Alternative Therapy for Memory Issues: Ginkgo

Fall Gingko leaves
Ginkgo leaves from tree at my son’s house in CA some 35 years old.



This is one of many future articles reviewing alternative therapy herbs and supplements to help your loved one with memory loss and dementia.  It is my goal to present you with information that may be valuable for you and your loved one.  Please consult a holistic doctor to help you with this journey. Holistic medicine whether is be Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, or western medicine looks to the whole health of a person and the real causes. Standard medicine doctors usually do little more than prescribe a prescription drug which have been shown in many cases to be ineffective.  Rarely do they look into diet or prescription drug interactions.

My first experience with dealing with memory issues began with a couple in 1985.  I became friends with them. Peter was a German Jew and his wife was from Thailand. They were an amazing couple who found each other during horrible times when he had fled Hitler’s take over. They had gone through so much in their love for each other. He was a writer and historian who could tell a story that kept you on the edge of your seat. She was devoted to Peter. At this stage of their life, I met them, which was in their late 80’s. He was paralyzed somewhat in his legs and couldn’t walk well.  She was losing her memory mildly. So they moved themselves to a nursing home.  Her memory got much worse after the move.  She began to ask the same questions over and over which irritated the staff. Being an herbalist, I was asked by Peter if there was anything to do.  When they entered the facility, they also made me power of attorney as well since she could not keep up the accounting end of things any more. I consulted with their doctor to see if the he would approve of trying Ginkgo for Butch.  I tried a less expensive brand for several weeks but there was no improvement. When I changed to a different brand manufactured by a  German pharmaceutical company, she improved after a few weeks almost 50%.  Through that experience, I learned several things:  That Ginkgo can improve cognitive function with dementia for an extended amount of time; that the brand you use can and does make a difference; and that some doctors will work with you at times. 

Did Ginkgo stop her memory decline permanently? In her case no. Peter got a staph infection which shut down his whole body. When he died,  Butch was so stricken with grief, she went down hill quickly.  Her niece ended up taking her back to Thailand so I never knew what happened.  I did see great improvement before Peter died.

 In Ginkgo there is a huge difference in effect depending on the brand you buy. I have experienced that using it for myself and my husband.  It is one of the herbs I used for my memory issues after I fell here on our property in the winter of 2015.   Even though Ginkgo helped me to a certain extent after the fall, it did not bring me up to the point I could focus enough to write again.  My husband takes it for memory issues related to a TIA he had several years ago.  Ginkgo like all herbs works well for some and others need a different answer. Ginkgo is just one of several herbs and supplements that work to slow down and improve memory issues including dementia and Alzheimer’s.  Ginkgo is the first memory herb I am going to write about in my articles since it is the most well known.

What is Ginkgo? 

Alternative Therapy for Memory Issues: Ginkgo research and benefits

Ginkgo is a tree with beautiful fan shaped leaves whose history dates back to 250 million years ago. It is a tree in its own special group since scientists have found no genetic relative to any other tree in nature. It naturally grows in areas of China, Japan, and Korea  and now all over the world. This tree and cockroaches were the only living things to thrive after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  It is not prone to plant diseases and is very tough.  Ginkgo leaves has shown many actions in the body including antioxidant, antithrombotic, circulatory stimulant, and antiinflammatory  to name a few.

Ginkgo leaf is primarily an antioxidant, anticoagulant, and antithrombotic, a tissue perfusion enhancer, circulatory stimulant, nootropic, and antiinflammatory. The seeds show a greater affinity for the lungs, as they are antitussive, antiasthmatic, expectorant, sedative, and mildly astringent. It has been shown to normalize brain glucose and ATP levels. 

Even though many western nations funded research studies, put great question on Ginkgo’s benefits, Asian research who is much more open to herbal medicine answers, came to this conclusion,”Along with the progress in pharmacological research, quite a few preparations of EGb have been developed and put into home and overseas market during recent years. At present EGb is used clinically for improving peripheral vascular diseases in France and Germany and is ingested widely as an herbal medicine in some countries. Double-blinded randomized controlled clinical trial has demonstrated the efficacy of EGb 761, the standardized preparation of EGb, in treatment for mild to moderate AD (). A 24-week, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial confirmed that EGb 761 improves cognitive function in a clinically relevant manner in patients suffering from dementia (). Moreover, a very recent randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study showed that EGb 761 (160 mg/d) had a comparable efficacy with donepezil (5 mg/d) in treating mild to moderate AD, and also suggested the efficacy and tolerability of the Ginkgo biloba special extract (Flavogin) in the dementia of the Alzheimer type with special respect to moderately severe stages (). Results from clinical trials in China demonstrated that treatment with EGb can significantly improve the cognitive function and living ability of patients with VD (; ; ), multi-infarct dementia (), and cerebral infarction dementia (). Moreover, the active component of EGb, such as ginkgo flavone glycoside, was also reported to be efficient and safe for VD treatment ().”Read the entire research here

EGb is a ginkgo product used for most of these research projects.  It is a ginkgo supplement containing only one factor of the whole ginkgo complex.  Asian and Ayurvedic doctors feel the whole plant offers so much more than just one isolated factor. The different factors in the whole herb support each other in the herbs health benefits to make a safer herb with few side effects. It is the focus of Western research to isolate one or two elements of an herb to use against an illness. They are drug oriented in their brains.  Herbs work differently than drugs because they are a natural plant.

The problems with drug studies using herbs.

The problem with drug  studies is that they do not address the individual needs of the patient and their health situation. Research studies must give the same dose to all individuals in the same manner for the same time period. This method often is why people and research conclusions say herbs don’t work.  The research is done as if you were giving a drug, not a herb.  Herbs contain many factors including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, micro nutrients that are hard to assess, and other factors present that together help the body to repair and heal. The nutrients found in these plants need time to rebuild and repair the body functions that are not working properly.  Herbs with their complex and interrelated components go into your body to help repair and support natural processes created by God such as the immune system to help you heal.

Research study projects generally do not give the patient the herb in the right dose or for long enough time. It is a controlled study rather than a test in real time.  It might take one person weeks to show improvement and another months to see results. Individuals are NOT one size fits all, but each needing their own program based on their situation.  12 weeks, the length of many research projects, is not enough time to show results in a patient who has had memory decline over months and years.  Repairing health doesn’t work that way.  It stands to reason if you wait until the brain is damaged for months by what ever process is going on, that  herbs or drugs MAY not do much to help the patient. Prevention in the early years is the key. Stopping the process in the years before there is permanent damage is the steps we need to take.

Research groups are often funded by big corporations that weight the project to fail.  The way the study is designed can lead to biased  end results against the herb.  The research was designed with failure to begin with.  There has been so much fraud in research over years which comes out later.  Research companies get paid millions of dollars to carry out research sometimes honestly and sometimes with fraud.  Always look at who is funding the research and follow the money.  With the billions of dollars that drug companies make per drug, wouldn’t it be a problem if a simple herb was just as effective?  They would lose billions and go out of business.  That is a real problem with ethics in drug research.  If I go to the pharmacy and spend $20 bucks on an herb and the prescription cost three times that, which is better for their bottom line?   Investigate the links below on research fraud to get your eyes opened on this subject.

Drug companies make billions of dollars off your health.  Time and time again medicines are taken off the market because of side effects from the drug. Often they know about these side effects and conducted the research to hide those effects.  It comes out later with death that result in the medicine being recalled later after lives are lost.

If a patient can’t remember what time it is 5 minutes later and repeats the same question over and over consistently, that is a starting point for mental decline function study .  If you administer an herb and that improves that problem, that is progress. If that progress continues over time, then you are on the right track.  There is no research that is going to tell you whether a drug or herb will benefit a patient and for how long.  With dementia, it is all trial and error. They still have no concrete answers on the causes for memory illness.  They have no concrete answers on how to prevent memory loss or stop it.  All the drugs they have tried have not stopped the disease or prevented it. In some patients the disease is slowed down only.

Considering the lack of progress modern medicine has made in the pat 20 years or so with all the drugs they keep producing that do not work for dementia, I think that is pretty good for ginkgo.   It it works, you are helping the life of someone you love and if it doesn’t there are several more herbs to try.  The problem is your doctor will not tell you about anything but their ineffective drugs for dementia. They will probably tell you it is useless to try them. 

Doctors often do not address the issues of drug reactions, inadequate nutrition and nutritional deficiencies, and problems due to falls that are memory problems not due to Alzheimer’s.  If it is inadequate nutrition or nutritional deficiencies, Ginkgo and other herbs are certainly not going to do the job. You need to improve their nutrition over time. You need to give them vitamins and minerals to support better brain health.  If it is a drug reaction that is causing the problem, you need to eliminate that drug or drugs.  Often these are the base cause for memory issues, not Alzheimer’s.   These issues are usually ignored by medical personal including your doctor.  Most families will notice that after being prescribed a certain drug, the memory issues of their loved one suddenly gets worse or begins. It is widely admitted that most of the elderly are over drugged ! 

One evaluation from NCBI  researching a number of Ginkgo 6studies gives this conclusion below.  After years of working with herbs and memory issues, I know that for each person and the causes and causes of their memory issues, not one herb works for all. I also know that the dose needed to achieve affects with herbs in general including memory herbs varies with each situation and individual. You must match the herb and dosage to the individual and their problems to achieve improvement.

Conclusion: Effects of Ginkgo biloba in dementia: systematic review and meta-analysis

We found a statistically significant advantage of Ginkgo biloba compared to placebo in improving cognition for the whole group of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, vascular or mixed dementia. Regarding activities of daily living, there was no significant difference for the whole group. However, in the subgroup of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, there was a statistically significant advantage of Ginkgo biloba compared to placebo. In a situation, where the clinical significance of the moderate effects of cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine as symptomatic treatments is increasingly been questioned, ginkgo biloba may not be an inferior treatment option for a considerable number of people with mild or moderate dementia. However, direct comparisons are lacking. A major multicenter study to compare the relative effectiveness of Ginkgo biloba and cholinesterase inhibitors for different dementia subgroups appears justified.”

The question of trying Ginkgo  with your loved one?

I would suggest you try the herb for a several months after making sure it is not a drug reaction or nutritional deficiency first.  You really need to investigate these two issues first.  Once correcting possible medication problems and their nutritional problems, then proceed to try ginkgo and other herbs.  If your loved one is in a nursing home or facility, they will not give out any supplement without a doctors order.  Some doctors will give you support in your efforts and some will not.  If you have them under your care at home, you have more options to try herbs. Be aware that ginkgo could interact with some medications out there so that is an issue to deal with.  It really makes things go smoother if you can get co-operation with their doctor or get a new one who will. We did that with his father who had dementia. I changed doctors twice to doctors who were not so set in their ways. One was a very reknown oncologist who at that point gave me permission to try anything within reason. He was interested in seeing the results.  Dad went downhill with end stage leukemia so quickly that we never had a chance to see if it would have worked.  His memory issues also had to do with being a long term alcoholic with horrible eating habits. When some one has 70 years of alcohol and bad eating habits, it is hard to do much with them at 94 with leukemia and other issues at the end stages.  I wish I could have helped his father when he was in his 50’s or even 60’s when he still had vigor.

All for today, Kate Freer

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