Ginkgo Biloba May Ease Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

Abstracted by Susan Sweeny Johnson, PhD, Biochem, April 7, 2006. from Susan K. Johnson, PhD, Bruce J. Diamond, PhD, Sara Rausch, MS, Michael Kaufman, MD, Samuel C. Shiflett, PhD, and Linda Graves, MD , THE EFFECT OF GINKGO BILOBA ON FUNCTIONAL MEASURES IN MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS: A PILOT RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL. Explore January 2006; Vol. 2, No. 1:19-24.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease that progressively breaks down the protective sheath around nerve cells resulting in pain, lack of coordination, lack of strength, poorer thought processes and loss of sensation.1 Ginko Biloba has been used for a long time to treat memory and concentration problems as well as depression.(2-4) It is known to have antioxidant and anti-coagulant properties, to increase blood flow, and to enhance neurotransmitter activity.5  Because MS patients tend to exhibit memory problems, anxiety, depression and fatigue, twenty-one clinically diagnosed MS patients were involved in this pilot randomized, double-blind study where half were given 240 milligrams a day of a standardized ginko extract* and half were given a placebo.  

All participants were given five different surveys commonly used to assess MS symptoms before the trial and after four weeks of treatment to see whether the following symptoms improved or not: fatigue, depression, anxiety, physical function and social function, and brain and nerve function.  Initial analysis showed that both the placebo and ginko groups had some symptom improvement in some of the above areas but the difference in the areas of improvement between the two groups was not statistically significant. When the data was corrected to eliminate people who tend to respond negatively, symptom improvement in the ginko group was significantly greater than in the placebo group. In addition, when the results were reported to take into account the amount of improvement of each symptom, the ginko group improved significantly more than the placebo group in the tests for brain and nerve function and physical and social function. (The researchers claimed that fatigue was also improved but this was not evident to me from the data.)

The researchers suggest that ginko can have a beneficial effect for many MS patients but a larger study controlling for people who respond negatively to ginko supplementation should be done.

* EGb 761, the ginkgo extract used in this study, is standardized to 24% ginkgo-flavone glycosides and 6% terpenoids,and the major constituents (ie, >0.1%) are flavonolmonoglycosides (eg, quercetin-3-0-glucoside, quercetin-3-0-rhamnoside, and 3’-0-methylmyricetin-3-0-glucoside), flavonol diglycosides, flavonol triglycosides, coumaric esters of flavonol ginkgolide A, ginkgolide B, ginkgolide C, ginkgolide J), organic acids, and steroids.5
Reference:
1 Poser CM. The epidemiology of multiple sclerosis. Ann Neurol. 1994;36:S180-S193
2 Diamond BJ, Shiflett SC, Lothian A, et al. EGb 761 (Ginkgo biloba): efficacy in treating stroke and TBI. Arch Physical Med Rehabil. 2000;80:978
3 Curtis-Prior P, Vere D, Fray P. Therapeutic value of Ginkgo biloba in reducing symptoms of decline in mental function. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1999;51:535-541
4 Wesnes KA, Ward T, McGinty A, Petrini O. The memory enhancing effects of a gingko biloba/panax combination in healthy middle aged volunteers. Psychopharmacology. 2000;152:353-361

5 Diamond B, Shiflett S, Feiwel N, et al. Ginkgo biloba extract: Mechanisms and clinical indications. Arch Physical Med Rehabil. 2000;58:1-11

 

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