Some research suggests ginkgo does improve memory


November 04, 2001|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

Q. I worry about my memory when I forget a computer password or can't remember someone's name when I see him in the supermarket. I heard that Ginkgo biloba might be beneficial, but when I asked my doctor he discounted it. Is there any research to show that this herb might be helpful?

A. A preliminary study in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology (June 2001) demonstrated improved memory and attention in subjects who took a Ginkgo biloba extract for a month. The results of this study reinforce other research suggesting that ginkgo might improve performance on certain tests of memory and information processing.

A much larger trial of Ginkgo biloba extract in healthy people is under way to determine whether this herb really can preserve mental function. If you decide to try ginkgo, be aware that it might interact with some prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin.

Q. A few months ago, a person wrote to you asking about cinnamon and its use for lowering blood sugar. I have a friend who is diabetic but not on insulin yet. I'd like to tell her about cinnamon, but I would need more information to back this up. Otherwise she might think it's just a folk remedy, like putting a potato on a wart.

A. Folk wisdom lauds many herbs and spices as helpful for diabetes, but researchers have actually tested cinnamon and certain other plant products using live tissue in a test tube (Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, March 2000). Cinnamon was the most effective at getting sugar into cells. It also improves the cells' response to insulin. Clearly, this spice is no substitute for appropriate treatment, but it might be useful as part of a diabetic diet.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site (www. on the network, or at

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