What is ginkgo?
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba
) comes from a tree that has been around for about 200 million years. Ginkgo trees are not only the world's oldest trees, they're also one of the most common: you can see them along many city streets in the United States. Their fan-shaped leaves are used to make a form of herbal medicine that has been getting a lot of attention lately. back to top
What is it used for?
While ginkgo has gotten a reputation for helping memory problemsthanks to a lot of advertising hypeits only proven use is for improving blood circulation. Some studies suggest that ginkgo may slow the progress of Alzheimer's disease (a condition that affects mental function in older people), possibly because Alzheimer's sufferers often have a less-than-normal amount of blood flow to the brain. Ginkgo has also been shown to help older people who have painful circulation problems in their legs, as well as those who have ringing in their ears or certain forms of dizziness. As for the many young people who take ginkgo as a "smart drug" to improve their memory or make them more alert, most experts believe they're out of luck. back to top
Can it make me smarter or help me concentrate?
Probably not. There is no evidence that ginkgo will offer much benefit to a normal, healthy brain. Even if it could, ginkgo is an herb that works slowly: it needs to be taken in the proper dosage on a daily basis for several weeks before you would notice any effect. Taken this way, it can have side effects. And it's not cheap. back to top
What about the ginkgo in juices and foods?
The amount of ginkgo you get from drinking a bottle of "super juice" or eating a snack with added ginkgo is so small it has little or no benefit. (On the other hand, it probably won't hurt you, either.) If you're looking for a way to keep your mind sharp, you're better off sticking with the tried and true: aerobic exercise, stress-reduction techniques (such as breathing exercises
), a healthy diet, and plenty of sleep. back to top
Avoid using unprocessed ginkgo products such as ginkgo tea: they contain potent ingredients (including a chemical called ginkgotoxin) related to a chemical in poison ivy and can cause an allergic reaction and seizures. Side effects of ginkgo can include headache, nausea, stomach ache, diarrhea, dizziness, or allergic reactions to the skin. Some studies show that gingko might increase the risk of bleeding, so do not take gingko before surgery. Some information for these side effects have come from the NIH page on gingko.
The use of herbs is not recommended during pregnancy and breast-feeding except under the guidance of a health professional. back to top