For years pharmaceutical companies have been making a fortune by promoting Gingko Biloba as the “brain food,” said to be the answer to reversing memory loss. It’s been flying off the shelves as a natural way to boost memory, stop Alzheimer’s, increasing intelligence and improves mood. But, is it really all that it’s cracked up to be?
Not according to some new studies. At least not in the way most people use it. There have been a number of studies on Ginkgo Biloba that have shown promise, but no conclusive evidence that the herb has some value in memory improvement. Although many people swear by it researchers claim that may simple be the “placebo effect” where they believe it works, therefore it does.
The supplement Gingko Biloba is derived from extract of the gingko Biloba tree. The leaves from the ginkgo tree contain two powerful antioxidants – flavonoids and terpenoids, nature’s warriors against free radicals. Antioxidants help to neutralize the damage done by free radicals, the body destroyers that grow naturally in our bodies as we age. Environmental interference, like air pollution, smoke and ultraviolet lights, increase the damage from free radicals, which have long been believed to contribute to health problems like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia.
A study, conducted by the Department of Public Health and Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University in Corvallis ended with no concrete evidence that Ginkgo Biloba actually improved memory. In the controlled three-year study involving 118 people over the age of 85, half of the subjects received the Ginkgo Biloba supplement and the other half a placebo. Researchers did observe that the percentage of the people who were given the actual supplement had a lower risk of developing mild memory problems than those who took the placebo.
On the negative side however, the study also found that those taking the supplement had a higher incidence of mini strokes, so dangers and side effects of the herb have yet to be established. They do know it has blood-thinning properties. Out of the 118 people in the study, seven had strokes. Those seven people were taking the supplement. “Ginkgo has been reported to cause bleeding-related complications, but the strokes in this case were due to blood clots, not excessive bleeding, and were generally not severe,” said study author Hiroko Dodge, PhD (published in the February 27, 2008 edition of Neurology ®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. and in ScienceDaily on March 1, 2008).
In a recent (2011) Dr. Oz television program the doctor shows that, although the herb has shown to have some value in improving circulation and boosting mood, it has no real value in boosting memory other than improving the blood circulation throughout the body. We do know that improved circulation does help the brain, so in that respect it could be said the herb helps boost memory.
Dr. Oz says people are concentrating on the wrong areas, and that the herb does have some value. He says where it does work is to increase the libido, and due to the increase in blood supply, especially to the back of the eyes it has been beneficial for the treatment of macular degeneration, and for some reason that scientists have not been able to yet determine helps in the treatment of vertigo (in the inner ear). Other studies show it thins the blood, which could account for the improved circulation.
We do know that getting the blood circulating better does improve memory, so in that respect Ginkgo Biloba could be a help in boosting memory, but make sure to consult a physician before taking any supplement because the side effects may far outweigh the positive effects.
From the desk of Ron White
University of Maryland Medical Center: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/ginkgo-biloba-000247.htm
American Academy of Neurology (2008, March 1). Does Gingko Biloba Affect Memory? ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2008/02/080227164125.htm
Dr. Oz show – http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/does-it-work-ginkgo-biloba