Brain Protection in Nature
Nature’s pharmacy provides some of the most remarkable substances on the planet in preventing and treating diseases of the brain.
The herb, Ginko Biloba, while no longer considered cutting-edge like newer and novel agents such as huperzine A (see my last post of huperzine), is still an important consideration in brain health because of its broad-spectrum effect on brain tissue and its relatively low cost.
Ginko is an approved treatment for dementia in Germany, and is the only non-prescription substance considered a treatment for dementia in Canada. Many European studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of Ginko in the treatment of patients with age-associated memory and cognitive impairments as well as dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Scavenges oxidative radicals
- Inhibits platelet aggregation
- Improves circulation to the brain
- May help normalize cerebral metabolism under hypoxic conditions
- May prevent changes in mitochondrial morphology and function associated with aging of the brain.
- Shown in animal studies to possess anti-stress and adaptogenic properties by decreasing blood glucocorticoid levels and increasing adrenocorticotrophic hormone levels, showing positive potential for stress-related cognitive impairment; prevents stress-induced learning impairment and elevations in stress hormones; and increases acetylcholine synthesis and turnover of norepineprhine. 2,3,4
Some recent studies have called into question the effectiveness of Ginko, but it is important to note that the leaf of Ginko is the most therapeutic part of the plant, rather than the stem or the root. However, a company can use the various parts of the plant in a Ginko product and still call it Ginko. Yet the therapeutic effect of the product would be substantially lower than a product utilizing strictly the standardized extract of the leaf.
It is also now widely held that many negative reports on natural substances are from studies funded in part by drug companies who cannot patent or sell substances like Ginko and who therefore wish only to cast these therapeutic substances in a negative light so as to protect the profit on the sale of their drugs. Upon investigating the poor study design of many of these studies, it would appear that that belief certainly has the ring of truth to it.
In the case of Ginko, the well-designed studies clearly show marked improvement in many aspects of cognition and brain health.
A cutting-edge approach for Ginko supplementation is to combine 60 mg of standardized Ginko leaf extract along with the added therapeutic and antioxidant benefits of Rosemary. Two tablets provide the therapeutic dose of 120 mg used in the studies.
1. Le Bars PL, Katz MM, Berman N, et al. A placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial of an extract of Ginko Biloba for Dementia. JAMA 1997;278(16):1327-32.
2. Rai GS, Shovlin C, Wesnes KA. A double-blind, placebo controlled study of Ginko Biloba extract in elderly outpatients with mild to moderate memory impairment. Curr Med Res Opin 1991;12:350-55.
3. Rapin JR, Lamproglou I, Drieu K, et al. Demonstration of the “anti stress” activity of an extract of Ginko Biloba using a discrimination learning task. Gen Pharmacol 1994;25(5):1009-16.
4. Sastre J, Pallardo FV, Vina J. Mitochondrial oxidative stress plays a key role in aging and apoptosis. IUBMB Life 2000 May;49(5):427-35.