Does Gingko Biloba really work?

December 29, 2009 3:45:13 PM PST
Gingko Biloba has been used medically for thousands of years, said to be good for everything from bronchitis to erectile dysfunction to memory decline. The later was the subject of a large and well done study to determine the fact behind the herb and what it does for memory and is the subject of a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

As we get along in our years, we sometimes notice our memory is not what we wish it were, particularly when dealing with a challenge like bridge, working a jigsaw puzzle or perhaps even following the routines in an exercise class.

The herb, Ginkgo Biloba, is touted by many to help slow down and even improve cognitive functions, like memory and thinking in the elderly. But does it?

"This is the first and so far the only study that has looked specifically at its ability to prevent decline," said Dr. Steven Dekosky from the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

Dekosky and his co-authors conducted a double blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial, evaluating the cognitive functions of 3069 adults, aged 72 to 96 years.

"In addition to defining the rates at which people change in aging, we found that there was no effect of the Ginkgo Biloba on these very slow but clearly detectable changes in thinking function in late life," Dekosky said.

Half the participants received a placebo, the other half, 120 milligrams of Ginkgo Biloba extract, twice daily from 2000 to 2008.

The results:

"What we can say is that we find no evidence that Ginkgo, over this long period of time made a difference in whether someone's slow change in memory function, as a function of normal aging, was affected at all by the medication," he said.

Researchers say while there have been other studies on Ginkgo, many were not long enough, consistent enough or done with such a large number of participants.

Researchers also found no evidence that taking ginkgo presented any dangerous or significant adverse effects in the study participants, but other research shows that high doses can have adverse effect.