The Benefits of Ginkgo Extract in Healthy People

If asked to name the top 5 or 10 herbs and phytomedicines that are the most clinically tested, most knowledgeable herb researchers would most likely include the standardized extract of ginkgo leaf (Ginkgo biloba) as an obvious candidate. There are probably more than 140 published clinical trials documenting the safety and efficacy of the two leading German ginkgo extracts (or Ginkgo biloba extract, GBE) for a variety of indications, the leading brand known as EGb 761 (W. Schwabe, Karlsruhe, Germany) and the next being LI 1370 (Lichtwer Pharma, Berlin).

So it was a big surprise, and disappointment, to many herb researchers and advocates when in August 2002 a negative trial on a leading ginkgo preparation was published in theJournal of the American Medical Association.1

The way the results were misrepresented in the media, the general message tended to say that there was no basis for the use of GBE by anyone, for any reason. Never mind that most GBE trials measuring mental functions have been conducted on subjects with cognitive impairment and early stages of Alzheimer’s dementia, and the evidence for its safety and efficacy in such subjects is compelling. A few months later, the Cochrane Collaboration and the Alzheimer’s Society of England concluded that there were 33 randomized trials that showed “promising evidence” for the use of GBE in early stages of Alzheimer’s dementia, a finding that was ignored in the US media, despite a press release from us.2

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