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Ginkgo Biloba Found NOT Effective In Combating Cognitive Decline

Updated on January 16, 2012

Ginkgo Biloba Has No Effect On Cognitive Decline

Ginkgo Biloba, an extract from the Ginkgo tree, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 500 years, and has been heavily touted in the West as an effective treatment for improving memory and preventing cognitive decline and dementia since the 1970s. Nutritional supplement manufacturers and scientists have reported conflicting effectiveness of the extract's effectiveness for decades.

In December of 2009, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the result of the longest and largest scientific trial of Ginkgo Biloba ever undertaken. This clinical trial, known as The Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study, tested 3,069 participants between the ages of 72 and 96, with little or no cognitive impairment, over an average 6 year time span. The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial provided half the patients with twice-daily 120 mg doses of Ginkgo Biloba per day, and a placebo to the other half.

The Human Brain
The Human Brain

The GEM Study

The GEM study was funded by the National Institute of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the United States government's primary agency for the study of alternative and complimentary medicine.

By the end of the study, no difference in cognitive function could be found in any of the cognitive areas tested, including memory, attention and language cognition.

The patients in the trial were tracked by six academic medical centers in the Eastern United States between 2000 and 2008 using standard medical tests, including the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination and the cognitive subscale of the Alzheimer Disease Assessment Scale.

The Modified Mini-Mental State Examination is a 30-point test used to diagnose and measure the impact of cognitive decline and dementia. Since the test can indicate level of cognitive function at the time it is given, it is useful in tracking decline or improvement of cognitive function over time.

The Alzheimer Disease Assessment Scale is a testing tool used to screen cognitive disorders in the diagnosis of Alzheimer Disease. The cognitive subset of the scale is used both for diagnosis of cognitive decline and for measuring decline or improvement of cognitive function in the treatment of Alzheimer Disease.

Leaves of the Ginkgo Biloba tree
Leaves of the Ginkgo Biloba tree

Other Findings

The NIH-funded GEM study did find that Ginkgo Biloba is safe to use. However, since its primary function is as a blood thinner, heart patients and those who already use blood thinners should be cautious about using the supplement. Many patients don't consider herbal supplements as "medicine" or "drugs", and so don't always alert their physicians about their use of them, which can lead to complications with prescription medications and even surgery.

In 2008, over $99 million worth of Ginkgo Biloba extracts were sold in the United States, making it one of the top ten herbal supplements on the market.

Ginkgo Biloba Ineffective In Treating Cognitive Decline

Ginkgo Biloba Doesn't Treat Alzheimer's

Senior citizen photo courtesy of / CC BY 2.0


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  • sunforged profile image

    sunforged 7 years ago from

    This is excellent well researched info, In a related topic I was looking into studies regarding gingko and its effect on blood circulation every single article always referenced the supposed benefits related to circulation and cognitive decline.. Its a bit of a shame that it seems to be a false assumption, I wonder how many years will go by before all this outdated information is replaced by current findings.

    great find!

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    I read that study. Too bad it doesn't work as it would be wonderful for so many.

  • ladylux profile image

    ladylux 7 years ago

    Thanks for drawing attention to this. Nothing can reverse disease if it doesn't remove the underlying cause... that goes for pharmaceuticals too. Dementia is triggered by aluminum toxicity and low cholesterol levels (cholesterol lowering drugs actually admit to this) amongst a few other things.