Can Ginkgo Biloba Improve Your Memory?
Ginkgo biloba is an herb acquired from the dried leaves of Ginkgo trees. Most Ginkgo biloba supplements are in an extract form. Any supplements that use any part of the plant other than the leaves are not recommended.
Ginkgo has a number of therapeutic properties and is known to contain high levels of flavonoids and terpenoids which are powerful antioxidants. In addition to its many other benefits, ginkgo is best known for its ability to boost mental functioning, improve the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and protect the brain from further neuronal damage .
How Can Ginkgo Biloba Help Your Brain?
While the scientific community is still uncertain about the definitive benefits of Ginkgo relating to memory enhancement, it seems to be in common agreement that Ginkgo can slightly improve brain function because it promotes blood circulation in the brain and protects the brain from neuronal damage (damage to neurons). Blood carries essential nutrients and oxygen to our tissues. So when the circulation in our brain is improved, it gets more nutrients and oxygen. As a result the brain functions on a higher cognitive level.
In theory, this sounds great, but the data is ultimately inconsistent regarding the cognitive boosting effects of Ginkgo biloba. Most studies that have identified Ginkgo as effective, have found that Ginkgo slightly improves attention, concentration, short-term verbal memory, speed of thinking, and general memory [2, 3].
Other studies have found that Ginkgo is only effective for people with neuronal damage as found in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Due to the neuro-protective properties of this herb, a couple studies have found that it helps ward off the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease [4, 5]
The Bottom Line
With the data that is currently out there, it is difficult to say if Ginkgo is actually effective for cognitive enhancement. While the data is stronger for cognitive enhancement in those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, it is still not definitive. Perhaps you may want to try it yourself to see if you personally experience the benefits. Nevertheless, there are people who claim they have seen noticable memory enhancements with ginkgo biloba. Always be sure to check the potential adverse effects and drug interactions before taking.
If you are looking for cognitive enhancement or memory improvement, you may want to look into supplements that combine Ginkgo biloba with other alleged memory enhancing substances.
The combination of ginkgo and Panax ginseng or codonopsis can improve your memory better than any of the substances alone . The product can be found here:
Another memory enhancing herb, gotu kola, is often combined with Ginkgo biloba in an extract called Ginkgo Gotu Kola (I personally use this one).
Do Not Take Ginkgo Biloba If…
Ginkgo biloba LEAF EXTRACT extract is considered to be quite safe with reasonable oral dosages. It is still advised that you do not take it under certain conditions. Ginkgo biloba improves blood circulation. Therefore, you should not take Ginkgo biloba if you are already on blood thinners. If you have a bleeding disorder, diabetes, epilepsy or fertility problems, do not take Ginkgo.
Ginkgo can also interact with other drugs, so if you take any NSAID painkillers, anti-platelet drugs, anticonculsants, antidepressants, diabetes medications, drugs that affect the liver and supplements like garlic you should not be taking Ginkgo bilboa (or atleast consult your doctor first).
For more information about drug interactions and potential dangers click here.
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1. Ginkgo: MedlinePlus Supplements. (n.d.). Retrieved April 1, 2015, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/333.html
2. Winther, K., Randlov, C., & Mehlsen, J. (1998, January 1). Effects of Ginkgo biloba extract on cognitive function and blood pressure in elderly subjects. Retrieved April 1, 2015, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0011393X98850534
3. Ginkgo: MedlinePlus Supplements. (n.d.). Retrieved April 1, 2015, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/333.html
4. Kanowski, S., Hermann, W., Stephan, K., Wierich, W., & Horr, R. (1996, January US National Library of Medicine. Retrieved April 1, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8741021
5. Bars, L., Katz, M., Berman, N., Itil, T., Freedman, A., & Schatzberg, A. (1997, January 1). A placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial of an extract of Ginkgo biloba for dementia. North American EGb Study Group. Retrieved April 1, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9343463