People suffering from the disabling disease multiple sclerosis (MS) could help slow the rate of cognitive decline by taking the popular herbal supplement Ginkgo biloba, according to research published last week.
Ginkgo biloba is already used by many to boost mental awareness, and previous studies had also showed its effectiveness in slowing mental decline among Alzheimer's patients, but until now the herb has not been scientifically studied in patients with MS.
The study, which was conducted by Jody Corey-Bloom, professor of neurosciences, University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Denver last week.
In a six-month double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of 23 individuals with mild multiple sclerosis, physicians noted better performance on neuropsychological tests by patients who took Ginkgo biloba compared to those who took the inactive placebo.
Many MS sufferers experience cognitive problems, usually with concentration, memory and abstract reasoning. In some individuals, symptoms of cognitive decline can occur early in the disease, even when other MS symptoms, such as loss of balance and muscle co-ordination, are mild.
The researchers concluded that Ginkgo biloba, in doses of 240 mg a day, is well-tolerated and may show a beneficial effect on attention, memory and functioning in patients with mild MS. While the results were encouraging, however, Corey-Bloom stressed that they were only preliminary, and that more long-term studies were needed to confirm the positive results.