Given that the science says this doesn't work, you might wonder how it is that hundreds of gingko biloba products are still on the market, all of them with claims about memory. Simple: it's a dietary supplement, not a drug, which means that it is essentially unregulated (in the U.S.). The FDA won't step in unless the marketing claims get so outrageous that they cross the line into medicine–and even then, the FDA rarely does more than send a sternly worded letter.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine and current clinical studies, ginkgo biloba is safe, effective and benefits the body in numerous ways because it exerts protective effects against mitochondrial damage and oxidative stress. It’s been used in Chinese herbal medicine to treat a variety of medical conditions since ancient times, especially circulatory problems and those related to declining memory.
Ginkgo seeds smell horrible, and their toxic flesh may cause rashes. But every fall, they are at the center of a citywide scavenger hunt.
Alas for any hopeful consumers, ginkgo biloba doesn’t work, as scientific studies have repeatedly shown. A recent meta-analysis of 28 different trials looked at its effect on memory, executive function and attention, and found that it had zero effect on any of these functions - Forbes magazine
Based on this study, if you take high-quality ginkgo extract in typical dosages — I recommend 120 mg daily in divided dosages, taken with food — and have enjoyed good results, I see no reason to discontinue that use.
The results of the study do not confirm that ginkgo biloba is dangerous to humans, but it is disturbing that the laboratory animals all tended to suffer the same sorts of injuries, said Cynthia Rider of the National Toxicology Program and the lead scientist of the ginkgo biloba study.
How paradoxical, how sad, how stupid, it would be if, more than seven decades after Hiroshima opened the door to the possible suicide of humanity, we did not understand that warning from the past, that call to the future, what the gentle leaves of the ginkgo trees are still trying to tell us.
Another one bites the dust.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is generally a waste of taxpayer money, but they have sponsored several well-designed large trials of popular herbal supplements. And one by one these studies have shown these popular products, such as echinacea for the common cold, to be ineffective.
To add to the list, published in JAMA this week are the results of the largest and longest trial to date of Gingko biloba for the improvement of cognitive function and to treat, prevent, or reduce the effects of Alzheimers disease or other dementia. The results of the study are completely negative.