(NaturalNews) Ginkgo biloba is an herb that has been used for thousands of years for various treatments. Studies have recently focused on the leaf's memory-enhancing effects for the treatment of Alzheimer's, although there have been conflicting results.
The National Institute on Aging estimates that around 5.1 million adults in the U.S. alone suffer from Alzheimer's disease, a common form of dementia. It affects both cognitive and behavioral function, often progressing to patients being unable to recognize loved ones and understand language. There is currently not a cure for the disease.
There are four medications for the treatment of Alzheimer's approved by the FDA. However, some patients are seeking alternative treatments, and ginkgo biloba is one of these possible holistic choices thanks to its medicinal effects of flavonoids and terpenoids.
More specifically, ginkgo's pharmacological benefits are in its effects on tissue that is lacking oxygen. It increases the blood flow to the brain and stimulates the growth of receptor sites, which leads to improved memory, reasoning power, mood, reaction time, alertness, and speech. Ginkgo is already being put to use as a treatment for those with Alzheimer's, but it could be most beneficial for those who are just beginning to exhibit signs of deteriorating cognitive function.
A study in France has put to the test the effects of ginkgo versus natural progression. 2,854 people in their 70s and older participated in the study, all of whom had complained about having memory problems to their doctors. It took place in a period of over five years. Half of the people took supplements of ginkgo biloba twice a day, and the other half took placebos. After five years, the ginkgo group showed results of 61 probable developments of Alzheimer's, 76 deaths (not due to the study), and 65 strokes (again, not due to the study). The placebo group resulted in similar findings of 73 probable Alzheimer's developments, 82 deaths, and 60 strokes.
Unfortunately, these results are too close to show any conclusive proof that ginkgo biloba can prevent or offset the development of Alzheimer's.
Despite the uncertainty about ginkgo as an alternative treatment, physicians believe there are regular health behaviors that can lessen risk. Regular exercise, less fat consumption, and treatment for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other heart risk factors can contribute to protection against memory decline due to age.
There are signs of Alzheimer's that patients or relatives should be wary of: memory loss that disrupts daily life, challenges in planning or solving problems, difficulty completing familiar tasks, confusion with time or place, trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, new problems speaking or writing, misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps, decreased or poor judgment, withdrawal from work or social activities, and changes in mood and personality.