Perhaps predictably, a New York Times article raising serious questions about the safety of ginkgo biloba--and the report from the National Toxicology Program on which the article is based--are drawing heavy fire from botanical medicine practitioners and botanical products manufacturers. Below is a portion of comments released today. The bottom line is scientists and herbalists say the government report used the wrong kind of gingko in the study, and that the standard ginkgo used in products in the U.S. is safe.
An excerpt from comments by the American Botanical Council:
"On April 18, both the American Botanical Council (ABC) and the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) issued statements referring to various limitations, concerns, and criticisms of the National Toxicology Report. Both organizations had filed public comments in early 2012 with the National Toxicology Program (NTP) elaborating concerns in the draft report that had been issued for public comment.
Of particular interest is the fact that even by the NTP’s own language in the report, the results of the report are not to be interpreted as being related to human health. According to the authors, `The actual determination of risk to humans from chemicals found to be carcinogenic in laboratory animals requires a wider analysis that extends beyond the purview of these studies.'
ABC emphasized that the Shanghai Chinese ginkgo extract used in the two-year NTP study was not consistent with clinically tested ginkgo extracts or those standards for ginkgo extract that have been published in official compendial standards, such as national pharmacopeias. AHPA also noted that the Chinese extract was not consistent with those sold in the US market.
According to ABC’s Blumenthal, `Coverage of this subject in the New York Times will presumably result in more media outlets’ picking up this story and spreading to consumers and health professionals, creating what are probably unwarranted concerns about the long-term safety of appropriately manufactured ginkgo extracts.'
In addition, added Blumenthal, the Times’ statement that `Studies have never found any solid evidence that ginkgo [provides any benefit to ‘boost memory’ and ‘prevent dementia’]' is misleading. Blumenthal noted, as he had discussed with the reporter, that there is an impressive body of clinical evidence that the use of the leading German ginkgo extract does provide cognitive benefits to persons with mild dementia, among other noted benefits for patients with age-related cognitive impairment, including increases in quality of life."