Ginkgo advice now seems wrong

People's Pharmacy

November 04, 1997|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,King Features Syndicate

I am extremely upset with my father's doctor. Three years ago when my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, I asked if ginkgo would help. The doctor dismissed it as a health food fad not worthy of our consideration.

My father continued to decline and we had to put him in a nursing home, which broke our hearts. With all the news now about the benefits of Ginkgo biloba extract for Alzheimer's disease, I am kicking myself for following the physician's advice. Maybe if I had gone against it, my dad would still be at home with us.

Now I wonder what other herbal remedies might be worthwhile even though doctors scoff.

Don't blame yourself for not giving your dad ginkgo. Although it might have slowed his deterioration somewhat, it is no cure.

Ginkgo biloba extract has been used in Europe for years, but American doctors may have been unaware of the foreign research suggesting it might help memory loss. That should change with the recent publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association of a well-designed clinical trial. This American study showed modest benefit for Alzheimer's patients. Over a year of study, the patients on placebo continued to deteriorate while there was a slight improvement, on average, for those taking ginkgo.

We need more studies like this to establish the effectiveness of herbal treatments so that physicians will know how to evaluate these products. We are sending you our Guide to Herbal Remedies, which offers a brief summary on some of the more popular botanical medicines. Anyone else who would like a copy may send $2 with a long (No.10) stamped, self-addressed envelope to Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. E-113, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail to

Pub Date: 11/04/97

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