In any health food shop or food supplement outlet you’ll find herbal remedies that purport to do everything from restore your eyesight to improve your sexual performance. One of the most popular of these supplements, accounting for a spend of nearly $100 million per year in the United States alone is ginkgo biloba.

An Ancient Tree

Ginkgo Biloba is one of the oldest species of tree in existence today. It is prevalent in China, Korea, the United States and southern France and individual examples over a thousand years old have been found. Though traditional Chinese medicine sometimes uses the seeds from this tree (which can be deadly), supplements throughout the rest of the world are derived from its leaves.

The ginkgo Biloba tree is also known as the maidenhair tree, kew tree and the Japanese silver apricot.

Claims

Ginkgo biloba leaf extract is claimed to have beneficial effects on a wide variety of conditions, among them:

  • Impaired memory.
  • Cerebral insufficiency (clogged blood vessels cause decreased blood flow to the brain).
  • Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Dementia.
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
  • Macular degeneration.
  • Intermittent claudication  (pain caused by narrowing arteries in the legs).

The herb is most touted for its effects on brain function and is often recommended for memory improvement.

Dose

Ginkgo biloba extract is sold in the form of tablets, capsules and teas.

Generally 120mg per day spread over two or three doses is recommended with effects, if any, manifesting in 4 – 6 weeks.

How it Works

While ginkgo biloba has been found to have anti-oxidant properties, it is it’s ability to thin the blood and improve circulation which is largely responsible for claims that it can improve memory and brain function. The better the circulation in the brain, the theory goes, the better its performance will be.

Thinner blood and better circulation are also thought to be behind the lessening of pain caused by intermittent claudication.

Additionally, claims have been made that ginkgo biloba can reduce the aggregation of amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s disease sufferers.

Scientific Study

Though a number of small studies have found measurable improvements in memory, the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, there have been criticisms that these studies were either too small or not properly constructed.

Unfortunately for those who wish to ascribe wondrous healing powers to ginkgo biloba the largest study into the herb – the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory study funded by the National Centre for Complementary Medicine (USA) – found no evidence of its effectiveness.

3,000 subjects between 72 and 96 years of age took part in the study which lasted almost seven years. The results of the study were that gingko biloba extract did not reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s dementia or dementia overall. Neither was any effect found on memory, language, attention, and various other areas associated with cognitive decline.

Similarly, a study by the National Institute on Aging found no improvement in memory for ginkgo biloba in adults over 60.

Not Enough Evidence

It seems then, that as much as the supplement industry and suffers of cognitive decline would like it to be true, there is just not enough hard evidence to support claims of ginkgo biloba’s beneficial effects on brain function.

If you’d like to learn about the side effects of ginkgo biloba, watch this video.

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