Treatment of age-related memory complaints with Ginkgo biloba extract: a randomized double blind placebo-controlled study

Phytomedicine. 1998 Dec;5(6):425-34. doi: 10.1016/S0944-7113(98)80038-X.


A growing number of people is subject to age-related cognitive impairment due to the proportional increase of the ageing population. Therefore, there is a growing interest in cognition-enhancing substances. The efficacy of an alcohol/water extract of Ginkgo biloba in elderly individuals with memory- and/or concentration complaints was tested in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study by using both subjective and objective parameters. After a wash-out period of 4 weeks 241 non-institutionalised patients in the age range 55-86 years were randomly allocated to receive either Ginkgo biloba alcohol/water extract in a high dose (HD), a low dose (LD) or a placebo (PL) for 24 weeks. Patients were assessed using a psychometric testbattery in the following order: Expended Mental Control Test (EMCT) measuring attention and concentration, Benton Test of Visual Retention-Revised (measures short term visual memory), Rey Test part 1 (measures short term memory and learning curve), Beck Depressive Inventory (BDI) measuring the presence and severeness of a depression in order to exclude depressive patients and Rey Test part 2 (measures long term memory: recognition). Furthermore, subjective perception of memory and concentration was measured. 197 patients completed the study (mean MMSE score: 26.29). In the subjective test, the EMCT, the Rey 1 and Rey 2 no significant differences in improvement in time between the groups were observed. In the Benton test increases of 18%, 26% and 11% (expressed as percentage of baseline scores) were observed in the HD, LD and PL respectively (MANOVA; p = 0.0076). No substantial correlation was observed between subjective perception of the severeness of memory complaints and the objective test results. No differences in the number of (gastrointestinal) side effects were observed between placebo and verum groups. These results indicate that the use of Ginkgo extracts in elderly individuals with cognitive impairment might be promising. Further research using both subjective and objective measurements is recommended.