Ginkgo is Back – Memory, Alzheimer’s & more?


Of all the ‘brain herbs” out there, Ginkgo Biloba has experienced more of a rollercoaster in popularity than any other.

From an initial surge of excitement as the brain-enhancing supplement of choice, followed by over-saturation of available products on the shelves, to being eclipsed by other natural brain tonics (and back and forth again more than once since then), this venerable ancient Chinese herb may have good reason to be back in favor again…this time for good. 

And for those suffering from the all-too-common, “the word I’m trying to think of is…” or, “what was her name again…” verbal memory problems that come with age, plus promising news about Ginkgo as an effective preventative for Alzheimer’s, Ginkgo may be once again at the top of the natural brain supplements list.

In a recent study, UCLA researchers found significant improvement in verbal recall among a group of people with age-associated memory impairment who took Ginkgo Biloba for six months, compared to a group that received a placebo pill. This UCLA study used positron-emission tomography (PET) to monitor the effects of Ginkgo on the brain and found that, for people taking the Ginkgo supplement, improved recall correlated with better brain function in key brain memory areas. 

"Our findings suggest intriguing avenues for future study, including using PET with a larger sample to better measure and understand the impact of Ginkgo Biloba on brain metabolism," said Dr. Linda Ercoli, lead author of the study and an assistant clinical professor at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute.


But Ginkgo quality, and length of supplementation, matters. The UCLA study and previous controlled clinical trials on Ginkgo’s effects on verbal recall have yielded conflicting results: "The research also raises questions regarding the significance of supplement quality and treatment duration," said principal investigator Dr. Gary Small, a UCLA professor on aging and director of the Aging and Memory Research Center at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute.

 "The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate dietary supplements, and the quality of retail supplies varies widely. We used only the highest grade of Ginkgo Biloba in conducting our research."

Dr. Small also noted that the six-month UCLA study is one of the first to measure the effects of Ginkgo over a longer period of time. Most previous studies have measured the effect of the supplement over 12 weeks or less. 

So how much to take? The subjects in the UCLA test received 120 mg of Ginkgo Biloba twice daily, which is also consistent with the common dosage recommended by many of the well-known Ginkgo supplement manufacturers.

What about Alzheimer’s prevention? A study in France, published in the Journal of Gerontology, has revealed interesting results about the role of the Ginkgo special extract called EGb 761 in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease. The study showed that cognitive performance appears to be maintained for a longer duration as a result of long-term treatment with Ginkgo special extract EGb 761. And yes, there also appeared to be a positive effect in preventing the occurrence of Alzheimer's disease. 


The primary objective of the Epidemiology of Osteoporosis (EPIDOS) study was to investigate the risk factors associated with femoral neck fracture in elderly women. As numerous health-related data, including drug therapy, were recorded for the subjects over a period of 4 to 7 years, the study data bank lends itself to further analyses. The data analysis presented investigated factors associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease. Notably, on completion of the study, data on the cognitive status of 714 patients in the Toulouse centre showed that 414 had no cognitive impairment at all on inclusion in the study; of these, 345 women were still cognitively unimpaired by the end of the study, 69 had developed dementia of the Alzheimer's type.

Interestingly, the women who still had their full cognitive faculties had taken medications such as the Ginkgo special extract EGb 761 or other medications to stimulate blood circulation (category C4A medicines) significantly more frequently than the women who developed dementia. 

Additionally, the healthy women significantly more often had been taken these drugs for over 2 years or longer than the dementia patients. In contrast to the other C4A medicines, evidence of the anti-dementia effect of Ginkgo EGb 761 became apparent after only one year of taking this substance. 

The findings of this study give every reason to believe that long-term treatment with Ginkgo special extract EGb 761 enables cognitive performance to be maintained for longer, and indicate that the development of Alzheimer's disease can be prevented or at least delayed.

That's exciting, particularly given that Ginkgo is natural, comes from a tree, has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years... in contrast to pharmaceutical solutions with little usage history outside of isolated short-term testing.


So while Ginkgo may indeed be more promising than ever, it isn't for everyone, particularly for those taking anticoagulants (blood-thinning medications or treatments) or other medications that may interact with it. So as with all medications (natural or otherwise) it's wise to consult with your health care specialist before starting to take Ginkgo, or have any concerns about possible contraindications.

But for many if not most people, Ginkgo may indeed prove to be among the most useful, helpful natural supplements for improved brain function (and even Alzheimer's prevention) out there, as well as a rich source of vitamins and antioxidants to boot. 

Given the research around Ginkgo special extract EGb 761, it may be worth the extra step/cost to choose a source guaranteed to contain it, but given Ginkgo's extensive usage over thousands of years, it is likely that any high-quality pure source will also provide benefit. And there are a lot of sources, brands, and options out there thanks to Ginkgo's rollercoaster of popularity around the world.

For us here at Brainready, Ginkgo is definitely back on the menu. 

(Do you take Ginkgo, and if so, has it helped you? Share your experiences below via the 'Comments' link and discuss!)

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