That's why the stay-at-home mom, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in July 2000, was willing to turn to popular, over-the-counter herbal supplements like ginkgo biloba to deal with memory problems, fatigue and occasional muscle pain.
"I'm definitely interested in alternative medicine," said Winfield, 49, whose form of the neurological disease relapsing-remitting MS is characterized by frequent symptom flare-ups. Ginkgo "is not only given to someone like me with MS. There's benefit to anyone taking it."
Findings by scientists in the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine's Department of Neurology and the OHSU MS Center of Oregon appear to back up that claim. A study presented this month at the American Academy of Neurology's 57th Annual Meeting in Miami Beach, Fla., suggests that ginkgo may be effective in improving attention in MS patients with cognitive impairment. Side effects also were minimal.
The study's lead author, Jesus Lovera, M.D., a research fellow and instructor in neurology, OHSU School of Medicine, said those receiving ginkgo "performed better on a test that measures a person's ability to pay attention and to sort conflicting information."
Of 39 patients completing the study, 20 received ginkgo biloba and 19 received placebo. Researchers found there were no differences in results between the two groups in the areas of gender, education, type of MS, years since onset, or baseline performance on a battery of neuropsychological tests.
But the ginkgo group was four seconds about 13 percent faster than the placebo group on a timed color and word test that measures attention and such "executive functions" as planning, decision making, and controlling goal-directed behavior and execution of deliberate actions.