Just got this from Bob Park’s What’s New column. Looks like Gingko has failed a double-blind study to see if it really improves memory. I’ve been taking it for a while, in hopes that it would defuzz my neuronal connections (I’m not that old, but my memory took a real hit ever since I was on crazy antimalarial drugs in Peace Corps 10 years ago).

This reminds me of when a friend told me that there’s no reason why Airborne would improve your immune system. I was really angry at him for telling me this. Airborne definitely seems to keep my colds from getting too severe. If that’s due to a placebo effect, then hearing scientific reasoning that it shouldn’t work will destroy my placebo effect. Especially since my belief structures are particularly sensitive to scientific evidence.

Here is what Bob Parks wrote. I’m a bit perturbed by what he writes at the end, that all these other remedies have failed double-blind tests. It sounds to me as if he expected this to happen, because herbal remedies are by their very nature “unscientific” or something. I don’t see why some of these “natural” remedies couldn’t have something to them. After all, we take Zinc to help our immune system. That’s just a mineral. What makes a mineral less “woo woo” than a plant (like Echinacea)?

Annual sales of the herbal remedy Ginkgo biloba in the US are at $249
million. It is alleged to prevent memory loss. It doesn’t. In its
first large trial, half of 3,069 volunteers 75 and older were given of
Ginkgo biloba daily, while the other half were given a placebo. They were
assessed for signs of dementia every six months for 6 years. Neither the
patients nor the doctors doing the assessment knew which group patients
were in. The group getting the placebo actually did slightly better,
although the difference was not statistically significant. France is
planning an even larger study. Ginkgo has a lot of company. One after
another, the most popular herbal supplements, ephedra, Echinacea, St.
John’s Wort, have failed in double-blind, placebo controlled studies.