Scientific Review Finds Gingko Shows Promise for Cognitive Functions in Elderly

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 10, 2002 - A scientific review of 33 clinical trials of Ginkgo biloba in elderly populations with dementia or cognitive decline concluded that ginkgo shows promising evidence for improving memory function, says the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).

The scientific review, undertaken and published by the highly respected, international Cochrane Collaboration, reviewed and assessed 33 randomized, double-blind controlled studies and found that ginkgo shows "promising evidence of improvement in cognition and function" and "appears to be safe in use with no excess side effects compared with placebo." The trials, which lasted anywhere from 3 to 52 weeks, showed benefit at less than 12 weeks. The scientific review was funded by the Alzheimer Society and supported by Oxford University, both in England.

The researchers recommended further clinical trials of ginkgo, using modern standardized techniques and adequate size populations, noting a few problems with some of the early trials, including unsatisfactory methods and small populations.

According to John Cardellina, Ph.D., vice president, botanical and regulatory science, Council for Responsible Nutrition, "Ginkgo is among the top selling herbal supplements in the U.S. and, given the recent conflicting news reports about ginkgo's benefits, consumers will want to know more about the Cochrane Collaboration's findings. This analysis provides sufficient scientific support for consumers, particularly the elderly with early stage dementia or memory loss, to feel confident that ginkgo is a viable product for improving memory function."

Tieraona LowDog, M.D., one of America's most highly respected specialists in herbal medicine and its role in modern health care, stated, "Ginkgo has been used in China for the last 500 years but it did not become popular in America until the last decade. Backed by extensive scientific research, standardized extracts of ginkgo leaf are now extremely popular in both Europe and the United States. While there remains a need for a large, rigorous clinical trial to determine who will be most likely to benefit from ginkgo and at what dose, the Cochrane review demonstrates that ginkgo is a safe dietary supplement for those looking to improve their day-to-day cognitive function."

Ginkgo sales in the U.S. in 2001 totaled $180 million, ranking ginkgo as one of the top-selling single-herb dietary supplements, according to Nutrition Business Journal, a newsletter that provides strategic information for the nutrition industry.


The Council for Responsible Nutrition is one of the dietary supplement industry's leading trade associations, representing ingredient suppliers and manufacturers. To arrange an interview with a CRN representative, contact Judy Blatman at 202-263-1005.

Tieraona LowDog, M.D., is a faculty member in the Department of Medicine at the University of Arizona. Prior to attending medical school, she had a successful herbal practice in New Mexico. She was appointed by President Clinton to the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine and is Chair of the United States Pharmacopeia Dietary Supplements/Botanicals Expert Panel. She has published numerous articles on botanicals and women's health. To arrange an interview with Dr. LowDog, contact 505-897-6358.

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