Ginkgo biloba is widely touted as a “brain herb.”
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is one of the oldest living tree species. It is also one of the best-selling herbal supplements in the United States and Europe.
Ginkgo has a long history of use in treating blood disorders and memory issues. It is best known today as way to potentially keep your memory sharp. Laboratory studies have shown that ginkgo improves blood circulation by opening up blood vessels and making blood less sticky. It is also an antioxidant.
Some studies show that it does help improve memory in people with dementia. It is not as clear whether ginkgo helps memory in healthy people who have normal, age-related memory loss. Some studies have found slight benefits, while other studies have found no effect. Some studies have found that ginkgo helps improve memory and thinking in young and middle-aged people who are healthy. And preliminary studies suggest it may be useful in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The dose that works best seems to be 240 mg per day. Ginkgo is often added to nutrition bars, soft drinks, and fruit smoothies to boost memory and enhance mental performance, although such small amounts probably do not help.
Dementia and Alzheimer disease
Ginkgo is widely used in Europe for treating dementia. At first, doctors thought it helped because it improves blood flow to the brain. Now research suggests it may protect nerve cells that are damaged in Alzheimer disease. Several studies show that ginkgo has a positive effect on memory and thinking in people with Alzheimer disease or vascular dementia.
Studies suggest that ginkgo may help people with Alzheimer disease:
- Improve thinking, learning, and memory (cognitive function)
- Have an easier time performing daily activities
- Improve social behavior
- Have fewer feelings of depression
Several studies have found that ginkgo may work as well as some prescription Alzheimer disease medications to delay the symptoms of dementia. It has not been tested against all of the drugs prescribed to treat Alzheimer disease.
In 2008, a well-designed study with more than 3,000 elderly people found that ginkgo was no better than placebo in preventing dementia or Alzheimer disease.