Widely touted as the brain herb, ginkgo biloba has been giving hope to millions of adults worldwide who want to improve their memory. Several ginkgo supplements are out in the market and making success financially. Several success stories, backed up by scientific studies, are also coming out concerning the effect of ginkgo. But are these not simply placebo effect? What are the facts and myths concerning ginkgo biloba?
CLAIM #1: Ginkgo biloba prevents memory loss and cures Alzheimer’s disease.
There are several studies that claim that ginkgo can be used as an Alzheimer’s medication. Moreover, it has been “clinically proven” to delay the symptoms of dementia and does prevent memory loss.
In the United Kingdom in 2008, a study was conducted with 176 Alzheimer’s patients who took either ginkgo or placebo for 6 months. It turned out at the end of the study that there was no difference between the groups in cognitive function or quality of life. Also in 2008, the GEM study, a well-designed study with more than 3,000 elderly participants proved that the ginkgo and placebo perform equally in preventing Alzheimer’s or dementia.
CLAIM 2: Ginkgo biloba leaves contain antioxidants.
It is said that ginkgo biloba leaves contain more than 40 components, some of which are antioxidants.
Among all the components of ginkgo biloba that have been identified, two are believed to be responsible for the herb’s medicinal effects: flavonoids and terpenoids. Flavonoids, plant-based antioxidants, protect the nerves, heart muscle, blood vessels, and retina from damage. Terpenoids dilates blood vessels and reduces the stickiness of platelets to improve blood flow.
CLAIM 3: Ginkgo biloba has side effects.
Ginkgo supplement users are warned of the possible side effects of the “brain herb”.
Herbs are, of course, safe but they contain components that can cause side effects when used with other herbs and medications. This necessitates a doctor’s supervision when taking herbs. There are some cases when people who take ginkgo suffer from skin reactions, gastrointestinal upset, internal bleeding, headaches, and dizziness. It is not clear, however, whether these side effects are caused by ginkgo biloba alone or by the interaction with other herbs or medications. Gingko should not be taken 36 hours before surgery or dental procedures due to the risk of bleeding complications. Moreover, people who have epilepsy and pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take gingko.
There you have it. Ginkgo biloba does not prevent memory loss or cure Alzheimer’s. It does contain antioxidants. And, it has side effects.