Study Shows That Ginkgo Improves Mental Function in Healthy Adults

  • Cognitive Function
  • Dementia
  • Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
  • Date: February 28, 2005 HC# 100544-275

    Re: Study Shows That Ginkgo Improves Mental Function in Healthy Adults

    Cieza A, Maeir P, Poppel E. Effects of Ginkgo biloba on mental functioning in healthy volunteers. Arch Med Res. 2003;34:373-381.

    Many studies have described the benefits of ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) on mental function in people with dementia or cognitive impairment. However, few studies have evaluated mental function in healthy people taking ginkgo. Furthermore, the effects of ginkgo on cognitive function involving attention, perception, and emotion have not been studied. The purpose of this study was to assess the short-term effects of ginkgo extract on mental function and quality of life in healthy older volunteers.

    This double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial was conducted at the Institute for Medical Psychology, University of Munich in Munich, Germany. It involved 66 healthy subjects ranging in age from 50 to 65 years. The subjects were randomly assigned to receive placebo or 120 mg ginkgo extract (EGb 761®, Dr. Willmar Schwabe GmbH, Karlsruhe, Germany) twice a day for 4 weeks. Subjects rated their own mental health, general health, and quality of life before the study and at the end of the study. Each week, the investigators monitored side effects and conducted 15 tests that assessed mental perception, processing of information, emotional evaluation, and action/reaction.

    No serious side effects were reported during the study, and the majority of side effects were judged to be unrelated to the ginkgo extract. At the end of the study, mental health and quality of life were rated significantly better by the ginkgo group than by the placebo group (P<0.05). Ratings of general health were similar between the 2 groups. Participants receiving ginkgo, as compared to placebo, judged their mood states more positively during the entire treatment phase and significantly more positive after 2 weeks of treatment. (P<0.05). The ginkgo group also performed better in tests measuring motor action/reaction (i.e., Finger Tapping Test) than the placebo group (P<0.05). There were no significant differences in tests of memory, perception, or attention between the 2 groups.

    The authors summarized their results by stating that short-term administration of EGb 761 ginkgo extract appeared to improve mental health, quality of life, self-judged mood state, and motor reactions in healthy older people. The finding that ginkgo did not affect memory could be explained by the short duration of the study and the use of healthy subjects rather than cognitively impaired subjects. This study supports the safety and efficacy of ginkgo extract, a very important finding given the number of healthy people who take ginkgo to improve their mental function and general well being.

    —Heather S. Oliff, Ph.D.

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