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Gingko’s effect on dementia: A systematic review

A comprehensive review of ten cohort studies on the neuroprotective effects of gingko extract concludes that the herb may be useful in the treatment of dementia. To date, modern medicine is capable of addressing only symptoms of the disease, with an emphasis placed on proper management. That being said, data being published on alternative remedies such as on gingko extract evaluates a previously denied efficacy and safety of herbal supplementation.

Authors of the systematic review collected a total of 229 articles published from 2010 to 2015 that studied a supposed association between gingko extract and mental health. Of these, only 10 reviews met the inclusion criteria. Nine were written in English, and one in Chinese.

A summary of these cohort studies reveals that:

  • Gingko extract has no significant preventive effect on cognitive decline. However, this may be because of the methodology employed by the two studies that evaluated the relationship. Neither was meticulously done.
  • Gingko extract may or may not help with mild cognitive impairment. The authors of the one study that observed the connection said that while the herb cannot change subtle changes in age-associated memory impairment, it can improve cognitive function when used with conventional treatment.
  • Gingko extract was better than placebo in improving symptoms of dementia. The two studies that concluded this both stated that this was a dose-dependent result, meaning that a greater consumption of gingko extract influenced how well a patient with dementia improved.
  • Gingko extract also improves neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with dementia, including depression.
  • Gingko extract may improve certain symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease as well, although the effect is not seen for all; some patients report a dramatic improvement while others say that they experienced no discernible effect.

Overall, it was concluded that gingko extract is better than a placebo in the treatment of dementia and its associated symptoms. The herb may also be useful in improving cognitive function, but results may vary per person.

Assessing the other health benefits of gingko

The herb has been used therapeutically in China for millennia. Natural healers believe that gingko is a powerful medicinal plant and is typically included in most, if not all, traditional Chinese pharmacopoeia. Its main indication is for improving mental health but there are other lesser known benefits to consider.

  • The herb is a known blood thinner and can increase blood circulation, particularly in the brain.
  • Because of its antioxidant properties, gingko extract can protect against radiation-induced cataracts.
  • Some studies suggest that extract can improve blood circulation in patients with type-2 diabetes.
  • Gingko can partially reverse erectile dysfunction in patients who are taking anti-depressants. (Related: Gingko Biloba – 84% Effective at treating Sexual Dysfunction.)
  • Gingko may protect the liver from free radical damage.

The active ingredients in gingko work together to provide a strong antioxidant effect, preventing red blood cells from forming clots and inducing muscle relaxation. There is no standard recommended dose for the herb but most natural healers suggest a daily dosage of 120 mg (or 40 mg three to four times a day). Patients are asked to wait for a few weeks before seeing any tangible result.

Most people do not experience any side effect from taking gingko. However, on rare occasions, it can cause stomach upset and allergic skin reactions.

Sources include:

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