Volume 3, Issue 49
December 23, 2010

Protect your brain with gingko biloba? Maybe not...

For years the herb gingko biloba has enjoyed the status as an effective way to prevent dementia, including Alzheimer’s. But in 2008 the Gingko Evaluation of Memory study changed all that. It was the largest, completely randomized, double-blinded, placebo controlled study if its kind. And it found that people taking 120 mg of gingko biloba extract twice a day in no way reduced their chances of eventually developing dementia.

However, many experts criticized the study because it didn’t assess whether or not taking gingko biloba prevented normal memory loss. This is the normal decline in mental function that occurs in many people as they get older, but that does not lead to dementia. Nor did it determine whether or not taking gingko biloba slowed down the progression toward dementia in those doomed to get it.

Now a new study has answered those questions.

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Just like the first study, the researchers conducted a randomized, blinded, and placebo controlled study. And they also looked at a very large group (3,069) of both men and women. Their ages were from 72 to 96 years old. They excluded anyone who had depression, was on any drugs that are known to cause memory impairment, or who already had signs of dementia. They included only those people who had mild symptoms of age-related cognitive impairment and those who had completely healthy brain function.

Then they gave each participant either a placebo or 120 mg of gingko biloba extract every day. The extract they used was a good one. It was EGb-761, which is an extract that is standardized to 24% active glycosides and 6% lactones. That’s high quality. The study went on for a full eight years. Here’s what they found.

In those people who started off with completely normal cognitive function, taking gingko did not result in any less decline than taking the sugar pills. The same was also true for those who started off with mild cognitive impairment. Neither group showed any better results from gingko than from the placebo.

Protecting our brain function as we get older is something we’re all interested in doing. And it’s disappointing that gingko biloba, which has been the best-selling herbal supplement in the world to prevent mental decline, is ineffective. But all is not in vain. There are silver linings to everything.

For one, the reason that I have been advising my patients for over 20 years to regularly take gingko, and the reason that I put a full dose in my Super Immune QuickStart, is not for memory improvement. I’ve always used and recommended gingko because it thins out the blood. It makes blood become less viscous (thick), and thereby enhances circulation. All of this is proven beyond a doubt in the medical literature. So I think it is a very effective way to live longer and live better, even if it doesn’t specifically protect the brain.

Secondly, I’m just as glad when researchers show that something doesn’t work as I am when they show that something does work. After all, why would I want to recommend a treatment that is ineffective, no matter how harmless it may be? And I’d hate to see anyone wasting their time and money taking gingko to protect their brain when there are so many other proven and effective ways to do it. Just look in some of the past issues of Real Cures in case you have forgotten (uh, oh) about them. And make sure you start protecting your brain early on.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD


DeKosky, S.T., J.D. Williamson, A.L. Fitzpatrick, et al. “Ginkgo biloba for prevention of dementia: a randomized controlled trial.” JAMA. 2008 Nov 19;300(19):2253-62.

Snitz BE, O’Meara ES, Carlson MC, et al. Gingko biloba for preventing cognitive decline in older adults. JAMA, December 23/30, 2009. Vol 302. No 24. P. 2662.

Copyright 2010 Soundview Publishing, LLC

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