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Extracts of Ginkgo biloba (EGb) are among the most prescribed drugs in France and Germany. EGb is claimed to be effective in peripheral arterial disorders and in “cerebral insufficiency.” The mechanism of action is not yet well understood. Three of the ingredients of the extract have been isolated and found to be pharmacologically active, but which one alone or in combination is responsible for clinical effects is unknown. The recommended daily dose (3 x 40 mg extract) is based more on empirical data than on clinical dose-finding studies. However, despite these, according to double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, EGb has therapeutic effects, at least, on the diagnostic entity of “cerebral insufficiency,” which is used in Europe as synonymous with early dementia. To determine whether EGb has significant pharmacological effects on the human brain, a pharmacodynamic study was conducted using the Quantitative Pharmacoelectroencephalogram (QPEEG8) method. It was established that the pharmacological effects (based on a predetermined 7.5–13.0-Hz alpha frequency band in a computer-analyzed electroencephalogram = CEEG8) of EGb on the central nervous system (CNS) are significantly different than placebo, and the high and low doses could be discriminated from each other. The 120-mg, but particularly the 240-mg, single doses showed the most consistent CNS effects with an earlier onset (1 h) and longer duration (7 h). Furthermore, it was established that the electrophysiological effects of EGb in CNS are similar to those of well-known cognitive activators such as “nootropics” as well as tacrine, the only marketed “antidementia” drug currently available in the United States.

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