Help Your Child Excel in School and Prevent ADHD

By Dr. Jim Davis, D.O.

Millions of US school children are now returning to schools, beginning a new year of learning and development. Helping your child get the most out of hours spent in school is one of the special focuses of Maharishi Ayurveda. Ayurvedic texts describe three aspects of mental ability: dhi, or the power of acquisition or learning; dhriti, or the power of retention; and smriti, or the ability to recall. When these three mental functions are not in balance, either individually or in their coordination with one another, then learning problems can come up. Children who have learning problems often feel like failures in school, which leads to frustration and low self-esteem, and later problems in life.

When these three mental functions are coordinated, then the child's memory is quick and bright. However, if the channels of communication between these functions are obstructed with impurities (ama), then not only learning problems but even behavioral problems can begin. The high incidence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in this country is a prime example of a learning/behavioral problem for millions of children. According to a study in Advanced Pediatrics, the frequency of ADHD among school children has been estimated to be as high as 20 percent.

What MAV Says about Learning Problems

The cause of these learning/ behavioral problems is thought to be multifactorial, but according to MAV, diet is one of the major factors; ie. eating foods that are lacking in nature's intelligence. This includes foods that are not fresh, foods laced with chemicals and highly processed "junk food." Food lacking in intelligence disrupts the intellectual rhythm between Dhi, Dhriti and Smriti. This can be especially true for children, who are naturally more sensitive than adults.

Modern researchers are just discovering the link between learning disorders and harmful food additives such as the chemical food preservatives BHT and BHA; the cake rising agent calcium silicate; and other colorings, flavorings and emulsifiers. Unfortunately, these harmful food additives and preservatives are found in most packaged foods. A rather shocking study showed that the average person consumes 8-10 pounds of additives a year. Because children have lower body weights and are in the critical developmental years, the harmful effects of these additives may be magnified many times. Artificial flavors, colors and preservatives are also more likely to cause allergic reactions in children because of this same increased sensitivity.

When children are eating unintelligent food, they are not nourishing the mind with minerals, vitamins, and other vital components of nature's intelligence. Modern researchers confirm this ancient ayurvedic wisdom — that any nutritional deficiency can result in diminished mental function.

Another cause of decreased mental functioning in children is insufficient sleep. Not going to bed in time to get eight hours of sleep, watching television or using computers (especially playing violent video games) just before bed can disrupt sleep patterns and disturb the body's balance. This can manifest as poor memory, diminished retention and weakened recall in the classroom.

The effects of diet and sleep also interact with each other. A poor diet can adversely affect the quality of sleep, and insufficient sleep, with the ensuing fatigue, can lead to poor food choices. Traditionally MAV focuses mostly on the dietary causes, because even the herbal compounds won't be effective if the child is eating mainly "unintelligent food."

Correcting Three Types of Learning Imbalances

To understand in detail exactly how Maharishi Ayurveda can help nourish the memory and attention span in children, it's important to understand the three subdoshas involved in memory.

The three are:

  • Prana Vata, which governs the brain, sensory perception and the mind
  • Sadhaka Pitta, which governs the emotions and their effect on the functions of the heart
  • Tarpaka Kapha, which governs the spinal fluids, sinus cavities, and sensory organs

In ayurveda, three types of imbalances of the mind are described, and each is associated with a different subdosha. We can correlate diminished learning ability, combined with a hyperactive mind/body, with a breakdown in Prana Vata. A disturbance in Sadhaka Pitta is associated with a learning imbalance that has a strong emotional component, like excess anger or frustration. Imbalances in Tarpaka Kapha correlate with learning problems that occur without hyperactivity, and are more inclined towards a heaviness or dullness in mental and sensory functioning.

All three types of learning imbalances can be addressed by regular application of simple dietary recommendations. For example, using fresh organic food whenever possible and preparing food using cooking methods that do not destroy the natural intelligence of the food (see Heaven's Banquet ayurvedic cookbook). MAV spice mixes can be used regularly to enhance digestion and assimilation of food, and the MAV teas can be tailored to the student's needs based on the predominant dosha imbalance (Vata, Pitta or Kapha).

Mind Power: Using Ayurvedic Herbal Compounds

Besides diet and daily routine, Maharishi Ayurveda offers another sophisticated method for addressing imbalances in memory and attention. These include traditional herbal compounds, called Medhya Rasayanas, that provide powerful nourishment for the mind. Medhya Rasayanas enhance dhi, dhriti, and smriti individually, and they enhance the coordination between these three mental factors. Medhya Rasayanas have also come to the attention of modern researchers.

Take Mandook Purni (Centella Asiatica or Gotu Kola) for instance. The ancient texts say, "This Mandook Purni is medhya, giving consciousness and Rasayana value." Modern research published in the Journal of Psychiatry shows that this herb produced a significant increase in the mental abilities of 30 mentally disabled children. Brahmi (Bacopa Monnieri or Herpestis Monniera) is another important Medhya Rasayana. The texts mention that Brahmi is both medhya and hridya, meaning that it supports both the mind and the heart. A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology shows that Brahmi improved acquisition and retention, and delayed extinction of newly-acquired behavior in rats. Shankapushpi (Aloeweed or Dwarf Morning Glory) is also mentioned in the ayurvedic texts as "having a specific Medhya action" and is recently being researched as a memory-enhancing herb.

Using these Medhya Rasayana herbs as a base, Maharishi Ayurveda Products International, Inc. has developed several powerful products to enhance learning and memory. For instance, the Intelligence Plus (formerly Study Power) herbal formula is ideal not just for children but students of all ages, because it helps enhance attention span, focus, and the ability to acquire new information and to apply it later. An impressive 1995 research study published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine found that Intelligence Plus actually helps to increase intelligence.

The Medhya Rasayanas are also found in Mind Plus syrup, which is ideal for helping to calm the mind in stressful situations. It is effective in enhancing problem-solving ability, retention and recall. Organic Youthful Mind is especially designed for people over forty, nourishing and revitalizing all three mental functions as the mind ages. These products are ideal for people of all ages who use their minds at school or on the job, and want to feel fresh, creative, and fatigue-free. Mental performance can be expanded to its full potential. All it requires is going back to the basics — proper nutrition, quality sleep and the balanced wisdom of herbs that can help nourish the mind in a natural, safe way.

Seven Keys to Mind Power — at Any Age

  • Eat fresh, pure foods — The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians' advice for kids holds true for everyone — stay away from foods with chemicals, pesticides or additives. The purer the foods you eat, the more of their intelligence you absorb.
  • Balanced Nutrition is Essential — A diet rich in healthy proteins, such as from legumes, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, is good for enhancing mental potential. Don't count fats out entirely; they play some essential roles in the physiology and are found in abundance in nuts and seeds.
  • The Power of Antioxidants — Recent research shows that blueberries are powerful food for the brain because of their antioxidant value. The brain is especially vulnerable to free-radical damage. Take Maharishi Amrit Kalash every day for superior antioxidant protection — it has been shown to have 1,000 times the free-radical scavenging power of vitamin C or E!
  • Get Your Zzzz's — Research has confirmed that sleep deprivation leads to diminished mental performance. Ayurveda considers sleep to be a basic building block for good mind/body health, just like diet.
  • Manage Stress — High levels of stress negatively impact both mind and body. One of the most effective ways to deal with stress is the practice of meditation. To see research on the Transcendental Meditation® technique and ADHD visit:
  • Regular Exercise — Regular aerobic exercise like walking, swimming or biking for 20-30 minutes 3 to 5 times a week is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle that will promote optimal mental functioning.
  • Keep the Brain Working — Like the battery in your automobile, you have to keep your mind active to keep it running. So keep the creative juices flowing and exercise your brain regularly.

The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.