What Is It?
This popular herbal medicine is extracted from the fan-shaped leaves of the ancient ginkgo biloba tree, a species that has survived in China for more than 200 million years and now grows throughout the world. (The leaves are double, or bi-lobed; hence the name biloba.) Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, it is only in the last few decades that the medicinal uses for the herb have been studied in the West.
Recently ginkgo has received a great deal of attention for its potential as a memory booster. But while the herb has been found to help with age-related memory loss, claims that it's a "smart pill" and universally useful are dubious. Studies do indicate that the herb can have beneficial effects on the circulatory and central nerve systems, however, and it has been shown to act as an antioxidant as well.
An extract of ginkgo biloba extract (GBE) is used to make the supplement. It is obtained by drying and milling the leaves and then extracting their active ingredients. When buying supplements, look for preparations containing GBE to be sure you get the greatest benefit.
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