The Best Brain Power Supplement: Ginkgo Biloba

Published: 24th March 2010
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This ancient Chinese herb is an extract made from the leaf of the Ginkgo tree. It is the most well-documented plant extract used to support brain function - there are more than 1,000 studies of Ginkgo Biloba from all over the world. The consensus is that Ginkgo does help many people improve a variety of brain functions. It has been shown to minimize age-related memory problems (affecting learning, short-term memory, and recall), concentration problems, and absentmindedness. It may also help ease dizziness and vertigo, which often accompany forgetfulness, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). A 1995 study found that high doses of Ginkgo helped Alzheimer's patients as well. Another very rigorous study published in 1997 in the Journal of the American Medical Association duplicated these results: Patients who took Ginkgo for one month enjoyed improved memory and attention span; this improvement was even more noticeable when patients took the herb for three months. However, many experts believe its more significant contribution may be as a preventer of cognitive decline than as a treatment. Ginkgo is very popular in Germany and France, where more than 10 million prescriptions are written every year; in the United States it is available without a prescription.

Ginkgo seems to accomplish its many miracles in several ways. In the first place, it increases the circulation of blood to the brain, which improves the supply of oxygen, nutrients, and glucose. This enables neurons to create the energy and other chemical reactions you need to think and remember. It also boosts circulation to the inner ear, thus explaining its power to help heal tinnitus and dizziness, a malfunction of the nerves in the ear. In the second place, Ginkgo protects against free-radical damage and reduces inflammation. This further improves circulation by keeping your cardiovascular system in shape, and also protects the nerve cells themselves.

It is recommended that you take an extract standardized to 24 percent flavoneglycosides and 6 percent terpenelactones, or capsules of the dried herb. For prevention take 40 mg of standardized extract, or 120 mg of capsules daily, in divided doses. You may take up to three times this dose if you have mild to moderate symptoms. Some people notice an improvement within two to three weeks of beginning treatment, but, in most cases, you need to take Ginkgo for at least three months before you enjoy the full benefits.

Gingko biloba is essentially devoid of any serious side effects. Some people have reported mild headaches for a day or two when starting the herb, and some people have reported mild stomach upset. Do not take Ginkgo if you are on a blood-thinning medication, including aspirin or ibuprofen, because Ginkgo can add to the blood-thinning effect. For the same reason, avoid taking Ginkgo for two weeks prior to any surgery, including oral surgery.

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