Gingko biloba has become popular as a smarts supplement, but does it actually boost memory? A recent review of research shows that for people with Alzheimer's disease, it does just that.
"There is now objective evidence that gingko has an effect on Alzheimer's disease," says Jeffrey Kaye, M.D., director of the Aging and Alzheimer's Disease Center at Oregon Health Sciences University
The gingko tree has antioxidant properties, which, scientists believe, allow it to neutralize damage to the brain. Although many people both in Europe and the United States have used it as a natural treatment for Alzheimer's, the scientific community paid little attention to whether it has been proven to work. Which is why Kaye and colleagues reviewed the existing American and foreign studies that used standardized cognitive measures of memory and other skills to test Alzheimer's patients. They found that the supplement did significantly improve mental function in sufferers who took 120 mg to 240 mg of gingko for at least three to six months, as they report in the Archives of Neurology.
Kaye hopes the finding will show physicians and patients alike that alternative medicines should not be discounted. "Alzheimer's is a terrible disease, and we have few treatments for it," he notes. "We should leave no leaf unturned."