Ginkgo biloba extract has been increasingly popular for the treatment of memory problems. However, it is not commonly understood that this extract is composed of numerous chemicals, including flavonoid glycosides, terpene lactones, biflavones, and other miscellaneous components. It remains to be established exactly which components are biologically helpful. The extracts come from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree which is cultivated extensively for this purpose. Our aging population will consist of approximately 79 million people 65 y.o. or older in the year 2050. Since memory disorders increase dramatically with age, this poses a major challenge to both the pharmaceutical and nutritional industries to provide products which improve or prevent problems with memory. Our culture is based on the ability to recall information, therefore problems with memory are fundamental to our entire social system. Dementias are disorders that affect memory and intellectual functioning, and are caused primarily by Alzheimer's disease and vascular disorders (multi-infarct dementia). New drug therapies have been developed to improve cognition, through stimulation of the cholinergic system. In recent decades, an extract of the leaves of the tree Ginkgo biloba L. has been used to improve memory in these disorders. The European experience with Ginkgo extract is much greater than that of the U.S. Clinical studies to date have indicated a probable therapeutic benefit of Ginkgo biloba extract. Further human studies are needed to identify which clinical population is most responsive to Ginkgo treatment. In addition, it would be very useful to identify which chemical compound or compounds provide therapeutic effects in memory disorders. These bioactive components may be further concentrated for increased benefit in increasing cognitive memory capabilities. In addition, pharmaceutical companies might be able to modify memory-enhancing Ginkgo-derived molecules to increase potency and effectiveness, leading to the next generation of memory-enhancing drugs.
Keywords: Alzheimer's; Cerebral insufficiency; Cognitive enhancer; Dementia; EGb 761; Ginkgo biloba; Memory.