Articles on Health
Ginkgo and the Brain
Ginkgo and the Brain
Boost your brain power
with ginkgo biloba!
We've heard about it from friends, read about it in herb
books, and seen it on television commercials. And everything
we’ve heard, read, and seen says much the same thing: ginkgo
biloba improves our mental acuity—our ability to recall and
Long known as a "memory herb" in folklore, science is now
validating the ability of ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) to
improve our mental dexterity. Researchers note that GBE
affects the brain in three ways:
Ginkgo biloba extract
increases blood flow to the brain.
GBE helps keep
blood vessels and capillaries flexible, aiding in the
circulation of blood. This enhanced circulation means that the
brain gets a better supply of oxygen, glucose (blood sugar),
and nutrients. All of these are necessary for proper brain
function. Simply put, the better "brain circulation" we have,
the better the brain is going to work.
Ginkgo biloba extract strengthens brain cells
GBE is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants protect our
cells from damage. Protecting brain cells results in stronger
and healthier brain cell membranes.
Ginkgo biloba extract increases
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that
make it possible for the brain to communicate with itself.
They ferry messages from one brain cell to the other. GBE can
normalize or boost the levels of certain neurotransmitters.
Many researchers believe that a deficiency of
neurotransmitters may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease,
Parkinson’s disease, and depression.
Researchers may believe that GBE affects the brain in these
three ways, but what does this mean for mental acuity? There
have been a number of clinical studies using GBE over the past
decades. Here are some of the results from the 1990s:
A 1991 double-blind, placebo-controlled study looked at how
GBE effects mild to moderate memory impairment in elderly
outpatients (G.S. Rai, C. Shovlin, K.A. Wesnes. Curr Med
Res Opin 12, no. 6 (1991): 350-5). In this six-month
study, 31 patients over the age of 50 received 40 mg of GBE or
a placebo three times a day. The abstract notes that
statistical analysis of the data suggests that GBE had a
beneficial effect on cognitive function.
Perhaps one of the first 1990s studies to gain widespread
attention was that done on ginkgo biloba for cerebral
insufficiency by Jos Kleijnen and Paul Knipschild, and
published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
(October 1992). This study was actually a critical review
of previous studies whose intent was to establish whether
there is evidence on GBE’s usefulness in cerebral
Cerebral insufficiency is a general term for a collection
of symptoms that include difficulties of concentration and
memory, absent-mindedness, confusion, lack of energy,
tiredness, depressive mood, anxiety, dizziness, tinnitus, and
headache. These symptoms have been associated with impaired
cerebral (brain) circulation and are sometimes thought to be
early signs of dementia.
The authors determined that at that time there were eight
well-performed trials out of a total of 40, and, in their
abstract, state "Positive results have been reported for
ginkgo biloba extracts in the treatment of cerebral
insufficiency. The clinical evidence is similar to that of a
registered product that is prescribed for the same indication.
However, further studies should be conducted for a more
detailed assessment of the efficacy."
A 1994 study (Phytomedicine 1, 9-16) shows that
regular administration of GBE has a positive influence on
subjects with cerebral insufficiency. The study focused on
"long-term and short-term memory, concentration power, maximum
stress, mental flexibility, family problems, and general
satisfaction of the patient with his or her life." None of the
90 subjects exhibited any pseudodementias (defined as dementia
symptoms due to depression), nor were they using any
substances that affected blood vessels. Positive effects were
noted after six weeks of use.
Another 1994 study (Human Psychopharmacology 9,
215-22) reports on the use of GBE for senile dementia of the
Alzheimer’s type. A review of this study in HerbalGram
magazine (34, Summer 1995) says that GBE is "one of the
clinician’s most useful tools for slowing down cognitive
decline in the elderly."
In a double-blind study on memory impairment in the elderly
(Clin Ther 15, no. 3 (May-June 1993): 549-58), 18 men
and women with a mean age of 69.3 received a placebo or 320 mg
of GBE or 600 mg of GBE one hour before performing tests that
measured the speed of information processing. After taking
GBE, results indicated an improvement in the speed of
A 1995 report in the Psychopharmacol Bulletin (31,
no. 1 (1995): 147-58) reports on using GBE in dementia. It
notes that GBE is among the most popular over-the-counter
medicines in Europe, that the European medical community has
recognized it "as an effective compound in the treatment of
cerebral insufficiency," and that it has earned the "approval
of the German BGA (Bundesgesundheit Amt) for use in the
treatment of dementia."
In October 1997 came the "groundbreaking" study on
GBE—groundbreaking not because of new information, but because
it was published in the prestigious and mainstream Journal
of the American Medical Association (JAMA). JAMA
reported that GBE may be beneficial in the treatment of
This was followed up by a 1998 meta-analysis (an analysis
of all studies available on a subject) that attempted to
identify all English and non-English-language research in
which GBE was given to subjects with dementia or cognitive
impairment. In the abstract to this study, the authors note
that ". … there is a small but significant effect of three to
six month treatment with 120 to 240 mg of G. biloba extract on
objective measures of cognitive function in Alzheimer’s
disease." (Arch Neurol 55, no. 11 (November 1998 ):
So, you’ve heard about ginkgo, read about it, and seen it
on television. Maybe it’s time you tried it!
Ginkgo: What to buy?
When considering a ginkgo biloba extract, make sure you use
a product that meets the specifications of the GBE used in the
many studies. This is a product standardized to 24 percent
flavonoids (ginkgo extract flavoneglycosides) and 6 percent
terpenoids. If your GBE does not meet these specifications,
there is no guarantee that you will get desired benefits.
AIM Product Suggestion:
AIM Ginkgo Sense
Combines ginkgo biloba with the essential fatty acid DHA, the herb bilberry, and the carotenoids lutien and zeaxanthin.
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AIM products are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, mitigate or prevent a disease or illness. Results may vary per person.