Existing for over 270 million years, Ginkgo Biloba is an ancient species of trees that has been widely cultivated for use as a source of food and traditional medicine in Asian cultures. Its broad fan shaped leaves have captivated humans for thousands of years and have been used widely in oriental medicine ranging from treating respiratory ailments to improving organ function.(1) More interestingly, besides its possible abilities to improve circulation, increase energy, and increase longevity, Ginkgo could be the key to better cognitive health according to several recent studies*.
Ginkgo may improve attention and focus*
As shown by a trial done by the University of Gottingen in Germany, Ginkgo extract’s magical claims to improve mental clarity could be the real deal*. Researchers administered doses of Ginkgo extract over a timespan of three to five weeks to a group of 20 children suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). After completion of the trial, the children were given a diagnostic survey to determine changes in symptom severity. It was found that Ginkgo supplementation significantly reduced attention problems, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, while also improving quality of life scores.(2) If Ginkgo can potentially alleviate ADHD symptoms*, what can Ginkgo do for the rest of us who just need a little more concentration at work?
Ginkgo may improve memory*
While the science is far from conclusive, there have been numerous studies that show positive effects on memory associated with Ginkgo. One such study comes from the University of Northumbria in the United Kingdom, where 20 healthy adults were given three different doses of Gingko ranging from 120 mg to 360 mg per day. For the next six hours after supplementation, each participant took a computerized assessment to gauge memory abilities and reaction time. After all data was collected, researchers concluded that speed of memory seemed to increase as dosage of Ginkgo increased. Also, quality of memory and speed of attention both improved for lower doses of Ginkgo.(3)
A group at Liberty University also tested Ginkgo with great results. This group involved 262 volunteers who were randomly assigned to either Ginkgo extract or a placebo for six weeks. Both groups were then tested with various memory tests and it was found that the Ginkgo group did significantly better than the control group on memory recall and recognition as measured through a facial identification test.(4)
Ginkgo may slow cognitive aging*
Aside from potentially improving our memory and mental clarity, Ginkgo may also act as protection from decreased cognitive abilities that comes naturally from aging. For over 20 years, researchers in France at the University of Bordeaux have evaluated the aging of 3612 elderly volunteers with respect to supplement use. All volunteers underwent the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), a 30 point questionnaire used to test attention, recall, language skills, and overall cognitive impairment. The scores of participants who used Ginkgo extract were compared to those who did not and it was found that those who reported using Ginkgo had a dramatically slower rate of decline in MMSE scores – suggesting that Ginkgo may have a protective effect on cognition.(5)
Considered the oldest existing tree species, Ginkgo Biloba has been around for quite a while, yet we are just starting to scientifically experiment with its use in health. As herbal supplements increase in popularity around the world, keep an eye out for this special plant!
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(1) Pedersen, Mark. Nutritional Herbology: A Reference Guide to Herbs. Rev. and Expanded ed. Warsaw, IN: Wendell W. Whitman, 1998.
(2) Z Kinder Jugendpsychiatr Psychother. 2014 Sep;42(5):337-47. doi: 10.1024/1422-4917/a000309.
(3) Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2000 Sep;151(4):416-23.
(4) Hum Psychopharmacol. 2002 Aug;17(6):267-77.
(5) PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e52755. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052755. Epub 2013 Jan 11.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.