Pharmaceutical companies are making a fortune by promoting Gingko Biloba as the “brain herb,” sought to be the magic cure for memory loss. If this is true, am I wasting my breath by showing people how to enhance their memory when all they have to do is take a little pill?

Not at all!

With advances in medicine our population is able to live longer, but that also creates a newer set of problems. Along with aging, growing populations of people are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia in some form.

Although research has been favorable in showing that Gingko Biloba improves memory in older people suffering from dementia or memory-related illnesses, there is no evidence to show it halts the onset of dementia, or will reverse it.

The supplement Gingko Biloba is derived from extract of the gingko Biloba tree. Its leaves contain two chemicals (flavonoids and terpenoids) that are believed be powerful antioxidants – nature’s warriors against free radicals.

Antioxidants, such as those derived from the extract of the ginkgo, can help neutralize the damage done by free radicals, the body destroyers that grow naturally in our bodies as we age. Environmental interference, like air pollution, smoke and ultraviolet lights, increase the damage from free radicals, which have long been believed to contribute to health problems like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia.

The Gingko herb is one of the best selling of the natural herbs. Although there have been studies throughout the world indicating older people may be helped by the use of the drug there isn’t any evidence that it helps to improve the memory of younger people.

A three-year study, conducted by the Department of Public Health and Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University in Corvallis, concludes that a concrete answer was not found. In the controlled study involving 118 people over the age of 85, half of whom received the Ginkgo Biloba supplement and the other half a placebo. Researchers did observe that the percentage of the people who were given the actual supplement had a lower risk of developing mild memory problems than those who took the placebo.

On the negative side however, the study also found that those taking the supplement had a higher incidence of mini strokes, so dangers and side effects of the herb have yet to be established.  Out of the 118 people in the study, seven had strokes. Those seven people were taking the supplement. “Ginkgo has been reported to cause bleeding-related complications, but the strokes in this case were due to blood clots, not excessive bleeding, and were generally not severe,” said study author Hiroko Dodge, PhD (published in the February 27, 2008 edition of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. and in ScienceDaily on March 1, 2008).

Dodge also noted that this is the first randomized, controlled trial of prevention of dementia in people age 85 and older.

Later that year, a larger study was conducted in the United Kingdom involving 3,000 subjects. In this six-month study of elderly participants there was no evidence of any difference between those taking the ginkgo supplement or those taking the placebo in preventing memory loss or dementia.

Although Gingko Biloba does improve circulation of the blood, and has shown promise in the development of ways to inhibit dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, more studies need to be conducted to prove this theory.

Until then, I’ll be around with my memory training seminars and techniques to help those who want to “keep sharp” and improve their memory.



University of Maryland Medical Center:

American Academy of Neurology (2008, March 1). Does Gingko Biloba Affect Memory?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2010, from­ /releases/2008/02/080227164125.htm