Interest in the herbs ginkgo biloba and ginseng continues to be strong as consumers look to boost cognitive function and combat forgetfulness and mental fatigue. It is normal and somewhat unavoidable that our short-term memory be affected as we age. Also, as men and women experience life changes and stress, mental sharpness is sure to be dulled. Some nutrients known to boost mental sharpness include omega-3 fats, choline and iron. However, herbal remedies still hold the spotlight in this area! Gingko is a heavily researched herb shown to slow cognitive decline by increasing circulation and oxygen delivery to the brain. Its antioxidant effect also protects brain cells.
At Cognitive Drug Research in the UK, the effects of a combination formula of ginkgo biloba and Panax ginseng were tested in healthy middle-aged volunteers. A double-blind placebo-controlled, 14-week study tested 256 people on a variety of attention and memory tasks, as well as mood, lifestyle and sleep quality questionnaires. Researchers found the volunteers taking the gingko/ginseng combination had an average improvement of 7.5% over those on placebo.
In other research at the Department of Neurosurgery at Newcastle General Hospital in the UK, researchers tested the antioxidative abilities of gingko and ginseng on brain tissue that had substantial oxidative damage prior to testing. The researchers found that gingko and ginseng have “a remarkable capacity to protect brain tissue proteins from oxidative damage” and suggested that the ultimate benefits of ginseng and gingko may be due to their antioxidant properties.
Sources: Managing Menopause by L Beck, Prentice Hall:2000; Acta Neurochir Suppl 2000;76:87-90; Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2000 Nov;152(4):353-61