May 4, 2009 -- Question: Can gingko biloba be used to treat Alzheimer's disease?
Answer: Gingko biloba has been used by people for over 1500 years. It has a number of biological activities, including very powerful antioxidant activities that have led to the hypothesis that it could be helpful in Alzheimer's disease or certain other kinds of mental disorders or late-life disorders. In the studies that have been done -- and a lot have been done -- there is no definitive evidence that gingko either is remarkably good for people who have Alzheimer's, and it does not appear to be helpful in preventing or delaying the appearance of Alzheimer's symptoms in people who are older. So at this point in time, we still don't have a lot of evidence that suggests that taking this will be very helpful.
There are issues about how pure the preparations are, issues about exactly what the appropriate dose would be, and most of all -- the question of whether or not if you are going to take alternative or complementary medications, you tell your doctor that you're taking them. Although ginkgo does not have any obvious interactions with other medications, many medications may interfere with prescription medications that you take, and these are things that should be checked with your physician before you take any of the complementary or alternative medications -- that is, things that you may buy over the counter without a prescription.