(NaturalNews) The leaf of the Ginkgo biloba tree, also known as the Maidenhair tree, has been used around the world, particularly in Asia, for thousands of years to improve mental functions and treat other conditions. Native to China, this large tree, normally reaching heights of 20-35 meters, is a species with no close living relatives. Its unique extract remains a very poplar dietary supplement in the U.S. and around the world.
Ginkgo biloba's primary nootropic properties include enhanced memory and concentration. Of all nootropics, or "smart drugs" as they are sometimes called, ginkgo has established itself among the most relevant and studied available. Don't let the term "drug" fool you; however, ginkgo is 100 percent natural.
Researchers are unsure exactly how ginkgo improves cognitive function but it is likely that the active substances act as re-uptake inhibitors of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Each of these neurotransmitters are important in regulating mood, energy levels, thought processes and mental function in general. Ginkgo leaves include flavonoid glycosides and terpenoids that posses strong antioxidant properties, which are also responsible for its nootropic effects and other health benefits.
Various studies have reported that ginkgo extract can vastly improve attention and memory in healthy persons. In fact, one of these studies concluded that the results of the supplement were almost immediate, with peak performance occurring two and a half hours after ingestion.
Ginkgo is also known to have other health benefits including improved eye health, reduced plaque buildup around artery walls, improved circulation and increased metabolism.
Various studies and clinical trials have been conducted testing the efficacy of ginkgo as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Although it can be difficult to quantify the effects of any form of treatment on a diseases like Alzheimer's or dementia, ginkgo has proven to be useful. A 2010 meta-analysis of nine studies of ginkgo for treating dementia concluded it was more effective than a placebo. Furthermore, Mayo Clinic gives Ginkgo biloba an "A" rating for dementia, meaning there is strong scientific evidence for this application.
Ginkgo may also be effective in treating and improving other conditions including intermittent claudication, tinnitus, macular degeneration, glaucoma and erectile dysfunction.
Research is never unanimous
It is rather easy to come across studies, articles and surveys that discredit Ginkgo biloba completely as being ineffective and a waste of money. However, this type of conflicting data and criticism is expected, particularly with a natural remedy as popular and studied as ginkgo. The sheer facts are that this supplement has:
1. Been studied considerably more than most other herbal supplements 2. Been used for thousands of years 3. Remained popular and highly debated
These can all be considered as anecdotal evidence that the herb has at least a moderate level of efficacy in at least a portion of its users.
Effective doses of ginkgo are between 120-600 mg per day. The U.S. National Library of Medicine states that "Ginkgo leaf extract is likely safe when taken by mouth for most people." Side effects are not common but can include stomach upset, constipation, rapid heartbeat, headache, dizziness, and allergic skin reactions.
It is up to the individual user to decide whether ginkgo works for them. Regardless of what studies may indicate, it is important to test safe and natural supplements like ginkgo for yourself.