Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

Font Size

Ginkgo May Boost Mental Function in MS

Larger Studies of Herbal Supplement Are Needed, Experts Say
WebMD Health News

April 18, 2002 -- Millions of people take the herbal supplement ginkgo biloba in the belief that it boosts brain power, and several studies suggest it improves mental function in some patients with Alzheimer's disease. New research now shows that it may do the same thing for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, report that small group of MS patients treated with ginkgo biloba had improved memory and mental function, compared with placebo-treated patients. The study was reported today at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Denver.

"In fairness, this was a pilot study with only 23 patients enrolled," study co-author Christopher Kenney, MD, tells WebMD. "We wanted to address the question of whether a large study of ginkgo biloba is justified in patients with MS. I think the answer is an overwhelming yes."

At least 300,000 Americans have multiple sclerosis, and half of them are thought to experience some type of mental impairment. According to National MS Society spokeswoman Arney Rosenblat, the most common manifestations of mental impairment are short-term memory loss and problems with complex, multitask reasoning.

"Some people experience these problems, but others don't," she says. "The chief prosecutor in the Oklahoma City bombing case had MS. So they definitely don't affect everybody."

In the double-blind study, patients with mild MS were randomized to take either placebo or 240 mg of ginkgo biloba daily for six months. Cognitive function was measured using standardized neuropsychological tests.

There were no statistically significant differences between the placebo- and ginkgo-treated groups at the beginning of the study. But the patients who took ginkgo for three months performed better on the battery of tests than those who did not. The researchers concluded that ginkgo biloba was well tolerated by the patients and may help improve attention, memory, and functioning.

"Cognitive function is a very important issue for people with MS, and there has not been enough research done on how to deal with it using either traditional medicines or alternative approaches," says Nicholas LaRocca, PhD, of the National MS Society. "We would be very interested in seeing larger studies on this." LaRocca is the society's director of healthcare delivery and policy research.

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
woman applying lotion
Ideas on how to boost your mood and self-esteem.
woman pondering
Get personalized treatment options.
man with hand over eye
Be on the lookout for these symptoms.
brain scan
worried woman
neural fiber
white blood cells
sunlight in hands
marijuana plant
muscle spasm