Ginkgo biloba, also known as the maidenhair tree, is one of the oldest species of trees on the planet. Ginkgo trees have very unique properties – they are capable of growing more than 130 feet and can live for over one thousand years.
Over recent years, ginkgo supplements have become increasingly popular – they are currently among the top-selling herbal medications. Ginkgo plays an important role in traditional Chinese medicine where ginkgo leaves and seeds have been used for thousands of years. Ginkgo biloba extract is collected from the dried green leaves of the plant and is available as liquid extracts, capsules, and tablets.
Medical uses of ginkgo bibola
For centuries, ginkgo trees were thought to be extinct until pockets were found in China, where it was first used in medication. The Chinese took ginkgo for its claimed cognitive benefits and to alleviate symptoms of asthma, they also ate ginkgo nuts because of their “strengthening” properties.
According to the Institute for Natural Products Research, other traditional uses of ginkgo biloba include:
- Preventing bed wetting;
- Increasing sexual energy;
- Soothe bladder irritation;
- Treating intestinal worms;
- Treating gonorrhea.
Memory enhancement, dementia and Alzheimer’s
Although there are a variety of “brain boosters” on the market – many chockfull of multiple substances – most are lacking research to support their memory-enhancing claims.
Ginkgo biloba is one that shows more promise than many others and is commonly used in Europe for a type of dementia resulting from reduced blood flow, says Evangeline Lausier, MD, assistant clinical professor in medicine, Duke Integrative Medicine, Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. “Ginkgo biloba tends to improve blood flow in small vessels.”
“A couple of meta-analyses and systematic reviews show that ginkgo biloba is helpful for dementia in about the same range as drugs being pushed very heavily to treat Alzheimer’s,” says Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, an associate professor in the complementary and alternative medicine Master’s program of the department of physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University School of Medicine.
There is some evidence indicating that people with dementia can benefit from taking ginkgo, although more studies are required. Some of its benefits can include:
- Improved thinking;
- Improved memory;
- Better social behavior.
What other supplements should I take to boost my memory?
Here are a few other memory supplements that may also have some potential, but require much more study:
- Omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fish oil supplements have piqued great interest. Studies suggest that a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acid from foods such as cold-water fish, plant and nut oils, and English walnuts are strongly linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s. However, thorough studies comparing omega-3s to placebo are needed to prove this memory benefit from supplements.
- Huperzine A. Also known as Chinese club moss, this natural medicine works in a similar way as Alzheimer’s drugs. But more evidence is needed to confirm its safety and effectiveness.
- Acetyl-L-carnitine. Some studies suggest that this amino acid might help Alzheimer’s patients with memory problems. It may provide a greater benefit to people with early onset and a fast rate of the disease.
- Vitamin E. Although vitamin E apparently doesn’t decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, it may slow its progression. Recent studies have raised concerns about an increased risk of deaths in unhealthy people who take high doses of vitamin E, so be sure to consult with your doctor before taking this supplement.
- Asian (or Panax) ginseng. A herb that’s sometimes used with ginkgo biloba, Asian ginseng may help with fatigue and quality of life.
Review Date: March 18, 2017 | Last Modified: March 18, 2017
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Ginkgo biloba may help memory, but may have serious health risks. http://center4research.org/healthy-living-prevention/vitamins-dietary-supplements-and-over-the-counter-medications/ginkgo-biloba-may-help-memory-but-may-increase-stroke-risk/. Accessed Mar 19, 2017.