Ginkgo May Be as Beneficial as Some Drugs in Treating Patients with Alzheimer's Disease

BACKGROUND: Cholinesterase-inhibiting drugs are often used to treat Alzheimer's disease. However, they have side effects, including nausea and vomiting. Some research has suggested that standardized extracts such as the herb Ginkgo biloba may slow the progression of dementia and have fewer side effects.

RESEARCH: This review article compared the benefits and risks of ginkgo and cholinesterase inhibitors. Although no clinical trial has directly compared ginkgo extract and cholinesterase inhibitors, evidence from other long-term studies suggests that both substances have similar benefits. For example, ginkgo supplementation has been shown to slightly improve cognitive performance. In comparable studies, cholinesterase inhibitors have also shown a similar cognitive improvement.

RESULTS: The reviewer noted that side effects are ten times more common with cholinesterase inhibitors, and the cost of the drug is about five times higher than ginkgo. In addition, cognitive deterioration occurs rapidly after patients stop taking the medication, whereas ginkgo's benefits tend to last longer.

IMPLICATIONS: Few therapeutic options exist for people with Alzheimer's disease. Based on the evidence, ginkgo extract may be preferable to cholinesterase inhibitors.

Schulz V., "Ginkgo extract or cholinesterase inhibitors in patients with dementia: what clinical trials and guidelines fail to consider," Phytomedicine, 2003;10 (Suppl 4):74-79.

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