Myth: Dang. Looks like Gingko doesn’t work.

by Stephanie Chasteen on November 25, 2008

Just got this from Bob Park’s What’s New column. Looks like Gingko has failed a double-blind study to see if it really improves memory. I’ve been taking it for a while, in hopes that it would defuzz my neuronal connections (I’m not that old, but my memory took a real hit ever since I was on crazy antimalarial drugs in Peace Corps 10 years ago).

This reminds me of when a friend told me that there’s no reason why Airborne would improve your immune system. I was really angry at him for telling me this. Airborne definitely seems to keep my colds from getting too severe. If that’s due to a placebo effect, then hearing scientific reasoning that it shouldn’t work will destroy my placebo effect. Especially since my belief structures are particularly sensitive to scientific evidence.

Here is what Bob Parks wrote. I’m a bit perturbed by what he writes at the end, that all these other remedies have failed double-blind tests. It sounds to me as if he expected this to happen, because herbal remedies are by their very nature “unscientific” or something. I don’t see why some of these “natural” remedies couldn’t have something to them. After all, we take Zinc to help our immune system. That’s just a mineral. What makes a mineral less “woo woo” than a plant (like Echinacea)?

3. GINKGO BILOBA: A TIP ON WHERE YOU CAN CUT EXPENSES.
Annual sales of the herbal remedy Ginkgo biloba in the US are at $249
million. It is alleged to prevent memory loss. It doesn’t. In its
first large trial, half of 3,069 volunteers 75 and older were given of
Ginkgo biloba daily, while the other half were given a placebo. They were
assessed for signs of dementia every six months for 6 years. Neither the
patients nor the doctors doing the assessment knew which group patients
were in. The group getting the placebo actually did slightly better,
although the difference was not statistically significant. France is
planning an even larger study. Ginkgo has a lot of company. One after
another, the most popular herbal supplements, ephedra, Echinacea, St.
John’s Wort, have failed in double-blind, placebo controlled studies.

{ 5 comments }

Faye (Memory Wiz) November 27, 2008 at 1:20 am

This makes interesting reading about Gingko biloba being ineffective in memory loss. I have found that when using herbal remedies for brain function, combinations of different herbs seem to be more effective than one herb on its own.
Thank you for allowing comments sciencegeekgirl.

AlpineBob November 29, 2008 at 1:52 pm

I notice they’re studying effects on dementia in elderly populations. That may have no bearing on memory effects in younger populations. Further studies are needed before you have to give up your placebo effects!

Kelly December 18, 2008 at 1:18 pm

That’s interesting, sciencegeekgirl, but I found this article on Brain Blogger that this study may not have anything solid behind it…

elfman February 28, 2010 at 2:51 am

Faye(Memory Wiz) said: “I have found that when using herbal remedies for brain function, combinations of different herbs seem to be more effective than one herb on its own.”

Excellent! So when one herbal “remedy” has been proved a fraud, we can just say that it has to be taken with other herbal remedies in order to work. That way we can keep shifting the complementary herbal remedy from one thing to the next and make a killing on this crap for decades. Let the gravy train roll on! Whew Whoo!!!

elfman February 28, 2010 at 3:14 am

Kelly said: “I found this article on Brain Blogger that this study may not have anything solid behind it…”

That article is as empty as Paris Hilton’s head. Of course the absence of a relationship can be demonstrated (if not absolutely proved).

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