Should You Take Gingko Biloba to Improve Your Brain Power?
Have you heard of the herbal supplement with the very odd name of gingko biloba?
In the last few years, gingko biloba has become one of the most heavily advertised herbal products in health food stores and magazines. It seems that gingko is being advertised everywhere, as a new miracle cure for many common ailments. Gingko is reputed to improve thinking, stave off Alzheimer’s disease, preserve memory, and reverse memory loss.
Proponents of gingko say that studies show it improves memory and concentration, and can delay senility.
This herbal supplement is made from an extract of the leaf of the gingko tree, one of an ancient family of trees. The leaf extract is filled with many organic compounds that are believed to be particularly beneficial to the cells of the brain.
Even though the use of gingko to boost memory is relatively new in North America, it has been commonly prescribed for this purpose in Europe for decades.
In China, the use of gingko goes back even further – over 5,000 years! So you see, gingko is not really new at all. In fact, it is one of the most widely prescribed herbal supplements in the world!
Here are some of the beneficial effects that have been attributed to gingko:
-It increases the supply of blood to the brain
-It neutralizes several kinds of dangerous free radicals that damage brain cells
-It acts as an anti-inflammatory agent
-It increases neurotransmiter activity
-It increases sugar metabolism in the brain
-It increases alpha brain waves associated with mental alertness
-It works as a anti-oxidant to protect the brain
Gingko contains many organic compounds, including flavonoids and terpenoids, which are probably the source of its reputed brain boosting powers.
Millions of people around the world take gingko to boost their memory. Does it work? Is it safe?
Hundreds of studies of the effects of gingko have been published in the last two decades. Many of these studies suggest gingko is an effective and safe remedy for age related confusion and memory loss.
For most people, gingko seems to be very safe. In Europe, it is one of the most commonly prescribed medications, and there are very few problems known to be associated with it, even for long term use.
If you do decide to take gingko, don’t expect any sudden, dramatic changes. The effects of gingko biloba can take weeks or even months, to become noticeable, and not all people experience an improvement. As many as 50 per cent of the people who take a standardized dose of gingko do not notice any improvements whatsoever.
People who take gingko may claim to feel somewhat more alert, and somewhat better able to concentrate. In some cases, the improvements are often so minor that they are barely noticeable.
The amount of memory improvement claimed for gingko often tends to be rather small, usually only a few percentage points – about the same improvement you might get after drinking a cup of coffee!
Unfortunately, despite the fact that gingko has been the subject of hundreds of scientific studies, many of these studies were not very well conducted from a scientific point of view.
Many of the studies of gingko were small and rather short term, and were often conducted by family doctors who were not trained in rigorous scientific research techniques.
This means that even though many studies have claimed wonderful positive results for gingko biloba, the scientific proof may not be very accurate or reliable.
If you decide to take gingko as a supplement, be sure to deal only with a very high quality brand from a reliable manufacturer. Most studies have used a dose of 120 milligrams per day, and this should be sufficient.
If you are younger than fifty years old, there is no proof that taking gingko will reduce your chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
As with all herbal remedies, there is a wide variation in the quality and quality of the actual active ingredients of the herb in question. Some studies have found that even brands with fairly good reputations do not always have the levels of active ingredients of gingko that they claim.
And sometimes, bargain brands may have none of the active ingredients at all.
Get a brand of gingko that you trust to have a standardized level of active ingredients. Be prepared to take it for several months before you notice a difference. Keep in mind that some people never notice a difference at all. And others claim to notice dramatic improvements right away!
Side effects with gingko are rarely reported. The main precaution you must take is to check with your doctor if you are already taking blood thinning medication such as Coumadin, or an anti-depressant such as Trazadone. It is possible that in some cases Gingko may interact with certain medications and cause problems.
Before you take gingko, check with your doctor to be sure that you are not taking any medications that could conflict with the herb.