just the mental, symptoms. We are talking about high fevers, up to 106 ºF; violent and throbbing headaches; excruciating sore throats and ear infections that lead children to scream with pain. Tonsillitis, scarlet fever, and meningitis are examples of this violence manifesting in physical complaints. Redness of the face due to a rush of blood to the head, dilated shining pupils of the eyes, and pulsing carotid arteries are other examples of the violence with which Belladonna symptoms present.
We present here two engaging cases of children with ADHD which have features that typify these medicines. For homeopaths, it can be an instructive differential diagnosis; for parents and others, a glimpse into how effective, on a long-term basis, this family of medicines can be for children with ADHD.
'I Couldn't Be Happier with Using Homeopathy as an Alternative to Drugs for ADD'
Moshe's mother had been a strong supporter of homeopathy for some time and was eager for us to find a medicine that could help him. He also suffered from Von Willebrand syndrome, a hemophilia-like condition due to a genetic platelet abnormality. She called from Brooklyn for us to treat him and we have only seen him in person one time in the past seven years. He was 10 at the time of the first appointment.
We've been seeing a psychologist for the past six months. Moshe is a clowny kind of character. He's silly at inappropriate times. He likes to trick people. Make funny noises. Animal noises. We'll be in the car and I tell him to buckle up. He pretends that his seatbelt is not fastened, then tells me, "Just kidding. Tricked ya." Or he takes her shoe from his sister and hides it. Then he'll look at me and smile. He's an expert at pushing me to my limits. Let's pull the wool over mom's eyes. Or he'll pretend to be pumping up his head, then falls to the ground. If he's tired, he'll whack his younger brother or call him a name. A lot of it is to try to get attention. Let off steam. Or he'll make noises. He loves comic books because they're funny and easy to read. Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, Garfield. Or he'll watch cartoons.
Moshe loves to build and invent. In fact, he wants to be an inventor when he grows up. His gross motors skills are not great. It took him a long time to learn to ride a bike and he's not very good at baseball. He's not a risk-oriented kid. I couldn't see him climbing a tree. He'll play on jungle gyms and bars, but I have to twist his arm to get him on his bike or skates. Moshe is quite talented at figuring out how things work.
Hebrew school is challenging. Academically he's falling behind in everything. Struggling. If I try to sit down and show him how to do something, he says he already knows it, but he doesn't. Then he tells me he can't do it and, by the time we get to the next problem, he's forgotten the one before. I have to go through all the steps again and he fights me every step of the way. "I'm gonna do what I want and you can't make me." Moshe is obstinate with his teacher. He'll keep it up until she puts her foot down.
Moshe can be quite oblivious. He doesn't notice bad smells. When the television is on, the house could come crashing down around him and he wouldn't notice. Once, when he was 3, he bolted and I lost him. Moshe could have cared less. I don't even think he was scared. He's prone to throwing temper tantrums when he doesn't get his way. He can be angry, obstinate, and defiant. We have had to drag him out of restaurants because he refused to stop playing a video game. He insists on doing what he wants to do when he wants to do it. Moshe is so strong-willed that when he was being doled out punishment in the principal's office, he laughed and smiled. If he is told "no," he will continue to find a new solution to get what he wants. When we insist that he give something back to his brother, he throws it at him. Or he'll walk around with a book in his hand and whomp someone on the head with it. From the age of 3, I felt that I had lost control of his being compliant. He does great with chess because it's a strategy game … right up his alley. It's a perfect game for him because he can always figure out a way to get around things. But he has a super sweet and caring side. Physically, Moshe still needs to wear Pull-Ups at night because of accidents.
During the first year and a half of homeopathic care, we gave Moshe Aranea ixobola (cross spider) due to his tendency to trick people at every opportunity. He responded quite well, overall 80% to 90%. But, after a year and half, the medicine no longer produced the desired improvement and we needed to reevaluate the prescription. His mother summarized, "A very silly kid. Silly antics. He got a little duck puppet that makes a noise. He does it obsessively, regardless of who is around, and shows no embarrassment. We were in Trader Joe's today and he announced loudly that if he didn't go to the bathroom immediately, he would pee in his pants. He thinks nothing of making a fool of himself just to get a reaction. Moshe used to say 'poopy' a lot. He went through a potty mouth phase."
It was very clear that the correct medicine was Hyoscyamus (henbane), classic for this type of silly, shameless behavior. The five-week follow-up indicated initial changes like a decrease in pinching, grabbing, humming, and making noises. Moshe became softer and more affectionate. Five weeks later, his mother described the general improvement as 50% to 60%. The positive trend continued over time, and the potency of the medicine was increased. Eleven months after the change to Hyoscyamus, his mother was happy to say that Moshe had done "amazingly well with his Bar Mitzvah. Poised, no fidgeting, self-confident, and he gave a very engaging, exciting speech." That was four years ago.
The Hyosycamus has helped consistently and significantly. Moshe is happier, much less angry, and less irritating in regard to demanding attention. He is playing the saxophone. When he needs the remedy, Moshe whistles, hums, and makes off-the-wall noises and funny jokes. He can be clownish, and laugh hysterically from the belly. All of these improve once it is given. He is doing quite well academically and his GPA is 3.0 Moshe has a lot of friends and is enjoying school. In addition to the sax, he wants to learn piano and the xylophone. The bedwetting stopped. One year ago Moshe had the best school year ever and earned all As and Bs, which his mother called "a remarkable improvement." He was doing really well overall. Moshe continues to receive a dose of the Hyoscyamus every few months. We heard from Moshe's mother a week ago: "Now he is a senior in high school, pulling mostly As, has friends, and is a really happy, sweet kid. I couldn't be happier with using homeopathy as an alternative to drugs for ADD."
'Homeopathy Changed Gabe's Life. He's a Poster-Child for Homeopathy for ADHD!'
Gabriel was nearly 10 when his parents first contacted us by phone from California six years ago. They had been inspired to read Ritalin-Free Kids because their son had been active and fidgety his entire life. He had been referred to our office associate, and the homeopathic medicine that he had prescribed, Veratrum album (white hellebore) helped him to some degree.
Gabe is very intelligent, lovable, active, and sweet. He loves to hug. He excels in school and is in a talented and gifted program. But he has been hyperactive since he was a toddler. It began in utero, when he moved a great deal. He was born three weeks early. When he was only two weeks old, we realized he had sleep apnea. They said it was because of being premature, but he actually weighed eight pounds at birth. They put him on Theophylline for seven months. I believe that it affected his nervous system because after that he was hyper.
Gabe couldn't sit still as a toddler. At the age of 6 years, he was diagnosed with ADHD. The doctor, who had been in practice for 40 years, told me he was one of the most fidgety kids she had even seen. It was as like a switch was turned on, and he couldn't turn it off. We tried the Feingold diet, but found it too rigid. Gabe has difficulty staying on task and poor self-control. He misses social cues regularly. He is constantly touching or fooling with something. When he actually is able to sit still, he taps his foot. Gabe's just a ball of energy. He can almost knock you down when he comes up to give you a hug. He is very opinionated and will die trying to convince you or plead his case that he did not do this or that when to you it is obvious that he did. Gabe marches to the tune of his own drummer. He is confident to the point of being cocky and is not one to conform.
Gabe pulls the covers over his head at night. He heard a dog howling and was really scared. We recently saw Signs, with Mel Gibson, and Gabe has been afraid to go outside in the dark alone since that time. It is very real to him. His eyes are dry and he blinks a lot. Gabe has a history of recurrent ear infections. When overly frustrated, Gabe complains of a headache.
When we conversed with Gabe, he shared immediately that, since the scary movie, he was afraid that something would come and attack him. "I'm not scared that it's gonna hurt me … just that I'll see it. Maybe an alien. I like candy and salt, and want my Frescaroom-temperature."
Gabriel's mother mentioned that he suffered from recurrent headaches and was very prone to ear infections. In fact, he was given antibiotics nine times before age 1. The infections began right after they introduced dairy into his diet at 3 months. At age 6, he began to experience frequent bouts of strep throat and tonsillitis, often with a fever of 102.5º. He received half a dozen prescriptions for antibiotics and eventually had a tonsillectomy at age 7.
"Since seeing Signs, Gabe refuses to be alone in the dark. Right after the movie he wasn't even willing to be alone during the day. Gabe is excited, passionate, and a wealth of information, which he loves to share. When he's hooked on something, he does it 110%." Gabe shared with us, "I have a lot of energy and I just want to get it out. My body can't rest. I have to be moving some part of my body."
Veratrum album is a member of the lily family. The intensity and acuteness of symptoms with which patients needing the remedy present can be confused with other intense medicines, including members of the Solanaceaefamily. Gabe's lackluster long-term response to Veratrum combined with his impressive history of strep throat, tonsillitis, headaches, and earaches led us to change the prescription to Belladonna. That was five years ago and it has worked well ever since. People needing this medicine are highly sensitive, and impressionable, and can experience strong, vivid fears and nightmares.
The first positive indicator was six weeks after the first dose of Belladonna, which was given in July. "He's had the same teacher every year. She recently asked us what we did with Gabe because me seems so different, so mature. She notices that he has much more impulse control. I substituted in his classroom today. He was surprisingly calm. We've seen more improvement than ever before. Fewer outbursts. Less frustration. He's not right up in people's faces like before. He hasn't complained of any headaches, ear infections, or sore throats."
Two months later Gabriel's mother enthusiastically shared that she had a recent conference with both of his fifth-grade teachers, neither of whom could tell any difference between him and his classmates without ADHD.
This has been pretty much the story up to the present. Initially Gabriel needed a dose of the Belladonna every two months. As we have increased the potency of the medicine, the repetitions have been less frequent. Each time Gabe has needed another dose, his ADHD symptoms would return, along with the sore throat. Gabriel continues earn all As in school, though he can be a bit absent-minded about bringing home assignments. A year ago, at age 14, Gabriel's mother reported that he had responded extremely well to the last dose of high-potency Belladonna. He had now entered a large high school and was taking all honors classes, in addition to band. It was an unseasonably hot summer, and he was showing frequent signs of dehydration (a classic symptom of those needing Belladonna). He had grown 8 inches in two years and was feeling more talkative than usual and having trouble going to sleep at night, though his concentration was fine. Another dose of the Belladonna balanced him right out.
We last had contact with Gabriel's mother two and a half months ago because we wanted a current update on his status for this book:
Gabe is doing well and has not needed a dose of his remedy for the past eight months. He finished his freshman year with a GPA of 4.0. He is working part-time as a camp counselor. I am very proud of him. He will be facing a really tough academic year next fall – five advanced-placement/honors core classes and two electives, so he will definitely need a dose of the Belladonna toward the end of the summer. It is exciting about your book being revised. You can definitely use Gabe's case! That is how I found you … from Ritalin-Free Kids! After trying over-the-counter natural items, diets, etc., I was desperate to find help for Gabe without using conventional medicine. I went to the public library and checked out as many books as I could. It just so happened that there was a case in your book that was very similar to Gabe's. In your book, you mentioned that you took phone appointments, and the rest is history! The medicine used for the child in the book did not work for Gabe, but, after a couple of tries, we found his current medicine, and it changed his life! He is definitely a poster-child for the success of homeopathy for ADHD. I wish that all parents of children with ADHD could find this information and would consider trying homeopathy. So, I would love for you to send me the permission release, as you mentioned. I am happy to share Gabe's story with the parents who are looking for answers like I was 10 years ago!
Two Among Hundreds of Successful Cases of ADHD
The wonderful outcomes of these two cases will hopefully inspire other parents to try homeopathic treatment first before seeking stimulant medications for their children. Why resort immediately to drugs for your children, often for a decade or more, when results like these are not only possible, but commonplace, with experienced homeopathic treatment? Unlike with stimulant medication, there are no side effects and all of the child's symptoms are addressed, not just the ADHD. Why not give it a try?
Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are licensed naturopathic physicians, board-certified in homeopathy. Their books include Ritalin-Free Kids (revised edition to be released in early 2013), the new Homeopathic Treatment of Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder and other Mental and Emotional Problems (a revision of the previous title Prozac Free), as well as A Drug-Free Approach to Asperger Syndrome and Autism, Ritalin-Free Kids, Rage-Free Kids, Prozac Free, Homeopathic Self-Care: The Quick and Easy Guide for the Whole Family, Whole Woman Homeopathy, The Patient's Guide to Homeopathic Medicine, and Mystics, Masters, Saints and Sages: Stories of Enlightenment. The doctors have taught internationally, and they practice at the Northwest Center for Homeopathic Medicine in Edmonds and Langley, Washington. The doctors live on Whidbey Island, Washington, and in Pucón, Chile. They treat patients by phone and videoconference, as well as in person, and can be reached by telephone at 425-774-5599. Their newly redesigned website, filled with informative information, is www.healthyhomeopathy.com.