June 26, 2014

Ginkgo biloba failed to improve cognitive function in people with MS

Results of a placebo-controlled, 12-week clinical trial conducted by researchers from Louisiana State University, New Orleans showed that Ginkgo biloba failed to improve cognitive function in people with MS. Extract from the Ginkgo biloba tree has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes, and small pilot studies, including one by the authors of this study, hinted that it might be beneficial for cognitive impairment in MS. Preliminary results of this study were previously reported in 2011 at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting. [Lovera JF, Kim E, Heriza E, Fitzpatrick M, Hunziker J, Turner AP, Adams J, Stover T, Sangeorzan A, Sloan A, Howieson D, Wild K, Haselkorn J, Bourdette D. Neurology. 2012 Sep 18;79(12):1278-84. Epub 2012 Sep 5.]

The Study
The study involved 121 people with all types of MS in the Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon areas whose cognitive tests showed some thinking impairment. Study participants took one 120 mg tablet of Ginkgo or inactive placebo twice a day for 12 weeks, and then underwent cognitive tests. The investigators also had participants and family members fill out questionnaires to record their perceptions of participants’ cognitive function. No differences were seen between those who took Ginkgo and those who took placebo in any of the outcome measures. The authors note that this study was not designed to determine the long-term impact of Ginkgo, and that the participants had had MS for a long duration (a median of 20 years), which may have influenced outcomes.

What do these findings mean?
People who are currently taking Gingko biloba to improve cognitive impairment should discuss the results from this study with their physician or healthcare team. Other symptom management options for improved cognitive function should be discussed.

Source: National MS Society (USA)