Ginkgo Helps MS: Study validates what many MS suffers have said for years

Findings by Oregon Health & Science University scientists appear to back up what many multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferers have long thought: The herbal supplement ginkgo biloba helps reduce symptoms of the neurological disorder. A new study suggests that ginkgo may be effective in improving attention in MS patients with cognitive impairment. Its lead author, Jesus Lovera, MD, said those receiving ginkgo “performed better on a test that measures a person’s ability to pay attention and to sort conflicting information.”

Of 39 patients completing the study, 20 received ginkgo biloba and 19 received placebo. The ginkgo group was four seconds – about 13% – faster than the placebo group on a timed colour and word test (a “Stroop” test) that measures attention and such “executive functions” as planning, decision making and controlling goal-directed behaviour and execution of deliberate actions.

Lovera said the differences in the test results would be comparable to differences in scores between healthy people ages 30 to 39 and those ages 50 to 59.

Ginkgo appeared to be more beneficial for MS patients having specific problems in the Stroop, so “we would like to do another study in which we choose patients that are impaired in this particular test,” Lovera said. “We would also like to test it at higher doses.”

Many MS patients have long suspected that ginkgo improves disease symptoms. In a recent survey of 1,913 patients in Oregon, 20% reported using the supplement and 39% found it to be beneficial. However, until now, there was no evidence the supplement had any effect on memory.

Oregon Health & Science University, Apr 27, 2005