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Gingko and Ginseng Combination Shows Promise for Alzheimer’s

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By Deborah Cooper • • August 1, 2000

The herbs Gingko biloba and Panax ginseng may increase thinking powers and boost memory by over seven percent when used in combination, according to a new British study. In addition, the memory improvement lasts even after a person has stopped taking it. Gingko can improve the power of concentration, while ginseng helps to sharpen memory.

When asked to comment on the potential usefulness of this combination for Alzheimer’s patients, lead researcher Professor Keith Wesnes said, “I think our findings can only be good news for its use in Alzheimer’s disease, and though we are only working on the symptoms, it should provide some respite. I would be keen to see the combination tested in Alzheimer’s or neurodegenerative diseases in general.”

The team of researchers tested 256 healthy volunteers, ages 40 to 65 with dosages of 400mg ginseng, 360mg of gingko and 960mg of the two combined. The combination contained a ratio of 60% ginseng and 40% gingko.

The volunteers who were only given gingko demonstrated much faster reaction times in tests requiring concentration after only a single dose. Meanwhile, ginseng provided a rapid increase in memory. The most impressive results were seen in those who took the combination dosage. These volunteers were able to perform much better in tests of cognitive performance such as speed and accuracy of attention and quality of memory.

Wesnes, visiting professor at the University of Northumbria, also sounded a hopeful note about the usefulness of the combination as a preventative measure to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. “Another issue is whether taking it in middle age will help retard the subsequent onset of a neurodegenerative disease. I think the finding from the trial that the benefits lasted two weeks after dosing had stopped are interesting from this point of view and warrant further investigation.”

Gingko is thought to increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain, improve metabolism and regulate neurotransmitters. Improved circulation to the brain may assist short and long-term memory, increase clarity and improve reaction time. Ginseng appears to help with “the ability to store, hold and retrieve information,” according to the researchers.

Although the trial produced some important results, the researchers were unable to pinpoint the exact cause for the improvements in memory and concentration. “It could be increased brain circulation and oxygen. It could also be the gingko has some free radical scavenging techniques,” said Wesnes. Free radicals can be destructive to brain cells.

The findings of the study conducted by Andrew Scholey and David Kennedy of the University of Northumbria, UK, and Keith Wesnes of the drug testing company Cognitive Drug Research, were presented at the recent International World Psychiatry Congress in Belgium.

Editor’s Note: There are several varieties of ginseng and they do not all have the same effect. Panax ginseng, also known as Asian ginseng, is used quite differently from Siberian ginseng and American ginseng. Please consult a professional herbalist or other qualified health care professional for more information. Alternatively, consult a good guide to ginseng such as“The Ginsengs” by Christopher Hobbs.

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