A new study conducted by a team of American researchers reveals that contrary to popular belief, using Ginkgo biloba herbal supplement will not improve cognitive function in multiple sclerosis patients.
Cognitive impairment affects 40-60 percent of people with MS, most commonly affecting their processing speed, memory, and executive skills.
This study by Dr. Jesus Lovera, Assistant Professor of Neurology at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, and colleagues followed up on a promising earlier small study by Dr. Lovera and his colleagues that had shown improvement in cognitive function with Ginkgo biloba in people with MS. Some studies have also shown improvement after treatment with Ginkgo biloba in people with Alzheimer's disease.
"Ginkgo biloba supplements are frequently used by people with MS. Ginkgo appeared beneficial in a prior small pilot study we had done," Dr. Jesus Lovera, a neurologist at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans who specializes in MS, said.
The researchers wanted to conduct a larger more robust study to determine the validity of the preliminary results. One hundred twenty people with MS were randomized to either the group treated with 120 mg of Ginkgo biloba twice a day, or to the group taking matching placebo tablets.
Participants were treated for 12 weeks and then underwent a battery of cognitive tests. Participants and their families also answered standardized questionnaires about their cognitive function and social integration.
The tests found that there were no statistically significant improvements in cognitive function between the two groups.
"Unfortunately we did not see any improvement with Ginkgo in this new study," Dr. Lovera said.
"Several drugs such as Namenda and Aricept that work for people with Alzheimer's have been tested without success in people with MS. Unfortunately now Ginkgo is added to the list of therapies thought to be effective in Alzheimer's disease that failed to improve cognitive performance in MS," he said.
The study has been published online in Neurology.