Boosting Brain Resilience with Ginkgo & Bacopa

One of the oldest living species of tree, Ginkgo Biloba‘s leaves and seeds have been used in botanical medicine for thousands of years. Touted as the “brain herb,” Ginkgo has received extensive research attention for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and the role they likely play in supporting healthy cognitive function and treating dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Two components in Ginkgo help support brain health: Flavonoids, the source of the plant’s antioxidant qualities, and Terpenoids, which help improve circulation by dilating blood vessels. Ginkgo may work by increasing blood flow, flushing out free radicals that can damage cells, and reducing inflammation. It may even protect nerve cells from further damage caused by Alzheimer’s Disease or vascular dementia.

Numerous studies show Ginkgo has a positive effect on memory, learning, and thinking in people with Alzheimer disease or vascular dementia. For some people, it may work as well as prescription medication for Alzheimer’s, but Ginkgo hasn’t been tested against all drugs used to treat the disease. Also, testing Ginkgo supplements with healthy young and older adults has not conclusively shown a significant change in cognitive function. It’s likely the herb works differently in healthy people compared to people who have an impairment or illness.

Another herb worth noting is Bacopa monnieri, an Ayurvedic botanical medicine used for centuries to enhance learning, memory and attention span. Scientists have been investigating Bacopa for potential therapeutic intervention for Alzheimer’s and age-related memory loss. Research suggests it may have a protective effect on brain cells by supporting optimal nerve conduction or helping them resist damage that can occur from infection, toxins, and the aging process.

Botanical medicines can interact with other drugs and medical conditions. Consult your wellness practitioner to determine if either of these herbs are appropriate for you.

References

  • Murray, Michael T. “Alzheimer’s Disease” as cited in Pizzorno, Joseph E. & Murray, Michael T. (eds.) Textbook of Natural Medicine (4th ed). (Churchill Livingstone. 2013.), 1196-1197.
  • Amieva H., Meillon C., Helmer C, et al., “Ginkgo biloba extract and long-term cognitive decline: a 20-year follow-up population-based study.” PLoS One. (2013) 8:1, 527-555. Accessed 8 April 2018: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0052755. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0052755
  • American Botanical Council Online. “Meta-analysis shows Ginkgo to be Effective for Mild Dementia.” Accessed 8 April 2018: http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbclip/430/041153-430.html?ts=1478527989&signature=6221f74265ae09375aaa227ab00cd1bf
  • Johnson, R.L., S. Foster, Low Dog, T. and Kiefer, D. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2012. pp 114-117.
  • Mars, Bridgitte & Fiedler, Chrystle. Home Reference Guide to Holistic Health & Healing. (Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press. 2015.), 82.
  • Birks J. & Grimley, Evans J. “Ginkgo biloba for cognitive impairment and dementia.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (2009) Jan 21;(1):CD003120. Review. Accessed 8 April 2018: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003120.pub2/abstract;jsessionid=4FE40C66E59F3A034709AD3B90735DCF.f02t04
  • DeKosky S.T., Williamson J.D., et al., “Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) Study Investigators. Ginkgo biloba for prevention of dementia: a randomized controlled trial.” JAMA. (2008 Nov 19) 300:19, 2253-62. Accessed 8 April 2018: http://www.infekt.ch/content/uploads/2013/11/jc_jan09_buehler.pdf (there are various comments linked to this research)
  • May B.H., Yang A.W., Zhang A.L., et al. “Chinese herbal medicine for Mild Cognitive Impairment and Age Associated Memory Impairment: a review of randomized controlled trials.” Biogerontology. 2009 Apr;10(2):109-23. Accessed 8 April 2018: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0028877/
  • Wang BS, Wang H, Song YY, Qi H, et al. “Effectiveness of standardized ginkgo biloba extract on cognitive symptoms of dementia with a six-month treatment: a bivariate random effect meta-analysis.” Pharmacopsychiatry. (2010 May) 43:3, 86-91. Accessed 8 April 2018: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20104449
  • Aguiar, S. & Borowski, T. “Neuropharmacological Review of the Nootropic Herb Bacopa monnieri.” Rejuvenation Research (2013) 16:4. Accessed May 6 2018: https://www.invitehealth.com/media/pdf/neuropharmacological-review-of-the-nootropic-herb-bacopa-monnieri.pdf
  • Group, Edward, DC, ND. Benefits of Brahmi (information for patients, with clinical citations linked) http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/9-facts-brahmi-bacopa-monnieri/
  • Roodenrys, Stephen, Booth, Dianne. et al. “Chronic Effects of Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) on Human Memory,” Neuropsychopharmacology 27 (2002): 279–281. Accessed November 8 Apr 2018: doi:10.1016/S0893-133X(01)00419-5 http://www.nature.com/npp/journal/v27/n2/full/1395862a.html
  • Uabundit N, Wattanathorn J, Muci- mapura S, et al. “Cognitive enhancement and neuroprotective effects of Bacopa monnieri in Alzheimer’s Disease model.” J Ethnopharmacol. 127(1): (Jan 8, 2010), 26-31.

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