The effects of ginkgo extract on dementia
More than half of the elderly with dementia are over age 80 in high-income countries. Alzheimer’s — a purportedly incurable disease starting with mild memory loss and ending with severe brain damage and death — is the most common form of dementia. Indeed, progress for treating such conditions has not had much haste. Perhaps something is hiding within the alternatives — some formula or combination that may change a dreary caterpillar into a fluttering butterfly. Antioxidants, Asian ginseng, cat’s claw, ginkgo, and grape seed extract have all been proposed as alternatives for treating Alzheimers and dementia. Let us, for example, focus on the extract from the ginkgo biloba leaf from the ginkgo tree — a unique plant species widely known and particularly respected both for its use in traditional medicine and for its symbolism in China, Korea, and Japan.
In addition to its explored potential effects such as improved blood flow, prevention of oxidative cell damage from free radicals (i.e. “aging”), and prevention of platelet aggregation and blood clotting, ginkgo has been purported to act with nootropic, or memory enhancing, properties. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study conducted by the National Institute on Aging and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), of the National Institutes of Health, USA, found some promising results for ginkgo extract as treatment for dementia. Ginkgo biloba extract in this study was able to show an indication of reduced risk of progression of dementia and a smaller decline in memory when compared to the placebo group. It followed 118 volunteers age 85 or older who used 80 mg of ginkgo extract three times per day over a time period of 42 months.
To conclude, ginkgo extract has large potential for treating dementia, but an evidence base just as large is required. Broad clinical trials must commence to address the effectiveness of this treatment.
NCCAM (2012) Alzheimer’s disease and CAM. Retrieved May 9th, 2012, from: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/alzheimers.htm
NCCAM (2012) Pilot study provides new insight on effect of ginkgo extract on dementia in the elderly. Retrieved May 9th, 2012, from: http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/022608.htm