Abstract Objective: There is evidence that Korean red ginseng (KRG) can reduce the production of the adrenal corticosteroids, cortisol, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and thus may be a viable treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The present randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial tested the effect of KRG on children with ADHD symptoms.
Methods: Subjects 6-15 years, who satisfied the inclusion criteria and had ADHD symptoms, were randomized into a KRG group (n=33) or a control group (n=37). The KRG group received one pouch of KRG (1g KRG extract/pouch) twice a day, and the control group received one pouch of placebo twice a day. At the 8 week point, the primary outcomes were the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) criteria for inattention and hyperactivity scale scores, which were measured at baseline and 8 weeks after starting treatment. Secondary outcomes were quantitative electroencephalography theta/beta ratio (QEEG TBR) (measured at baseline and week 8) and salivary cortisol and DHEA levels (measured at baseline and at 4 and 8 weeks).
Results: The baseline characteristics of the KRG and control groups were not statistically different. The mean ages of the KRG and control groups were 10.94±2.26 and 10.86±2.41, respectively. The KRG group had significantly decreased inattention/hyperactivity scores compared with the control group at week 8 (least squared means of the differences in inattention adjusted for baseline scores: -2.25 vs. -1.24, p=0.048; hyperactivity: -1.53 vs. -0.61, p=0.047). The KRG group had significantly decreased QEEG TBR compared with the control group (least squared means of the differences: -0.94 vs. -0.14, p=0.001). However, neither the KRG group nor the control group exhibited significant differences in salivary cortisol or DHEA levels at week 8 compared with the baseline levels. No serious adverse events were reported in either group.
Conclusions: These results suggest that KRG extract may be an effective and safe alternative treatment for children with inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms. Further studies to investigate the efficacy and safety of KRG are warranted.