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Ginkgo Fails to Improve Cognitive Function in People with MS

September 24, 2012

Results of a placebo-controlled, 12-week clinical trial were recently published, showed that Ginkgo biloba failed to improve cognitive function in people with MS. The study involved 121 people with all types of MS whose cognitive tests showed some cognitive impairment. After 12 weeks, no differences were seen between those on Ginkgo and those taking placebo in any of the outcome measures. The authors, led by Jesus Lovera, MD (Louisiana State University, New Orleans) and funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, point out that the study was not designed to determine the long-term impact of Ginkgo. The results were published online on September 5, 2012 in the journal Neurology.

Background: Many people who have MS experience thinking and memory problems. 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.

This 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. They 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.

Comment: “While it’s disappointing that the results of this well-designed trial were negative, we remain committed to exploring ways to restore function in people with MS, including novel and complementary approaches such as that taken by these collaborators,” commented Dr. Timothy Coetzee, Chief Research Officer of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Download (.pdf) a brochure about solving cognitive problems in MS

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.


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