Ginkgo herbal supplements vary widely in content

New faster analytical technique could help address quality control issues

Consumers of Ginkgo biloba herbal products, offered in alternative medicine circles as a remedy for just about everything from dementia to impotence, may not be getting their money's worth, according to a new study by scientists at the University of Idaho. Using a new analytical chemistry technique they developed specifically to examine Ginkgo samples, the researchers found variations of up to tenfold in the Ginkgo products they tested.

"Consumers seldom can be sure exactly what they are buying," says chemistry professor Chen Wai, Ph.D., lead researcher for the study, which will appear in the July 15 print issue of the peer-reviewed science journal Analytical Chemistry, published by the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The report initially was published on the journal's Web site on May 29.

"The large variation of active ingredients found in Ginkgo biloba products could be a problem for the consumers," the researchers write in the journal article.

Ginkgo products are based on herbal extracts from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree, also known as the maidenhair tree, which first appeared on Earth during the time of the dinosaurs about 200 million years ago. Widely marketed as a way of improving mental alertness and slowing the development of Alzheimer's disease, Ginkgo supplements are among the top selling herbal products in both Europe and the U.S. and have long been a staple of Chinese herbalists.

Chemical substances known as ginkgolides and bilobalide, found in the leaves of the tree, are believed to be the most pharmacologically active compounds, say the researchers. However, they point out, as is the case with many herbal products, the active ingredients are usually present in only trace amounts along with large quantities of other compounds. Determining the amount of ginkgolides and bilobalide in Ginkgo produ

Contact: Charmayne Marsh
American Chemical Society

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