The blitz is on for ginkgo and other herbal products, but are they panaceas or placebos?”
Recently, everywhere you turn, you see or hear about new herbal remedies used for improving one’s memory and concentration. One more frequently discussed is Ginkgo Biloba. It is an herbal substance that offers hope for improving memory, concentration and brain functions. Ginkgo Biloba is a derivative of a leafy ornamental tree that originated in eastern China. It is said to increase blood flow to the brain, improving alertness and concentration (Drummond, September 13,1999).
Although many people who are currently taking this medication swear by it, who really knows if it does improve brain functions or if it is just a placebo? The article “Elixirs For Your Memory” discusses the latest information regarding Gingko Biloba. At large, most researchers are still unsure about the medication. Many feel that extensive investigation and experimentation is still needed before trustworthy results can be established. Yet, on the other side, traditional healers have no doubts about Gingko Biloba and believe that it has been used in Chinese medicine for years working wonders for it’s receivers. Obviously, the manufacturers of these medications also believe that the medicine is a success for improving brain functions.
If you were to ask a memory expert his or her opinion about Gingko Biloba, the most likely answer would be that they are skeptical about it and other brain boosters (Drummond, September 13,1999). “Most of these products have not be investigated to any significant extent that would warrant the claims that are being made,” says Doctor Ronald Peterson, a neuroscientist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “Other researchers are even more to the point. All the media, they say is merely a case of a placebo effect run amuck: people want their memories to get better, so they do. Give them a sugar pill, and they probably wouldn’t know the difference” (Drummond, September 13, 1999).
Many individuals are concerned with the recent liking taken toward these medicines. One concern comes from government researchers. Their concern is that millions of people are engulfing supplements without any idea what the substance side effects are, whether positive or negative. “The National Institutes of Health is undertaking a study of the effects of Gingko Biloba on elderly people with mild memory impairment, but it will be years before results are in” (Drummond, September 13, 1999). Consumers of such products have little to go on other than the manufacturer’s claims and inconclusive research.
Even more alarming, Gingko Biloba and other substances are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. The potency and purity of the products vary from brand to brand. At that, who reads labels anymore before popping foreign substances into their mouths? Many uses of these substances haven’t the slightest idea what they are consuming and what the does and don’ts are while taking the medicine. One don’t involved with Gingko Biloba is that individuals who are taking aspirin or other blood thinners should first consult their physician before beginning the product. The reason is because Gingko Biloba contains anticlotting characteristics; when it is taken in combination with blood thinners it can cause internal bleeding (Drummond, September 13, 1999).
One aspect is generally agreed on, there is not enough known about memory substances to assess the potential risks. Most research so far has been conducted on humans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or on laboratory animals such as mice. Scientists are now only beginning to conduct research on how the memory reacts to the natural aging process. It is a lot more complex than people assume and it is going to take a lot of time inorder to find answers to memory loss and ways to prohibit it. One day it maybe quite possible to take a medication to prevent memory loss or Alzheimer’s disease. Until then, “Experts suggest following the phrase Use it or Lose it. By simply reading a book or solving a crossword puzzle on a regular basis can do wonders, even if it is not clear why” (Drummond, September 13, 1999).
In summary, the article suggests that taking substances may not be the best thing to do at this point in time. Much more research and investigation is needed before leaping into a substance dependency. The best advice is to simply use your memory so that it doesn’t fade away.
Medical Journals sometimes tend to differ with what information the general public receives from the media concerning medical data and discoveries. As it relates to the article about Ginkgo Biloba, the medical journals seem to have a slightly different opinion about the uses of herbal substances.
The general idea in the medical journals is that there is not enough information on these herbal substances to make an educational decision. Having the knowledge of the substance uses and its potential side effects is essential to enable physicians to prescribe medications that are most effective for his or her patients. Yet, one aspect that was not included in the article is data regarding the latest studies being conducted to better understand herbal substances. Many studies that are currently being conducted in the USA and Europe suggest promising results concerning the use of Gingko Biloba. The results are revealing that Gingko Biloba extract is an effective therapy for a variety of disturbances of cerebral functions. Some improving results from these studies are improved memory loss, attention and alertness. Another study suggests that Gingko Biloba extract may help adults cope with the stress that they face on a daily basis in their lives. According to yet another study, the future of Gingko Biloba is undoubtedly in the promise of slowing down Alzheimer’s disease. So far, scientists have been able to slow down Alzheimer’s disease by six months time in clinical trails (Clostre F, July 1999).
In comparing the media article “Elixirs For Your Memory” and the medical journals, it can be concluded that the information provided by the media is true. The article suggests that Gingko Biloba may have promising results as does the medical journals. However, one aspect that is different between the two is that the media article does not contain many inspiring attributes that are found in the medical journals. If the reader were only to read the article, he or she would probably be convinced that Gingko Biloba doesn’t hold much hope in the future. It doesn’t include any information about the current studies that are taking place that suggest that Gingko Biloba will have a promising effect in the future. The medical journals share insights on cures, uses and benefits that Gingko Biloba may bring about, such as improving stress levels that adult’s face in their daily lives and on slowing down the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. The media article concentrates more on the downfalls of taking the medication at this point in time. What is says though is not false. From both the media article and the medical journals, it is suggested that it is probably not the best idea to take any substances at this point in time, unless a physician prescribes it. Both agree more time and research is needed before consumers begin taking any medications.
Overall, the media article is a little unfair as it regards to consuming Gingko Biloba. Instead of only discussing the substance at large and talking about the possible downfalls of taking the medication, the article should have included some information about the current undergoing studies. It would allow people to have a broader idea of what is going on in the medical world. It would probably set people’s minds at ease knowing that there is promising hope in the future for treatments that will help the unavoidable memory loss that unfortunately comes with old age. Many individuals are greatly concerned and scared about memory loss such as Alzheimer’s disease. Knowing that maybe, if only a slight chance, these individuals will not have to encounter it sets many minds at ease.
Hopefully the future holds many discoveries and cures for memory loss and mental stability. But until then, one’s best bet is probably to relax, use your memory as much as possible and enjoy it. The way people worry themselves about issues that are out of their control just makes things more difficult on the mind and body.
Drummond, Tammerlin. “Elixirs For Your Mind: The blitz is on for ginkgo and other herbal
products, but are they panaceas or placebos?” Time Magazine 154 (1999): 60-61.
Clostre, F. “Ginkgo biloba extract (Egb 761). State of knowledge in the dawn of the year 2000.”
Ann Pharm Fr 1999 July; 57 Suppl 1 : 1S8-88.
Ness J, Sherman FT, Pan CX. “Alternative medicine: what the data say about common herbal
therapies.” Geriatrics 1999 Oct; 54(10): 33-8, 40, 43.