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Ginkgo suffers another blow

There's more evidence out today that Ginkgo biloba is useless for protecting the brain despite claims to the contrary.

The herbal remedy is heavily promoted and widely used as a way to stave off mental decline. But attempts to verify those claims with carefully conducted studies have failed to confirm the benefits. A previous report found no evidence that Ginkgo could reduce the risk of developing the devastating brain disorder Alzheimer's disease.

In the new research, the same group of investigators looked at whether Ginkgo could slow the general decline in cognitive abilities that many people experience as they age. Steven DeKosky of the Virginia School of Medicine and his colleagues studied 3,069 volunteers ages 72 to 96 around the country who had not yet begun to lose their mental edge or had only mild cognitive problems. Half the subjects took 120 miligrams of Ginkgo twice a day while the other half took a placebo.

Tests that measured attention, memory, langauge and other thinking abilities found no difference in the rate of decline in these abilities between the two groups over the next six years on average, the researchers report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study is the largest of its kind, and is consistent with the results of earlier, smaller studies.

By Rob Stein  |  December 29, 2009; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Aging , Alternative and Complementary Medicine , Neurological disorders , Seniors  
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Next: When is a placebo not a placebo?


This is bad news for lovers of alternative medicine and good news for evidence-based medicine. All medicines -alternative or conventional - need to be subjected to scientific evaluation. We need more than faith. Otherwise we're just all drinking the 'kool aide'.

Posted by: MKirschMD | December 30, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

A study based on 72-96 yr old (with various degrees of dementia) cannot be applied to general population.

Posted by: Democrat-in-limbo | December 30, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

No, Democrat-in-limbo is incorrect. The subjects in this study did not all have various degrees of dementia. Ginkgo did not help either those who started the study with normal cognition or those who began with mild cognitive development. These were 3,000+ healthy adults aged 72-96 living in their homes. The results are consistent with previous research. Nearly all the studies since 2000 testing ginkgo for its effects on cognitive function and memory in healthy middle-aged and older adults have come up empty.

Posted by: david-g | December 31, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

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