A couple weeks back I wrote about Ginseng, a proven herbal supplement. This week I want to talk about a less proven, but just as well known herbal supplement: Ginkgo Biloba. They both came to my attention around the same time so they will forever be linked in my mind, even though they don’t do the same thing. Ginseng is about balance and energy while Ginkgo is primarily a memory enhancer.
The Ginkgo tree is amazing. It has no living close relatives and lives upwards of 2000 years. Few bugs and pests touch it. It can make roots out of branches, so that if the ground moves out from under it, it can replant itself. It is a resilient tree. It is also a beautiful tree. There are many cities in the US that plant these trees along their streets, because Ginkgos resist pollution very well.
The supplements you can buy in the store are made from Ginkgo Biloba extract (GBE), which contrary to traditional Chinese medicine’s practice of using both the seed and leaves, is made from only dried green Ginkgo leaves. This is concentrated and considered by modern researchers to be more effective than the traditional use.
Ginkgo has been said to help memory and in this at least research backs it up. It may also reduce the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Studies are mixed. Some say Ginkgo helps against Alzheimer’s in higher doses, others say that it doesn’t help at any dose. No studies say that it makes dementia or Alzheimer’s worse, so in the desperate case of Alzheimer’s, it won’t hurt to try. Unless there is a problem with the side effects.
The most effective dose, whether for Alzheimer’s or for pure memory enhancement, seems to be 240 mg. It is a systemic supplement, that can help in several other situations, such as:
- Raynaud’s Syndrome
- Claudication and peripheral vascular disease (leg pain due to poor circulation)
- Vertigo and dizziness
- Glaucoma and other vision problems
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
Side effects can include headache, dizziness, heart palpitations, nausea, gas and diarrhea, but are rare. Ginkgo can also thin the blood so, if you have a bleeding disorder, don’t take it.