Context: Panax ginseng and Gingko biloba are commonly used herbal supplements in the United States that have been reported to increase alertness and cognitive function.
Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of these specific herbals on driving performance.
Materials and methods: 30 volunteers were tested using the STISIM3® Driving Simulator (Systems Technology Inc., Hawthorne, CA, USA) in this double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The subjects were randomized into 3 groups of 10 subjects per group. After 10-min of simulated driving, subjects received either ginseng (1200 mg), Gingko (240 mg), or placebo administered orally. The test herbals and placebo were randomized and administered by a research assistant outside of the study to maintain blinding. One hour following administration of the herbals or placebo, the subjects completed an additional 10-min of simulated driving. Standard driving parameters were studied including reaction time, standard deviation of lateral positioning, and divided attention. Data collected for the divided attention parameter included time to response and number of correct responses. The data was analyzed with repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Kruskal-Wallis test using SPSS 22 (IBM, Armonk, NY, USA).
Results: There was no difference in reaction time or standard deviation of lateral positioning for both the ginseng and Ginkgo arms. For the divided attention parameter, the response time in the Ginkgo arm decreased from 2.9 to 2.5 s. The ginseng arm also decreased from 3.2 to 2.4 s. None of these values were statistically significant when between group differences were analyzed.
Discussion and conclusion: The data suggests there was no statistically significant difference between ginseng, Ginkgo or placebo on driving performance. We postulate this is due to the relatively small numbers in our study. Further study with a larger sample size may be needed in order to elucidate more fully the effects of Ginkgo and ginseng on driving ability.
Keywords: Driving simulator; Ginkgo biloba; Panax ginseng.