Think Ginkgo: Longer-term study shows memory benefits from herb

Researchers at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute found significant improvement in verbal recall among a group of people with age-associated memory impairment who took the herbal supplement ginkgo biloba for six months when compared with a group that received a placebo. The UCLA study, used positron-emission tomography (PET) and found that for subjects taking gingko biloba, improved recall correlated with better brain function in key brain memory centers.

“Our findings suggest intriguing avenues for future study, including using PET with a larger sample to better measure and understand the impact of gingko biloba on brain metabolism,” said Dr Linda Ercoli, lead author of the study.

Gingko biloba is often used as a dietary supplement to treat memory loss. The UCLA study and previous controlled clinical trials on ginkgo biloba’s effects on verbal recall have yielded conflicting results. Principal investigator Dr. Gary Small, a UCLA professor, noted that the six-month UCLA study is one of the first to measure the effects of gingko biloba over a longer period of time. Most previous studies have measured the effect of the supplement over 12 weeks or less.

The study examined the impact of ginkgo biloba, compared to a placebo, in 10 patients, aged 45 to 75, who did not have dementia but complained of mild age-related memory loss. Four subjects received 120 mg of ginkgo biloba twice daily, and six received a placebo or inactive substance such as a sugar pill.

University of California – Los Angeles, Nov 10, 2003