Ginkgo has long been popular as a memory-saving herb. But a recent report from the multicenter Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study—which involved 3,000 adults who took the herb daily for an average of six years—has found that ginkgo didn't seem to halt the memory loss or mental decline of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. O asked Josephine P. Briggs, MD, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (which funded the study), for her opinion of the findings.

Should people stop spending money on ginkgo?
The results pertain only to dementia and Alzheimer's disease in the elderly. But there is more data to come in the next few years. Ginkgo could be effective in other populations or for different purposes.

What other reasons might there be to take it?
We've seen promising results in improving blood vessel function and flow, but larger studies are needed. There is ongoing research on ginkgo for asthma, symptoms of multiple sclerosis, sexual dysfunction due to antidepressants, and insulin resistance. But before taking the herb, check with your doctor about any possible interactions with drugs such as warfarin or aspirin.

Next: Why you might be losing your memory


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