Memory Herb Does Not Work for MS

Gingko biloba for multiple sclerosis patients does not improve mental functioning

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Difficulty with memory and mental functioning are a known side effect of multiple sclerosis (MS). Ginkgo biloba is thought by many to be a mental booster- but does it actually work? Can it help people with MS?

A recent study investigated whether 120 mg of ginkgo biloba twice a day would improve cognitive function in MS patients. The results showed this dosage of the supplement did not help boost brain power.

"Speak to your doctor about herbs and supplements."

Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest living tree species. The extract of ginkgo leaves are thought to be medicinal and studies suggest that the herb works in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Lead author, Jesus F. Lovera, MD, of the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, Louisiana and team conducted a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Sixty-one MS patients received oral ginkgo biloba tablets and 59 received a placebo for 12 weeks.

Participants completed four neuropsychological tests at the beginning and end of the study. These tests measured word association, verbal memory, information processing and reaction time, all areas frequently impaired by MS.

The study participants and their families were given questionnaires to report cognitive functioning.

Any incidents of new symptoms or worsening of old symptoms were also reported.

There were no significant differences in new or worsening of symptoms between the placebo group and the group that received gingko biloba. There were also no significant differences between the groups regarding the cognitive test results or self-assessments.

Nancy D. Chiaravalloti, PhD, Director of Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research at the Kessler Foundation points out that memory is a complex process and that distinct illnesses impact the memory system at different stages.

The resultant memory deficit thus varies case to case, explaining why gingko biloba may work for dementia but not MS.

“Any one particular treatment is thus not necessarily effective for every memory problem,” said Dr. Chiaravalloti. “It is important that each treatment is empirically tested for efficacy within different clinical populations, such as MS or dementia, as the source of the memory deficit in these populations is different.”

The study was funded by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Some authors receive support from the National Institute of Health, EMD Serono, TEVA Pharmaceuticals, Biogen Idec, a Rehabilitation Research and Development Service Career Development Award, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Consortium of MS Centers, National Science Foundation, the Department of Veteran’s Affair, Teva Neurosciences and the National MS Society.

The study was published in the September issue of Neurology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 19, 2012
Last Updated:
September 20, 2012