Study: 'Memory herb' helped some Alzheimer's patients
October 21, 1997
Web posted at: 1:52 p.m. EDT (1752 GMT)
In this story:
From Correspondent Eugenia Halsey
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ginkgo biloba, an herb touted as a memory
booster, shows promise in treating Alzheimer's disease, a
study published in the Journal of the American Medical
Association (JAMA) suggests.
Previous studies have shown that ginkgo improves blood flow
to the brain. The plant extract, popular in Europe, has
become widely available at health, food and drug stores in
the United States.
About 4 million Americans have Alzheimer's, a progressive and
irreversible neurological disorder that generally strikes
people over 65. Its victims suffer gradual memory loss,
impairment of judgment, disorientation, personality change
and loss of language skills. There is no known cure.
'I can remember what I am supposed to be doing'
Mona Bower, 78, noticed her memory start to slip six years
ago. She'd forget dates and appointments.
After being diagnosed with Alzheimer's, she began taking
pills made of ginkgo biloba extract, and believes the herb
"I remember what I am supposed to be doing," she told CNN.
Bower is one of more than 300 dementia -- that is, mentally
impaired -- patients who participated in a study of ginkgo.
They took 40 milligrams of herbal extract three times a day.
The amount is based on a standardized extract formula of
24 percent ginkgosides and 6 percent terpenelactones.
Scientists led by Dr. Pierre Le Bars of the New York
Institute for Medical Research reported their findings in
this week's medical journal.
They found that one-third of the Alzheimer's patients taking
ginkgo improved in tasks involving memory, such as
remembering the date or the names of relatives. About half of
the group didn't experience improved memory, but showed no
signs of increased memory loss.
That may be the equivalent of a six-month delay in the
progression of dementia.
Alzheimer's group wants more study
The results are encouraging, but it would be premature to
propose ginkgo biloba as an Alzheimer's treatment, says Dr.
Zaven Khachaturian of the Alzheimer's Association.
He recommends more studies to determine how gingko works and
whether it actually delays the disease or simply relieves its
Researchers say ginkgo contains compounds that may eliminate
chemicals in the body that can damage nerve cells, but
Alzheimer's experts say caution is in order because:
- The herb may reduce the blood's ability to clot.
- Some ginkgo products may not contain the same herbal
combination that was used in the study.
The experts also warn that Alzheimer's patients or their
caregivers should consult a doctor before making any change
Medical Correspondent Dr. Steve Salvatore contributed to this