Can Ginkgo Biloba Help Prevent Dementia?

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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.