The popular botanical ginkgo biloba does not improve memory nor does it prevent cognitive decline in older people, according to the largest and longest scientific study ever undertaken to look at the supplement.
An extract derived from the gingko tree, gingkgo biloba has been touted since the 1970s by the supplement industry and others as an aid to improving memory, cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Ginkgo extract has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 500 years, according to the American Botanical Council.
The study finding is "disappointing news," says Steven DeKosky, dean of the University of Virginia School of Medicine and the study's senior author. The only positive thing the researchers found is that ginkgo appears to be safe, he says.
The results are from the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory study, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a center of the National Institutes of Health. The randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study was conducted at six medical centers and involved more than 3,000 people between ages 72 and 96 for seven years. The report is in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.