Can Ginkgo Biloba Help Prevent Dementia?


One of the oldest species of trees, the ginkgo produces leaves that are used to make one of the most popular of all memory supplements. Here’s a look at this widely used dietary supplement “for brain health.”

Researchers hypothesize that ginkgo biloba has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and suggest that this is how it might prevent dementia. In Europe, an extract of this herb is sold as a drug (known as EGb 761) for treating age-related memory loss, poor concentration, and other cognitive problems.

However, a large, well-designed study published in JAMA in 2009 cast doubt on ginkgo biloba’s memory-boosting abilities. In the study, 3,069 community-dwelling men and women, ages 72 to 96, were given memory tests, then randomly divided into two groups: Subjects in one group took a 120-mg dose of ginkgo biloba twice daily, while those in the second group took inactive placebo pills. After six years, follow-up memory tests revealed no difference between the two groups. More recent studies have produced similar findings.

BOTTOM LINE: While more study is needed before any final recommendation can be made, there is no good evidence that ginkgo biloba has the ability to prevent dementia.