In a statement, Douglas MacKay, CRN's vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, said that "there is a large body of previously published evidence, as well as ongoing trials, which suggest that ginkgo biloba is effective for helping to improve cognitive impairment in older adults." He added that, "as a former practicing naturopathic doctor, I have had the benefit of working with patients and have seen firsthand how ginkgo biloba can be effective in improving cognitive function."
Ginkgo biloba is believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that protect cell membranes and help govern the workings of the brain's chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters.
Dr. Lon S. Schneider, director of the state of California's Alzheimer's Disease Research and Clinical Center at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, said that these findings were "straightforward and expected."
No measurable effect from ginkgo is seen on cognition, Schneider said. "Regardless of whether people say 'I take it and I feel better,' you just don't see an effect," he said.
Still, Schneider won't object if someone wants to try it. "It is not in my position to deflate hope," he said. "If someone really feels they need to take this and they need to try it, well go ahead and do it. But their expectations should be realistic, and if they don't experience anything, then they probably should stop."
For more information on ginkgo biloba, go to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
SOURCES: Steven T. DeKosky, M.D., vice president and dean, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville; Lon S. Schneider, M.D., director, State of California Alzheimer's Disease Research and Clinical Center at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles; statements, Dec. 28, 2009, Council for Responsible Nutrition, American Botanical Council; Dec. 23-30, 2009, Journal of the American Medical Association