In my best-selling book, co-written with Donal O’Mathuna, PhD, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, I wrote a chapter on Gingko biloba and said this:
While ginkgo looks promising as a means of delaying the memory loss related to a variety of diseases, some studies have found no benefit. Studies have found memory benefits only for about six months. Ginkgo may prove helpful for retarding age-related memory loss, dementia, and peripheral arterial disease. However, studies have not examined the benefits or safety of taking ginkgo long-term.
Now we may have the answer. I was first informed of it by watching the CBS Evening News where it was reported, “Americans spend a quarter billion dollars a year on” gingko biloba supplements, “hoping to improve their memory and slow cognitive decline.”
NBC Nightly News that same evening reported that “now, a major study shows” that gingko biloba, “one of the most popular supplements, flat out does not work.”
USA Today reported that, according to a study published in the Dec. 23-30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, “the popular botanical … does not improve memory, nor does it prevent cognitive decline in older people.”
After analyzing data “from the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory study” on “more than 3,000 people between ages 72 and 96 for seven years,” researchers from the University of Virginia Medical School “found that a twice-daily dose of 120 milligrams of ginkgo biloba extract was not effective in reducing the incidence of Alzheimer’s dementia or dementia overall.”
According to the Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, “a branch of the National Institutes of Health, has been researching ginkgo for 10 years to see whether the type of clinical trials required for FDA-regulated pharmaceuticals would reveal any benefit. The new findings are in line with several other studies, including a Cochrane review published this year that found ‘no convincing evidence’ that the herb preserves mental function in any way.”
The investigators “found no evidence that ginkgo delayed or prevented normal declines in memory, language, attention, visuospatial abilities, or executive functions, such as anticipating outcomes and adapting to changing situations and thinking abstractly,” HealthDay reported. Moreover, “these results remained the same regardless of sex, age, race or education,” the investigators found. However, the supplement was found to be safe, “and no serious side effects were noted,” study author Steven T. DeKosky, MD, said.
Likely this study will lead us to prescribe even more caution about this herb — one for which we once had significant hope.