More MS news articles for September 2002

Leading Herbal and Nutritional Associations Urge Putting Ginkgo Study in Perspective

Aug. 20, 2002

Concerned that reports about an article examining the use of ginkgo in healthy subjects will cause consumers to avoid or abandon the use of this beneficial herb, two of the natural products industry's leading trade groups, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) and the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA) urge reporters and consumers to put this new study in context with the total body of positive research on this therapeutic botanical.  The study, which was published in the recent edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, was conducted by researchers at Williams College from 1996-1998.*

"While this study shows that ginkgo did not have an effect on elderly adults with unimpaired mental function, there are more current well-designed studies** that have also analyzed people with normal mental function that arrive at directly contradictory conclusions," said Phil Harvey, Ph.D., NNFA's director of science and quality assurance.  "These more current studies report significant improvement in the study subjects' memory, attention and cognitive clarity due to the use of ginkgo."

The authors of the new study acknowledge that their "study has limitations" and that higher doses of ginkgo over a longer period of time may yield different results.

"What's important to remember is that it's difficult to increase cognitive ability in healthy adults to a significant or even measurable degree.  To do so would likely require a longer trial, with doses of ginkgo titrated to a higher level over time," reiterated Harvey.

"Let's not forget that over a half a century of controlled trials on ginkgo have clearly demonstrated that those with even mild to moderate memory problems and poor concentration -- symptoms often associated with the onset of Alzheimer's and other dementias -- are helped by taking ginkgo," said Steven Dentali, Ph.D., AHPA's vice president for scientific and technical affairs. "This study should not be the last word on ginkgo's effectiveness.  Previous well-designed and executed studies have indicated ginkgo's significant benefits in improving circulation and mental function and should be taken seriously as a totality of scientific evidence about ginkgo."

One of the most clinically studied botanicals, ginkgo has been examined mainly for its potential to increase circulation to the extremities as well as the brain, especially in the elderly.  It has also been studied for the treatment of ringing in the ears (tinnitus), male impotence, degenerative nerve conditions such as multiple sclerosis, and other conditions.

The first large-scale American clinical study on ginkgo was published in 1997, also in JAMA,*** focusing on ginkgo's effect on improving the short-term memory of early diagnosed Alzheimer's disease.  The researchers concluded that the herb is safe and stabilizing, and that, in a significant number of patients, it improves cognitive performance and social functioning.

Founded in 1983, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) represents the finest manufacturers, growers, suppliers and retailers of herbal supplement products.  AHPA serves its members by promoting the responsible manufacture and sale of products that contain herbs.  For more information, contact .

The National Nutritional Foods Association ( ) is the nation's largest and oldest non-profit organization dedicated to the natural products industry.  NNFA represents more than 4,000 retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements, and health and beauty aids.

* Solomon PR, Adams F, Silver A, Zimmer J, Deveaux R. Ginkgo for Memory Enhancement:  A randomized controlled trial.  Journal of the American Medical Association 2002;288(7):835-40.

** Mix, JA., Crew WD. A double-blind, placebo controlled randomized trial of Ginkgo Biloba extract EGb761 in a sample of cognitively intact older adults: neuropsycological findings.  Human Psycophamracology Clin Exp 2002; 17:267-77.

*** Lebars PL, et. al.  Ginkgo Biloba for dementia.  Journal of the American Medical Association 1997;278:1327-1332.

SOURCE American Herbal Products Association; National Nutritional Foods Web Site:  

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