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New research: Ginkgo biloba does not improve memory

A comprehensive study found that the medicinal plant Ginkgo biloba does not have the effect of improving brain activity, this is contrary to the claims of complementary medicine, and even though its people characterized the clinical trials

Ginkgo biloba. From Wikipedia
Ginkgo biloba. From Wikipedia

Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgo Biloba) is a tree that originates from China and is considered a living fossil since no other species of its family are known to have survived beyond the Paleocene era. The leaves of the tree have been used in Chinese medicine for hundreds of years. The most popular claim for the tree's medicinal abilities is attributed to improving brain activity. The argument that the tree is able to lead to an improvement in brain activity stems from an existing and known ability to thin the blood, which substances found in the leaves of the tree are able to cause. What does it have to do with brain activity? According to complementary medicine, thinning the blood leads to improved blood flow to the brain, which should lead to improved brain activity. Nice idea but impossible. Why? The brain controls blood flow to it by widening or narrowing blood vessels. A mildly active blood thinner in a healthy person will not affect blood flow to the brain. On the other hand, it is true that for people who suffer from severe arteriosclerosis or narrowing of the arteries for another reason, at a level where the natural expansion of the arteries is not sufficient to improve blood flow, a blood thinner can definitely help. That's why aspirin is used. It is interesting to note that even the origin of aspirin from the family of medicinal plants (from the white willow tree) the supporters of complementary medicine do not attribute to it the ability to improve mental abilities. Why? Because the mechanism they propose is not possible on a biological level.

 

More recent studies have found that ginkgo biloba contains antioxidants. But antioxidants have not yet been found to have an effect on cognitive ability or any other health improvement. Another study found that Ginkgo biloba was able to reduce amyloid aggregates. Amyloid accumulates on the nerve cells of Alzheimer's disease patients. This is a mechanism that can explain a slowing of the rate of disease development, but as we now know, this effect does not translate into a measurable effect.

Finding an effect mechanism for a drug, herbal or not, is not a sufficient basis for a medical claim - clinical trials with real people are needed to support the claim. In addition, when researchers look for such an effect mechanism, it is not surprising that they find it. Medicines often have several effects on the body and finding an effect is not surprising.

In the last week of December 2009, an article was published in JAMA (Monthly of the American Medical Association) presenting the results of a comprehensive study regarding the effect of the Ginkgo biloba plant on brain activity. The one who funded the research was the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). The same center also funded the study that found that echinacea is not effective for treating colds.

The latest study is the longest and most comprehensive to date. It has been carefully designed to answer the question of whether Ginkgo biloba Effective for improving brain activity and treating, preventing and alleviating the effects of Alzheimer's and other forgetful diseases. The research results are unequivocal - the plant has no effect.

The current study was conducted by proponents of complementary medicine and was carefully designed. Thus, if a real medical ability is discovered in the plant, all those skeptics who support modern medicine will not be able to make claims and will have to accept the research results as they are. This, in light of the criticisms leveled at previous small studies that provided conflicting results. The study made a direct comparison of 120 mg doses of Ginkgo biloba taken twice a day, while adhering to the rules of double-blindness, randomization and multiple participants (3019 participants aged 72-96 with a median of 6.1 years). The researchers measured brain activity of the participants over the years the experiment.

It is easy to report the results of the study - every method of measurement showed that there was no difference between Ginkgo biloba and placebo. There was no difference in cognitive activity, risk of developing forgetfulness, the rate of development of forgetfulness or the natural deterioration of memory as a result of old age.

These results raise questions about the procedure in many countries, including Israel, which allows substances with a medical effect, such as ginkgo biloba, to be marketed as food supplements accompanied by health claims and promises as long as they are properly researched. The markets in Europe and the USA for Ginkgo biloba run hundreds of millions of dollars every year. A search on Hebrew Google provides a first page full of advertisements. It will be interesting to see what happens following this research. The study did find that ginkgo biloba in general is safe. But it should be taken into account that even if the plant is sold as a food supplement, it should be treated as a medicine due to its blood thinning abilities which can be dangerous for a person before surgery. Most people do not treat the herbal supplements as drugs and therefore do not report them to their doctor, so the safety issue is uncertain.

Remember - historical use of a herbal medicine is not sufficient evidence of its effectiveness. In most cases where efficacy was proven, the active substance was isolated and became a medicine in itself.

For the scientific article in JAMA

More of the topic in Hayadan:

30 תגובות

  1. Why don't you do an intelligent article about the side effects of conventional medicine and its "medicines" - or you are afraid of getting involved in lawsuits with capital sharks - what Ginkgo Biloba might only be offended by an old and wise Chinese.

  2. Why don't you do an intelligent article about the side effects of conventional medicine and its "medicines" - or you are afraid of getting involved in lawsuits with capital sharks - what Ginkgo Biloba might only be offended by an old and wise Chinese.

  3. On the advice of a geriatrician, I took a medicine called "Cerbonin" which is supposed to improve memory. After using for about a month there is no improvement. And it's still plausible (if at all it's true). But there are 2 phenomena that have appeared since I started consuming: growth/excessive rate in the whole body but not in the head. And also itching in the body and especially in the scalp. If anyone knows anything about this, I would appreciate the answer.

  4. Hello. I started using a drug called "Cerbonin" which contains 120 mg of Ginkgo biloba. I was told it was to improve memory. (I am 70 years old). It did not improve the memory. But another disturbing phenomenon: overgrowth of body hair (not the head) and also itching mainly in the scalp but also in other parts of the body. I ask that if anyone experiences similar phenomena, I would love to know. In the meantime, stop the treatment.

  5. For some reason the article is cataloged at the end with the label "mysticism and its dangers" despite the fact that there is nothing to do with mysticism (nor its dangers). Just so you know, if it already "was known" :-]

  6. This article is false because I use ginkgo and I am aware of the difference. Although the results take time because it is not a drug, it is absorbed into the system naturally, so you have to stick with it.

  7. A lie article.. Since I started taking it I feel a tremendous improvement in my learning ability and memory
    There were periods when I stopped and the effect also stopped

  8. The answer to the question of whether ginkgo biloba helps memory is clear:
    The latest study is the longest and most comprehensive to date. It was carefully designed to answer the question of whether Ginkgo biloba is effective for improving brain activity and treating, preventing and alleviating the effects of Alzheimer's and other forgetful diseases. The research results are unequivocal - the plant has no effect.
    The current study was conducted by proponents of complementary medicine and was carefully designed. Thus, if a real medical ability is discovered in the plant, all those skeptics who support modern medicine will not be able to make claims and will have to accept the research results as they are. This, in light of the criticisms leveled at previous small studies that provided conflicting results. The study made a direct comparison of 120 mg doses of Ginkgo biloba taken twice a day, while adhering to the rules of double-blindness, randomization and multiple participants (3019 participants aged 72-96 with a median of 6.1 years). The researchers measured brain activity of the participants over the years the experiment.

    It is easy to report the results of the study - every method of measurement showed that there was no difference between Ginkgo biloba and placebo. There was no difference in cognitive activity, risk of developing forgetfulness, the rate of development of forgetfulness or the natural deterioration of memory as a result of old age.

  9. A war is going on between conventional medicine and complementary medicine
    And there is no doubt that Mr. Lotem Eliyahu unequivocally and very blindly favors conventional medicine

    This article is meaningless to me
    Endless studies have been conducted
    Not only in the USA regarding the ginkgo
    In Europe and the East, the plant has been used for many years
    And its effectiveness is proven

    You just have to try to understand.
    Of course, dried capsules are not as effective as using the plant itself
    And an infusion is not as effective as the herbal extract of the plant according to Marcelo Spinola's book

  10. Two-lobed ginkgo is a unique species of tree, originating in China. It is a tree with excellent adaptability, and high resistance to urban conditions, and is therefore used as an ornamental tree in many countries around the world. The lifespan of a ginkgo tree is very long and may reach thousands of years. In China, an item is known to be about 3,500 years old.

  11. interesting ! Of course, the research must be qualified due to the characteristics of the subjects such as their age, and therefore it is still impossible to make an extrapolation - and a sweeping generalization about the effects of Ginkgo Biloba. But a study that sheds light on the subject in an interesting way!

  12. I read the original article from which you took the information and unfortunately it is difficult to find the full connection. The study was very limited and only examined an adult population and the conclusions of the authors in the original article are not as decisive as compared to the conclusions written in your article. The person who wrote your article is sweepingly inferring things that were not inferred in the original and it's a shame because it misleads the readers

  13. Interesting and important article. As a therapist I believe with all my heart in complementary medicine. But at the same time just like in conventional medicine, here too there can be holes or treatments that were not as effective as initially thought. I notice that in every article criticizing complementary medicine, its staunch opponents immediately jump in just to discredit it and usually without any logical argument. Friends, complementary medicine sometimes succeeds in helping and sometimes it doesn't... I agree that criticism is a healthy thing, but please, bring a logical argument with you in order to develop a relevant discussion and not just to say "we told you so". Anyway, I think the article is good and important.

  14. post hoc ergo propter hoc
    after this, therefore because of it
    After that, therefore because of that
    A mistaken assumption that charlatan "healers" rely on

  15. wow A serious blow to the fans of alternative medicine. For example, I accept the results as they are.
    I only have one question - was there a specific reason why the subjects were really old, at ages where the decline in cognitive ability is significant.
    After all, most of the consumers of these products are people over the age of 40-50 who are trying in various ways to slow down their aging and wear and tear process.

  16. Yael Petar:
    Some are sensitive to omega-3 from a marine source because it may contain traces of heavy metals such as mercury. This is despite the strict screening carried out in the laboratories.
    A vegetable source with a very high content of omega-3 as well as 6 and 9 is slava kernels.
    Salba Seed Oil
    The oil extracted from these kernels contains a high concentration of omegas without fear of heavy metal residues.
    You can get such capsules on websites abroad at relatively cheap prices, a website such as vitacost.com

  17. Yael Petar:
    It is important to note that the study was carried out on ages between 72 and 96, most of the subjects were 87 years old on average.
    Some of them are in various states of dementia and decline in cognitive abilities.
    Studies on young people and children of school age were carried out on the effect of omega-3 and it turned out to have a great effect and to improve the level of intellectual abilities in students.
    Omega-3 is an antioxidant that, due to the small size of the molecule, is one of the few that can cross the blood-brain barrier.
    No studies have been carried out on Ginkgo biloba and their effect on young or old people. It is quite possible that the substance has a factor that inhibits the decline of abilities in older ages if taken regularly before old age and relapse.

  18. And one more thing, the claims of improved cognitive performance were also heard about omega-3, and some researchers say that following the settlement of early man near water sources where there are fish rich in omega-3, the cognitive jump and the development of the neocortex in the brain were caused. Does anyone know of scientific studies regarding omega-3?

  19. jewel:
    Nice response. Although it seems that you still haven't read the article from beginning to end. Because the experiment was about testing memory improvement. And not in testing the effect of ginkgo on improving alertness and concentration.
    It is of course possible that you suffer from memory problems and tend to forget at the end of the article what you read at the beginning. Or you have a reading comprehension problem. I understand you tried to improve it with the ginkgo and it didn't help it really shouldn't.
    But as a stimulant in a state of fatigue it is excellent.
    To remove doubt and precisely define the purpose of the study, below is the quote from the source itself.
    The link is at the bottom of the article.
    Objective: To determine whether G biloba slows the rates of global or domain-specific cognitive decline in older adults.
    It is even more specific meaning improvement in adults who have cognitive decline.
    And in no way on the topic of improving alertness and concentration.

  20. David, the one who rejects Momo rejects.
    From the article:
    "Every measurement method showed that there was no difference between ginkgo biloba and placebo. There was no difference in cognitive activity, the risk of developing forgetfulness, the rate of development of forgetfulness or the natural deterioration of memory as a result of old age."

    Cognitive activity David, do you know what it is? Have you heard of the term? If not, take some ginkgo combined with linco tinco and... nothing will happen.
    On the other hand, I take back what I said in my first message. It's not that you're blind in your faith and reject the evidence, it's just that you don't know how to read, and that's much more encouraging.

  21. jewel:
    Nice of you to respond. You should read the article carefully. The subject of the study was the effect on memory.
    Not about improving alertness and concentration. You should take some ginkgo mixed with ginseng before you read the article next time it will definitely improve your concentration.
    In my opinion, the claim that ginkgo improves memory is mainly due to the fact that it helps to increase alertness and concentration.
    When a person is more alert and focused, it can be assumed that brain functions work more efficiently, including memory.
    Even after sipping coffee or vigorous physical activity there is an improvement in alertness.
    These substances may work within a few hours mainly when a person is tired and exhausted and with low alertness.

  22. David, you don't let the facts confuse you in an extreme way.
    You respond to an article in which it is written that it has been unequivocally proven that something has no effect in a comprehensive study of its kind with the opposite claim. Are you that blind in your faith? In such cases I wonder what's the point? No amount of evidence will convince people like you.

  23. My 86 year old father uses ginseng and he claims he feels
    improving. It would be interesting to investigate the effect of ginseng.

  24. Ginkgo capsules combined with ginseng help increase concentration and alertness for several hours.
    Especially for those who engage in vigorous brain activity for many hours a day.
    Their price is worth it if you buy them online from the USA.
    Ginkgo biloba will cost about 17 NIS for 100 capsules of 120 mg.
    In Israel, on the other hand, you will pay for the same amount about NIS 100 to NIS 400 or more.
    Conclusion It is worthwhile to open a Teva store in Israel.

  25. Interesting and important article. I wonder if a similar study has been done on ginseng, for which claims have also been heard that it improves cognitive processes and memory.

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